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Las Pavas

(El Peñon, Sur de Bolivar)

UPDATE: On November 14th, INCODER the government institution that administrates the granting of titles decided to begin the process of restoring the land back to the Las Pavas community. INCODER notified Aportes San Isidro S.A., the palm growing company, that their occupation of the land is illegal. The land is currently in the custody of the state and the community is now awaiting the finalization of the legal procedure. This comes as a significant and positive step towards a legal and rightful ownership of the land for the Las Pavas famers. Read more.

In 1997 one hundred twenty-three families (more than 500 people)organized themselves as the Buenos Aires Farmers Association (ASOCAB) and began working communally on the Las Pavas farm. The farm, located two miles from the community of Buenos Aires, had been abandoned by the previous owner, Emilio Escobar. Colombian law enables people to take possession of abandoned land; after five years, they are entitled to legal ownership of that land. The government agency responsible for that process, the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER), visited Las Pavas in June 2006 and verified that the families met the conditions to begin the process of transferring the ownership of the land from Escobar to the ASOCAB families.

After the INCODER visit, Escobar came to Las Pavas with a group of armed men and threatened the farmers. A paramilitary group also went to the farm in late 2006 and issued a threat: if the people didn’t leave, they could be killed. The farmers abandoned Las Pavas. A few months later a land contract was signed between Escobar and a subsidiary of Daabon.

In January of 2009, the families felt that the threat of violence had diminished and they returned to Las Pavas and planted their food crops. Daabon sought a court order to have them evicted and riot police carried out that order on July 14, 2009. armed men and threatened the farmers. A paramilitary group also went to the farm in late 2006 and issued a threat: if the people didn’t leave, they could be killed. The farmers abandoned Las Pavas. A few months later a land contract was signed between Escobar and a subsidiary of Daabon.

Riot police prohibited the people from returning to their fields and Daabon workers destroyed their entire 60 hectares of food crops. Fourteen houses that belonged to the community were demolished. Daabon cut down a communal forest and is drying up wetlands in order to plant palm. CPT Colombia began accompanying the people of Las Pavas in April 2009 and is part of a coalition of human rights organizations that are working to enable for the community to return to the farm.

Daabon, the main palm oil supplier to The Body Shop, The Body Shop and Daabon both claim to maintain high standards for human rights and environmental protection, and they receive a premium price for their products as a result of their public image. Daabon is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and has committed to upholding the principles of that association. Daabon’s acquisition of Las Pavas, the eviction of the families from the land, and the destruction of trees and the alteration of waterways on that land, violate the stated values of the Body Shop and Daabon.

Further Resources: Listing of Las Pavas releases; Las Pavas’ Blog

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