Greenwash award exposes Brazilian company

| 21st January 2010
Tribal person

The land of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe has been cleared for cattle-ranching (picture: Survival International)

Brazilian cattle-ranching company named and shamed for destroying the land of an uncontacted tribe

A Brazilian cattle-ranching company has received a greenwashing award for illegally bulldozing land belonging to an uncontacted tribe in Paraguay.

The company, Yaguarete Pora S.A., received the prize from indigenous rights group Survival International for suggesting the deforestation of land in Paraguay's Chaco region was 'a noble gesture for conservation'.

While the company's website said it would create a 'nature reserve' on the deforested land, detailed plans submitted to the Paraguayan environment ministry showed that it was clearing two thirds of the 78,549 hectares it owns to make way for cattle ranches.

Rise in logging

There has been a massive rise in deforestation rates in the remote Chaco region over the last 12 months.

Paraguay's former Environment Minister, told the Ecologist last November that clamping down on deforestation in Brazil meant heavy logging equipment was being smuggled across the border to Paraguay.

Due to concerns over the extent of forest clearance, Yaguarete's permits were suspended by the Environment Ministry. However, Survival International claims that the company's activities have continued illegally.

Amid heavy bulldozing and tree clearance, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe that lives in the area are ‘on the run’, according to Jonathan Mazower of Survival International. 

'This is part of the very heart of their territory. They have already lost the huge majority of their territory to ranching. If this goes, that would be it,' he said.

Tribes threatened

Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition based in Paraguay agreed that deforesting the tribe's land was putting their survival in jeopardy.

'They will be directly impacted, if you deforest in an area where there are uncontacted people, it is basically killing them. We are already seeing protein deficiency in many contacted Ayoreo people because they no longer have access to animals that need larger areas of land to roam in,' she said.

Lovera also highlighted the impact forest clearance was having on water resources in the Chaco.

'It is very clear at a national and regional level that deforestation is having a significant impact on water cycles. We have seen cases of people living in the Chaco having sneak on to the cattle ranches to drink water from the the animals' buckets,' she said. 

A government spokesman said the current level of deforestation in the Chaco was excessive and that the deforestation by Yaguarete was ‘uncategorically illegal’, but rejected suggestions by Survival International that the government was not taking the issue seriously.

‘Some ill-intentioned companies are making the most of the weakness of the state in dealing with this issue. Unlike the last government, this administration is determined to end deforestation in the Chaco.’

Useful links
Survival International

Protecting forests AND the rights of forest peoples
The plans currently under consideration for saving forests might help the trees, but they could ride roughshod over indigenous communities. Here are some ways to change that
Clamping down on logging in Brazil moves it to Paraguay
Former Paraguayan government minister makes plea for West to intervene in runaway illegal logging situation displaced from Brazil
Deforestation in central London
An installation featuring giant tropical tree stumps in Trafalgar square is designed to symbolise threatened rainforest trees throughout the world
CASE STUDY: managing woodlands through social enterprise
Social entrepreneur Nigel Lowthrop has pioneered a win-win woodland management scheme combining environmental protection with rehabilitating disadvantaged young people


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