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Santa Clara de Uchunya against palm oil plantation, Peru


In the territory of the Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, the indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are facing the devastation of their ancestral forests and rivers. This is due to the aggressive expansion of a palm oil plantation operated by Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C., a member of an international agribusiness group known in Peru as the 'Melka Group' owned by Dennis Melka.  By August 2015, more than 6,000 hectares of their forests had been destroyed to make way for palm oil and those who protest face death threats and intimidation. The project also caused contaminated rivers, killed biodiversity, and caused rampant loss of traditional livelihood [1]. Despite suspension orders from the Ministry of Agriculture, widespread condemnation from civil society and Peruvian government forest and agricultural ministries and a stop work order from the RSPO, the operations continue.

On April 19, 2018, 81-year-old Shipibo-Konibo leader and traditional medicine healer/shaman Olivia Arévalo Lomas was shot in the chest and murdered. That same day, another Shipibo woman leader named Magdalena Flores Agustín received an anonymous envelope with two bullets and a death threat. The letter read: “you have 48 hours to leave here. One bullet for each of you” [1]. Shortly afterward, a social media video circulated depicting the lynching of Arévalo’s neighbor Canadian Sebastian Woodroffe, who had been spotted sneaking around Arévalo’s home around the time of her murder. Although some blamed the indigenous community for lynching him for their own customary sense of justice as a suspect for her murder, others believe the lynching is unrelated to the murder, which may instead have been politically motivated as part of a pattern of several other unsolved murders of indigenous activists who had repeatedly faced threats stemming from their efforts to keep illegal loggers and palm oil growers off their land [2].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Santa Clara de Uchunya against palm oil plantation, Peru
State or province:Ucayali
Location of conflict:Nueva Requena
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Timber
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Plantaciones de Pucallpa's palm oil plantation covers an extension of 5,889 hectares*. To date, at least 5,263 hectares of forests have been cleared to make way for palm oil. An independent study released in April 2015 by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project found that the vast majority of this deforestation came at the expense of primary forest. Planting appears to have started in 2012/2013; by 2015, most of the deforested area had been planted with palm oil.

*6845.23 hectares according to MINAGRI (2015).

Project area:6,845
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:300-500
Start of the conflict:2014
Company names or state enterprises:Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C. from Peru - Palm oil company implicated in the dispossession and depredation of the ancestral territory of Santa Clara de Uchunya.
United Cacao Limited SEZC from Cayman Islands
La Fiduciaria S.A. from Peru - On 2 September 2015, the same day that the Ministry of Agriculture issued the stop order to Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C., the properties (223 in total, totalling 10,392 hectares) on which the company - as well as nearby Plantaciones de Ucayali S.A.C. - had installed oil palm plantations were transferred to a trust managed by La Fiduciaria S.A. These same properties were put up for auction in late June/early July 2016.
Relevant government actors:Dirección Regional de Agricultura Ucayali (DRAU) del Gobierno Regional de Ucayali (GOREU).
COFOPRI (Organismo de Formalización de la Propiedad Informal).
Dirección General de Asuntos Ambientales Agrarios (DGAAA) del Ministerio de Agricultura y Riego (MINAGRI).
La Fiscalía Especializada del Medio Ambiente de Ucayali.
Defensoría del Pueblo.
International and Finance InstitutionsAlternative Investment Market (London Stock Exchange) (AIM) from United Kingdom - Capital raised on the AIM has been used to finance Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C.'s illegal activities.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) from Malaysia - Industry body which certifies Plantaciones de Pucallpa's produce.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Federación de Comunidades Nativas del Ucayali (FECONAU):
Forest Peoples Programme (FPP):
Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL):
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA):
Kené, Instituto de Estudios Forestales y Ambientales:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Self-demarcation of the community's territory.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Following a government investigation in August 2015, Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C. was issued with a suspension order. Nevertheless, in May 2016, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, who form part of an ongoing legal investigation into Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C.'s activities, found that the company continues working, in contravention of this order (
- Following a formal complaint issued by the community in December 2015, the RSPO instructed Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C. to stop work, pending further investigation. This investigation is ongoing.
- In late June 2016, notices appeared in the Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Post announcing that Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C., along with another Melka-controlled company, Plantaciones de Ucayali S.A.C. (also subject to a MINAGRI suspension order since 2014), planned to sell their plantation lands through the Peruvian trust services company, La Fiduciaria S.A. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency,
"The June 2015 sale announcement lists the offshore company “SH UOL Administrative Agent Limited,” based in Bermuda, as the beneficiary of the trust, but records are not available regarding who really owns this company. If this sale is structured specifically to evade Peruvian law or sanctions, the sale would be considered illegal, according to Peruvian environmental lawyer, Cesar Ipenza. However, even in absence of outright illegality, the trust structure allows anonymity, both of the true current owners of the properties and those who might be acquiring them."
Proposal and development of alternatives:The community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are calling for their rights to their ancestral territory to be upheld, in accordance with the Peruvian Constitution and the ILO Convention No.169.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The community of Santa Clara de Uchunya has not managed to stop the oil palm plantations, but the onwer is investigated.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ley 29763 Ley Forestal y de Fauna Silvestre (Forestry and Wildlife Law).

