Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

Resistance in Cambodia

Ms Oum Sophy, one of the leaders of the Lor Peang land struggle, Cambodia.

Since 2006, residents of Lor Peang village in Kampong Tralach District, Kampong Chhnang province in Cambodia have been embroiled in a land dispute with KDC International, a powerful private company owned by Ms Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Mr Suy Sem. Since mid July 2014, the village has been occupied by military police and KDC International is building a wall around the lands seized from the villagers.

My name is Oum Sophy. My husband and two other villagers were arrested after we left our village to march to Phnom Penh this morning (12th August 2014). We decided to go to Phnom Penh to ask the government to help us and find a fair solution to the land dispute in our village. On the way, our food, water, bags and documents were thrown and messed up along the road by military police, who tried to stop us from going on. Most of the villagers marching together were beaten by the police and injured, and our children were crying. I could not help my husband when I saw the police carry him into the police truck.

Most of us who marched today are elderly and many are children. I did not want to take my four children with me but I have no choice. My youngest child is only four months old.

We want justice for our people. Five of our representatives have been arrested and we want them to be released. We want the government to stop the company [KDC International] from building walls around our lands, urgently withdraw the military police from our village and stop threatening our freedom, and let us have a safe environment so that our children can go to school. I will not return to my village till there is a proper solution to our problem.

Voices from the field 2

No to the Pacto-Junín megamingin project!

Julián Morente, The Organisations of Neighbours in Resistance of Ingapi, Ecuador.

Pacto is a rural parish in Ingapi, Ecuador. The villagers have managed to live for centuries growing sugar cane interspersed with banana, cassava and other subsistence crops. Our crops do not contain chemicals. We have always worked the land by traditional means, feeding the soil so that the soil can feed us. We produce raw sugar from own sugarcane mills, with homemade equipment and wooden stoves for decanting the sugar.

In the lowlands, have organic grazing livestock and produce milk and meat, without the need of large processors, as we distribute locally and regionally. Here in the foothills of the Andes, the mining companiesa want to come. They have already started in some mountain areas.

President Correa calls int the Pacto-Junin Megamining Project: more than four thousand hectares only in Pacto; in Junin destruction is well underway. Where are we going to go? We want food, not stones or gold. Here you will leave a desert for future generations. Technicians say that it is a mile deep, that’s an monstrosity because almost six months of rain, then lifting, opening the mountain form here to the river they will lose the reserve which serves the municipality of Quito. I say that water is more important than gold.

The so-called environmental impact studies have been a disaster – they have all been in favour of mining. Mining here will use harsh chemicals like cyanide -apart from completely collapsing hills, affecting forests, pastures, water flow and composition will be brutally contaminated.

They say there is uranium further down. The government wants to give us compensation – three hundred dollars per acre. We do not agree.

Voices from the field 3

We will stop the Enbridge Pipelines

Winona La Duke, Honor the Earth, Minnesota.

Native environmental organization Honor the Earth is organising a tour in northern Minnesota aimed at engaging communities along one of many tar sands and fracked oil pipelines proposed to cross the North Country: the Enbridge proposed Sandpiper pipeline. The tour is not only about preventing the threat of pipelines, but it is also an act of solidarity to stop the extraction of tar sands and Bakken oil at their sources.

It’s the morning mist. I’m looking at the horses in the mist. Then we ride to the lake. It’s Rice lake, in the midst of the Rice Lake refuge. The place is Minisinoo, a traditional village of Anishinaabeg*, who have lived here for thousands of years.

“I can’t fathom how they would put the pipeline here …. It’s a glacial lake bed bottom, with vast amounts of manoomin **…making the quantities and qualities of life rich. We feel threatened.” The land is full of lakes, medicine plants and marshes. (…) There is no need for an oil pipeline here. The biodiversity and stunning beauty of the ecosystem is maamaakaajizhichige. It is amazing.

