Sugarcane cultivation and oil palm plantation in Polochic valley, Guatemala

<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns"><div class="less">The Polochic is a valley of fertile lands located in the north-eastern region of Guatemala. Since 1888 their lands were privatized in farms and given to oligarch families of Germans. These families employed Maya-Q’eqchi’ families as mozos-colonos for the production of coffee and livestock care. The Q’eqchi’ population has struggled since then for the access to the land from which they were deprived, but they have always been severely repressed. The population suffered in 1978 one of the first massacres of the Internal Armed Conflict, in which 53 peasants died after claiming land access in the town square of Panzós. Conflicts for the land have been aggravated due to the accelerated expansion in the valley of oil palm monocultures in 1998 and sugarcane in 2005, property of the Maegli and Widdman families respectively, who occupy more than three quarters of their fertile land. The settling of these monocultures and the palm oil mill have also brought with them intoxications and eye diseases due to the aerial spraying of the sugarcane as well as water and air contamination.</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">Many Q’eqchi’ communities have been deprived again from their lands and displaced to less productive areas. However, many of them continue sowing maize as a form of resistance and as a sole way of subsistence in the farms owned by cattle ranchers and do not hold any formal land rights. <br/><br/>In 2010 some families decided to occupy 13 farms that had come to auction after the economic collapse of the sugarcane mill, and asked the government to sell the farms to them. The communities settled in the fertile part of the valley suffered daily threats, intimidation and murder from the private security of the palm and sugarcane companies in order to force them to abandon the land. At the same time a negotiating table was set up with representation of both the companies and the communities, as well as of State and human rights institutions. While these meetings were being held in March 2011, through a public-private agreement 779 families from 15 communities were violently evicted by the army and the police (directed by the Widdman family), their houses were burnt, their crops about to be harvested were destroyed, and the peasant Antonio Beb Ac was murdered. Months later the peasants Oscar Reyes and Margarita Chub Che were murdered as well, and women, children and peasants were wounded by shooting from the private security.<br/><br/>The case of the evictions was presented to the Human Rights Inter American Commission, which replied in June 2011 forcing the government to assist to the evicted families through four precautionary measures. <br/><br/>In March 2012 the Marcha Indígena Campesina y Popular (Indigenous Peasant and Popular March) is organized, with over a thousand people who walked 200 km of the country. The civilian population, with the support of organizations, demanded the government to respect the precautionary measures, to adjudicate and regularize the occupied lands, and to order the capture of the responsible of the murders and aggressions. The government committed to accomplish these demands.<br/><br/>In June 2012 the cases of violation of human rights of the Q’eqchi’ communities were considered in the 14th Universal Periodic Review for Guatemala, from the Human Rights Council of the UN. <br/><br/>In April 2013 Intermon Oxfam and La Via Campesina carry out Crece-Vamos al Grano campaign, which collected 107.000 signatures from people of 55 different countries that were delivery to the president of Guatemala government in order to press him to give means for living to families evicted.<br/><br/>In October 2013 only 140 families were relocated on farms outside the Polochic valley without enough means to cover their basic need to live. 611 families evicted continue in the valley suffering violence and living in extreme poverty.<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Sugarcane cultivation and oil palm plantation in Polochic valley, Guatemala</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/guatemala">Guatemala</a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>Alta Verapaz and Izabal </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Tamahú, Tucurú, la Tinta, Panzós, Senahú and El Estor</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>HIGH local level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp<br /> Land acquisition conflicts<br /> Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)<br /> Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/land'>Land</a><br /><a href='/commodity/sugar'>Sugar</a><br /><a href='/commodity/palm-oil'>Palm oil</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">In 1998 Inversoras Promotoras de Desarrollo (INDESA) company owned by German family of Maegli planted 8,500 ha of oil palm and installed a palm oil mill with 60 Tm/hr process capacity which oil has been exported to Mexico, EU and US as edible oil, soaps or cosmetic.