Our commitment in favor of access and control of natural resources, in Greenpeace and in the Oakland Institute, causes us to be constantly accused of operating against development, or that we are branded as “First World organizations that are most concerned with trees than human beings ”, even though we work with communities all over the world, from China to Cameroon or the Czech Republic.
This type of accusation that tries to discredit the struggles for the preservation of land, water and other natural resources of Third World countries, hide a disturbing reality.
The intense competition for the acquisition of land that has been unleashed to exploit the wealth of the planet, is not only fierce and unequal, but also has fatal consequences.
Recent studies, including an April report by Global Witness, have documented the increase in killings of activists and defenders of the land and the environment, which in 2014 have reached a chilling average of two per week.
In response to the intimidation, repression, disappearances and deaths suffered by activists who resist the depredation of their lands, it is ethically imperative to provide them with all possible support so that they can confront the advances of the corporations and governments that support them.
This is what non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute have in common.
An estimated 200 million hectares of land - five times the size of the US state of California - have been leased or purchased, often through opaque operations.
Africa's natural resources are perhaps the most coveted on the planet, as evidenced by the fact that 70 percent of agricultural transactions take place on this continent.
It is there that multinational companies, assisted by powerful institutions - the World Bank group and the eight largest donor countries - go to apply their model of "economic development", which they claim promotes through large-scale investments the intensive exploitation of vast land areas, and promotes economic growth that spreads its benefits over the host country.
However, our work reveals a very different and worrying reality. Local communities and indigenous peoples denounce that expropriation decisions are made without consulting them, their lands, houses, and forests are razed to implement the intensive agriculture and monoculture that investors demand. And their life systems are destroyed.
Recent studies, including an April report by Global Witness, have documented the increase in killings of activists and defenders of land and the environment, which in 2014 have reached a chilling average of two per week.
That this type of "development" is adverse to the will of the population is evident. Says a farmer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo: "I want to continue being a peasant and cultivate my land, I don't want to become a worker dependent on a foreign company."
And a chief from the Bodi tribe of Ethiopia says: “I don't want to leave my land. If they try to take us out by force, we will fight. In any case, I will remain in my village, living on my land, or dead under it ”.
These testimonies represent the multitudes of villagers and peasants who are victims of the dispossession of their natural resources, perpetrated without their protests being heard, silenced by those who define what is for or against development.
And as if the devastation of lives and systems of life were not enough, those who resist face repressive violence by governments and private companies.
The American company Herakles Farm is planning a palm oil plantation in Cameroon that will displace thousands of people from its lands and destroy part of the world's second largest rainforest.
In response to the criticism, the head of the company wrote in an open letter: “My aim is to present HeraklesFarm and this project for what it really is, a commercial project for the production of palm oil of modest size, which will create jobs. of work, will promote social development and raise the level of food safety through the incorporation of the best industrial procedures ”.
What he failed to answer the businessman is why Nasako Besingi, a Cameroonian activist who runs a local non-governmental organization, has been incessantly persecuted for opposing the project.
He was arrested in 2012 while planning a peaceful demonstration, and held for several days in prison together with two colleagues.
Immediately after his release, while accompanying a French television crew to visit the project area, he was ambushed and assaulted. Besingi recognized some of the Herakles Farm employees among the attackers.
Instead of obtaining protection for their activities, Besingi and his organization must now defend themselves against legal action, including a libel suit, which is one of the preferred tactics of corporations to intimidate and dissuade their opponents.
If limits and controls are not applied correctly, the privatization of lands and the theft of natural resources will be irreversible and will put peoples, forests and ecosystems at risk.
It is time that we choose a path to development that prioritizes the peoples and the planet, not the profits of the rich and their companies.