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Video: Communities struggle against palm oil plantations spreading in Brazilian Amazon

  • Palm oil, a crop synonymous with deforestation and conflict in Southeast Asia, is making inroads in the Brazilian Amazon, where the same issues are now playing out. Indigenous and traditional communities say the plantations in their midst are polluting their rivers and lands, and driving fish and game away.
  • Federal prosecutors have pursued Brazil’s leading palm oil exporters in the courts for the past seven years–alleging the companies are contaminating water supplies, poisoning the soil, and harming the livelihoods and health of Indigenous and traditional peoples–charges the companies deny.
  • This video was produced as part of an 18-month investigation into the palm oil industry in the Brazilian state of Pará.

For the past 18 months, Mongabay has investigated allegations of widespread abuses by palm oil companies in Brazil, discovering what appears to be an industry-wide pattern of brazen disregard for Amazon conservation and for the rights of Indigenous people and traditional communities.

Frustration with palm oil companies has been growing across the region over the last few years. In this instance, as plantations encircled an Indigenous reserve, local resistance morphed into direct actions against the company. Tired of nearly a decade of fruitless campaigning for compensation through official channels, the Tembé seized company vehicles in the hope of forcing Biopalma to hear their concerns.

Uhu Tembé, an Indigenous leader, told Mongabay how she and her husband commandeered a Biopalma tractor during the protest and used it to bulldoze oil palm trees near the village of Yriwar in the Turé-Mariquita reserve.

Read the full investigative report here:

Déjà vu as palm oil industry brings deforestation, pollution to Amazon

Banner image: Indigenous leaders Uhu Tembé and Lúcio Tembé point to tractors seized from palm oil company Biopalma. The machinery was used to knock down oil palms just a few meters from the Yriwar Indigenous Village, in the Tembé Indigenous Reserve, Pará state, in the Brazilian Amazon, on November 11, 2019. Photo by Thaís Borges for Mongabay.

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