Global Justice Ecology Project
Winnie Overbeek, Executive Director of World Rainforest Movement and I co-facilitated a workshop on tree plantations that was attended by 30 members of rural communities impacted in some way by industrial tree plantations.
After our brief overview introducing the issues of tree plantations and GE trees, we gave the floor over to the participants. They went around one by one and spoke, some in English, some in their native language, about the impacts they have experienced due to the plantations, the companies that own them, and the South African government that collaborates with the companies.
One young woman who has to walk through a plantation to get to her school spoke about the fear she and the other girls have about walking alone from school in the afternoon, about being chased by some of the men who work in the plantation, about the fear of being raped.
A common theme among many of the participants was the loss of fresh water access. The plantations have dried up the ground water in many places and some areas face historic drought.
Another common problem was loss of land. Many women described how they had no access to land because of the plantations and that they were unable to grow food for their families.
Other women spoke of being evicted from their lands after their husbands who worked in the plantations had passed away. Still others had been evicted to make room for expanding plantations and some had been offered money to abandon their lands.
But Winnie explained a comment from a community representative he knew who had also been offered money to leave his land. “If I take the money I have it today but it is soon gone. If I have my land, I have it always. I have it for my children and my grand children.”