</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">In 2005, the Guadalupe sugarcane mill owned by Widmann family was transferred from Costa Sur to the Polochic valley and the sugarcane cane project was then called Chabil Utz’ Aj (“Good cane” in Q’eqchi’ language). The sugarcane mill and the sugarcane plantation of 5,400 ha were financed through a loan of US$ 32 millions from Central American Development Bank for Economic Integration. <br/><br/>In 2009 it was the first sugarcane harvest in the Polochic valley.<br/><br/>In 2010, 37 farms that have been planting with sugarcane, came to auction after the economic collapse of the sugarcane mill.<br/><br/>In 2011, after the evictions and the economic collapse, the Pella family from Nicaragua has been the new sugarcane mil owner by purchasing the shares. Also, this family is owner of sugarcane mills and Ron Flor de Caña distillers in Nicaragua. <br/><br/>En 2014 the sugarcane and oil palm fruit is being harvested in the Polochic valley.<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>13900</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Rural</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Potential Affected Population</td><td>220000</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>1998</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Company Names or State Enterprises</td><td><a href='/company/industrias-de-desarrollo-indesa-sa'>Industrias de desarrollo INDESA S.A. <small>(INDESA S.A)</small></a> from <a href='/country-of-company/guatemala'><small>Guatemala</small></a> - <small>holds by Maegli family</small><br /><a href='/company/chabil-utz-aj'>Chabil Utz’ Aj </a> from <a href='/country-of-company/guatemala'><small>Guatemala</small></a> - <small>(“Buena caña” en el idioma Q’eqchi’) holds by Pella Chamorro family of Nicaragua</small></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>Government of Guatemala, Secretaría de Asuntos Agrarios (SAA), Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (MAGA), Secretaría por la Seguridad Alimentaria (SESAM), Alcaldías municipales, Ministerio Público (MP), Cámara del Agro, Comité Coordinador de Asociaciones Agrícolas, Comerciales, Industriales y Financieras (CACIF), Registro de Información Catastral (RIC), Comisión Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos (COPREDEH), Sistema Nacional de Diálogo, Corte Suprema de Justicia, Congreso de la República</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">International and Financial Institutions</td><td><a href='/institution/oficina-del-alto-comisionado-de-las-naciones-unidas-para-los-derechos-humanos-oacnudh'>Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos (OACNUDH)</a><br /><a href='/institution/comision-interamericana-de-derechos-humanos-cidh'>Inter-American Court of Human Rights <small>(CIDH)</small></a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>Fundación Guillermo Toriello (FGT), Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC), Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial de Guatemala (ECAP), Marcha Indígena Campesina y Popular de Guatemala, Unión Verapaces de Organizaciones Campesinas (UVOC), El Observador, Action Aids, Intermon Oxfam, CLOC/ Via Campesina Centroamérica, Edpac-Gidhs, ULAM Guatemala, Human Rights Comission, Rights Actions, Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), Caracol Producciones, Indymedia Guatemala, Coordinadora de ONGs y Cooperativas (CONGCOOP), Alianza Sector de Mujeres, Colectivo de Estudios Rurales Cer-Ixim<br/><br/></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>In REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>International ejos<br /> Landless peasants<br /> Farmers<br /> Local ejos<br /> Social movements<br /> Trade unions<br /> Indigenous groups or traditional communities<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Women<br /> Ethnically/racially discriminated groups<br /> Local scientists/professionals</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Development of a network/collective action<br /> Arguments for the rights of mother nature<br /> Public campaigns<br /> Involvement of national and international NGOs<br /> Land occupation<br /> Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism<br /> Media based activism/alternative media<br /> Street protest/marches<br /> Development of alternative proposals<br /> Official complaint letters and petitions<br /> Creation of alternative reports/knowledge<br /> Blockades<br /> Activities for raising awareness in urban zones, encuentros campesinos</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Groundwater pollution or depletion</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other</td><td>Increasing pests</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Malnutrition, Accidents</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other</td><td>Affected population Indigenous and Rural (Maya Q'eqchi') community </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>In operation</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Compensation<br /> Criminalization of activists<br /> Deaths<br /> Repression</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Development of Alternatives</td><td>The precautionary measures granted by the Human Rights Inter-American Court (CIDH) should be accomplished in order to solve the needs of healthcare, feeding, housing and security of the evicted families.