Different conflicts have arisen in Tibú, a town in the Catatumbo region as a response to land expropriations for the development of huge projects and their contaminations ( water pollution and soil erosion).
The plantation of oil palm in Tibú started in 2001 as part of a broader national attempt to eradicate and substitute the cultivation of coca in the region of Catatumbo. The involved farmers created the Association of Palm Smallholders (Asopagdos). Seeds and technical assistance were provided by the integrative business partner “Hacienda Flores”, owned by Carlos Murga, ex-Minister of Agriculture. The smallholders signed contracts committing to the Hacienda, which force them to sell to the Hacienda all their fruit during 25 years and to take responsibility for credit (which means that the association will keep the land in case the farmer cannot pay back). The business partner was unilaterally imposed. Since the Hacienda has the monopoly, the smallholders have little to none influence on the prices.  Due to large amount of land needed for growing oil palm, local communities have been displaced and traditional crops have been removed, rising the prices of basic food. In addition, many of the workers on the oil palm plantations are children since they are 12 years, which leads to higher school absenteeism.  The roads are in very bad condition, which slows down the transport to and from the plantations.
In 2010, the dutch embassy invested 455,000 USD in a project started by Fedepalma, Oleoflores and some other palm oil farmers, with the aim to create a chain of “sustainable palm oil”, a growing niche in the international market. Since then, they have been mediating between national producers and Unilever. The multinational started to buy Colombian oil certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).
By 2012, the first certified plantations were already in place in Tibú (480 out of 1000 smallholders). Yet, the continuous expansion of oil palm plantations is seen as a threat to food sovereignty by the locals, who are constantly pressured to sell their lands for ridiculous prices. Nowadays, most of the food consumed in the region is imported from the neighbouring country of Venezuela.
The “Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz” (Inter-church Justice and Peace Commission) has pointed at the detrimental environmental and socioeconomic impacts of expanding palm oil monocultures, which displaces indigenous communities supported by the national government. The plantation of oil palm is destroying the ecosystem – due to high input of fertilizers, deforestations and so on- and at the same time causing conflicts between some families who benefit from it and the locals. The majority consider that the profits from oil palm are only made by outsiders .
The national plan to substitute coca for other crops did not provide the local smallholders with improved livelihoods nor enhanced their food security but concentrated the benefits on the hands of large agribusinesses. Nowadays, the majority of the population in Tibú live in conditions of poverty . The Catacumbo area has a long history of conflicts, given the proximity with the border with Venezuela and its richness in oil, a resource which has been exploited for the last 50 years, and other minerals –i.e. coal and coltan. In addition to oil palm, other crops, such as rubber, are expanding and, hence, increasing the pressure over land. The FARC are still present. The farmers living in the region have been demanding the creation of a “Zona de Reserva Campesina” (Farmers Reservation Zone) for a long time with little results. For instance, 14,000 peasants went on the streets on June 2013, and 6,000 blocked the main road to Cúcuta, but the Protected Area was not granted.