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

'Deforestation by Definition', Environmental Investigation Agency.

Blog de Juan Arellano, Santa Clara de Uchunya resiste al avance de la palma aceitera


[2] El Pais. Una curandera asesinada y un canadiense linchado: Una historia de terror en la Amazonia peruana (Fowks 2018)

'Who will pay for the illegal destruction of the Peruvian Amazon?'

'Will London Stock Exchange bar firm over Amazon deforestation?'

Primary rainforest cleared for massive palm oil plantations in Peru.

RSPO orders palm oil company to stop work in Shipibo territory in the Peruvian Amazon.



‘Medida preventiva suspensión de actividades agrícolas de PLANTACIONES DE PUCALLPA S.A.C. - Resolución de Dirección General Nº 270-2015-MINAGRI-DVDIAR-DGAAA.'

“We are going to kill you”: Indigenous activist’s life in danger after opposing destruction of Peruvian Amazon.

'Peruvian environmental prosecutor documents Plantaciones de Pucallpa’s violation of government suspension order.'

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

A video (Spanish only) recording a formal visit to the oil palm plantation of Plantaciones de Pucallpa in Ucayali by Peruvian environmental prosecutors and officials documents how the company has continued to maintain and cultivate its plantation operations in violation of the suspension order of the Ministry of Agriculture issued in September 2015.

Facebook page of FECONAU, an indigenous organisation which represents more than 30 Shipibo-Konibo, Ashaninka, Isconahua and Awajun indigenous communities in the Ucayali region of Peru.

Information about Santa Clara de Uchunya, a Shipibo community resisting the deforestation of their ancestral territory for palm oil.

Portal informativo sobre Santa Clara de Uchunya, una comunidad shipibo luchando contra la deforestación de su territorio ancestral por palma aceitera.

Bosque virgen deforestado por un enorme proyecto de plantaciones de aceite de palma en Perú. 18 junio 2015 / John C. Cannon.

Empresario norteamericano Dennis Melka -director de una compañía de cacao que cotiza en la Bolsa de Valores de Londres- identificado como financista de una red de 25 empresas que han comprado cientos de predios en la Amazonía peruana, según el reporte de la organización Agencia de Investigación Ambiental (EIA, por sus siglas en inglés). Autoridades judiciales de Lima investigan a compañía de palma aceitera, vinculada a millonario inversionista en los mercados de Malasia e Indonesia, por deforestación de siete mil hectáreas de bosques en Ucayali y Loreto.

En el territorio del pueblo Shipibo en la Amazonía peruana, la comunidad indígena de Santa Clara de Uchunya está enfrentando la devastación de sus bosques y ríos ancestrales, debido a la expansión agresiva de palma aceitera. Dicha plantación pertenece a Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C. que forma parte de un grupo de empresas controlado por Dennis Melka.

Este video, basado en testimonios de los comuneros, muestra los impactos que sufre la comunidad a causa de este acaparamiento de sus tierras tradicionales y la lucha que han emprendido para hacer respetar sus derechos territoriales y culturales.

Los esfuerzos de la comunidad para lograr el reconocimiento de sus derechos territoriales abarcan más de 30 años y ahora han llegado a un punto crítico. El caso legal de Santa Clara de Uchunya es emblemático, puesto que su resultado tendrá consecuencias trascendentales para el futuro de la Amazonía peruana y sus Pueblos Indígenas.

In the territory of the Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, the indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are facing the devastation of their ancestral forests and rivers. This is due to the aggressive expansion of a palm oil plantation operated by Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C., a member of a group of companies controlled by businessman Dennis Melka.

This video, based on community testimonies, shows the impacts which the community are suffering as a result of this appropriation of their traditional lands and the fight to defend their territorial and cultural rights.

The community's efforts to gain recognition of their rights over their territory span more than 30 years and have now reached a critical point. The ongoing legal case of Santa Clara de Uchunya is emblematic, in that its outcome will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the Peruvian Amazon and its indigenous peoples.

Other comments:La fiscalía ambiental y la procuraduría para delitos ambientales del Ministerio del Ambiente han tenido procesos penales en marcha contra tres empresas de palma aceitera en el Perú, una del Grupo Romero (Palmas de Shanusi, en Loreto) y dos precisamente vinculadas a Dennis Melka: Cacao Perú Norte y Plantaciones Ucayali (de la que es apoderado legal), acusadas de deforestar un total de 7 mil hectáreas de bosques en Tamshiyacu, Loreto, y Nueva Requena en Ucayali, respectivamente.

Meta information

Contributor:Thomas Younger, updated by Dalena Tran
Last update10/10/2016
Conflict ID:2363



Aerial view of deforestation caused by Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C.

Photo credit: Mathias Rittgerott / Rainforest Rescue.

EIA-produced map depicting scale, location, and corporate connections of the clear-cut Amazon land now being auctioned by La Fiduciara S.A.


Olivia Arevalo Lomas

Photo AWID