<br/><br/>Adjudication of lands in the valley to all the evicted families; regularization of the access to the land in the valley for the families without a title of proporty land.<br/><br/>Avoidance of intimidation and more evictions, and avoidance of pressures upon the evicted families through the Civil National Police, but without the use of military force.<br/><br/>The capture orders against the people responsible of the murdering and aggresions of peasants should be accomplished.<br/><br/>Avoidance of the impunity of the aggressors who are members of the PNC.</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>Not Sure</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>Although 140 families have been given a title of property land, and only 30 families were relocated outside the valley, the majority of the Maya-Q’eqchi’ families displaced has no land to live. Moreover, more than 80% of the communities do not have security of land tenure, placing them at constant risk of forcible eviction. Also, they continually are suffered harassment and repression by private securities. While, the oil palm and sugarcane cultivation grab almost three quarters of the valley’s most fertile land.</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Sara Mingorría, Gonzalo Gamboa, Berta Martín-López y Esteve Corbera, 2014, The oil palm boom: socio-economic implications for Q’eqchi’ households in the Polochic valley, Guatemala. Environment, Development and Sustainabibility<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Comision de Naciones Unidas en Guatemala, 2013, Los desalojos en el Valle del Polochic Una mirada a la problemática agraria y a la defensa de los derechos humanos de las comunidades q’eqchi’s<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Santiago Bastos y Quimy de León, 2014, Dinámicas de Despojo y Resistencia en Guatemala: comunidades Estado, y empresas. Diakonia.<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Luis Solano, 2011, Valle del Polochic: El poder de dos familias. Enfoque Nº 16.<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Luis Solano, ActionAid, 2010, El Mercado de los Agrocombustibles: Destino de la producción de caña de azúcar y palma africana de Guatemala<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Sara Mingorría y Gonzalo Gamboa, 2010, Metabolismo socio-ecológico de comunidades campesinas Q’eqchi’ y la expansión de la agro-industria de caña de azúcar y palma africana: Valle del Río Polochic, Guatemala<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Alberto Alonso-Fradejas, Fernando Alonso y Jochen Dür, IDEAR-CONGCOOP, 2008, Caña de azúcar y palma africana: combustibles para un nuevo ciclo de acumulación y dominio en Guatemala<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Marco Aparicio, Platera Barlett, Nuria Cortada, David Espinola, Ieva Giedraityte, Monica Gironés, Laia Haurie, Arturo Laderos, Clara Martínez y Sara Mingorría, Grupo de Investigación en Derechos Humanos y Sostenibilidad de la Catèdra Unesco de la UPC y de la asociación de Educación para la Acción Crítica (Edpac/GIDHS), 2012, Informe sobre Derechos Humanos en Guatemala (2011-2012). Mineria, hidroeléctricas y agronegocios<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Alberto Alonso-Fradejas, 2012, Land control-grabbing in Guatemala: the political economy of contemporary agrarian change. Canadian Journal of Development Studies<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Colectivo Estudios Rurales-Cer Ixim, 2013, Censo de Condiciones de Vida de las comunidades que fueron desalojadas en el Valle del Polochic en marzo de 2011<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> All the news related to Polochic Valley conflict published from 2011 to present in (national and international news paper and organizational comunications).<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Media Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Documental Desalojos en el Polochic (1ªparte)<br />Fuente: Caracol Producciones<br />Reportaje especial de 30 minutos sobre la actual Conflictividad Agraria en el Valle del Polochic, retransmitido por Guatevisión el 29 de Mayo del 2011.<br />Con el apoyo de: Centro Cooperativo Sueco, ActionAid Guatemala ONG, Plataforma Holandesa contra la Impunidad, Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas, Veterinarios Sin Fronteras, OYKOS Cooperaçao e Desenvolvimento<br/><a class="refanch small" href=" " target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Documental Desalojos en el Polochic (2ª parte)<br />Fuente: Caracol Producciones<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Documental Desalojos en el Polochic (3ª parte)<br />Fuente: Caracol Producciones<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Aj Ral Ch´och´ - Hijas-os de la Tierra - Sons of the Earth - <br />Fuente: Caracol Producciones y del Instituto de Estudios Agrarios y Rurales de la Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas de Guatemala IDEAR-CONGCOOP<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>Sara Mingorría</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>29/05/2014</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>