The traditional and ceremonial leadership of the village of East Lake welcomes us, prays for us and feeds us, feeding our spirits, pasturing our horses, and feeding our bodies. We explain the logistics of the pipeline, talking about the 20,000 gallons a minute which would come from a breach in the pipeline, and we all know it would go directly into the water. (…) The water table is only a foot below the surface. The pipeline is a threat. And it is joined by another extreme extraction project lurking in the area- a Rio Tinto Zinc/Kennecott Copper set of mining explorations: Traces of copper, zinc, magnesium diamonds and gold, deep beneath the glacier bed that made this land. The company, we are told, had leased a building in the town north, and keeps looking and digging around.

There is no safe place to hide, to rice, to be Anishinaabeg. So we protect our territory, as we have for centuries. It is still beautiful and full of clean water, and medicines. It is worth everything. Our water is more important than their oil. Our mino bimaatisiiwin*** will see us through. Love water not oil.

*It is the autonym often used by the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Algonquin peoples.
**Ojibwe wild rice, the historic Staple in their diet.
***Ojibway philosophy, capturing the concept of balancing the four elements of health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Voices from the field 4

Shell to Sea: Rossport in struggle

Gerry Bourke, farmer in County Mayo, Ireland.

I’m a farmer in the northwest of Ireland, near Erris in County Mayo. For thirteen years we have been struggling against Shell to protect our land, our environment and our community here. Shell wanted to bring their pipeline of unprocessed, highly volatile and pollutant gas through the fields of our communities – fields our families have cared for and nurtured for generations. It’s all bog around here – we make the fields fertile by bringing in seaweed from the sea. For us, the land is everything.

We have resisted Shell and been violently oppressed. People have been beaten, abused, subjected to martial law. Almost a hundred complaints went in about the police behaviour here. Not one was answered. People give off about Shell, but Shell was only allowed to do what they have done. They have their own private police, security services. They were facilitated by the Irish state. The government drew a line around our villages and said “The rule of law, of the Irish state, no longer applies here”. Like it was a testing ground for oppressing their own people. The state thought they could smash us, but instead they educated us.

We met people with ideas, knowledge who came to help us in our struggle. We have learned a huge amount about how the world works, about how the Irish government can treat its people, about alternatives. We hope now that our knowledge can help other communities – enough people together can change anything. We have to remember that everything on this island – from the last blade of grass to the moonlight – belongs to the Irish people, to all of us. We have to decide together. We have a duty to ourselves and each other to have our opinions heard, to be responsible for what happens. The government will never do it for us.

Voices from the field 5

We will not let ProSavana to invade our land and colonize us!

Ana Paula Taucale, peasant in Nampula Province and member of UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses), Mozambique.

The government of my country has granted large portions of land for large-scale agriculture for exports, in the Nacala Corridor, involving Brazil and Japan. We, peasants of the area oppose this project and see it as an invasion that will drive to large land grabs.

There is already evidence of the effects of land grabbing in that area (Northern Mozambique) on the peasants communities, and particularly on women. In Nampula province, were I live and have my plot, women are being prevented from passing in the areas where the foreign companies operate. We cannot access firewood, gather wild foods or harvest roots to use as medicines for our families. In itself this is a clear violation of the Mozambique Law of the Land. The Law requires that community be consulted to grant lands to companies, thus giving communities the right to refuse, as in cases where such land granting implies the abuse of their rights.

We reject this land-grabbing and we reject the model of agriculture the ProSavana program represents. We will do everything we can to stop it.

We as UNAC, together with other organizations in the country, have launched in June the National Campaign STOP ProSavana. We want to bring this campaign at international level – civil society organisations in Brazil and Japan have already joined us – and we want to activate legal mechanisms at national and United Nations level, to give greater responsibility to those operating the ProSavana program, for the damage they might cause to the peasants communities in Mozambique.

More info on the campaign here.

Voices from the field 6

We are ready to fight

Parvati*,Muttagi, India.

I don’t have land, but I do have a house. I’m an agricultural labor on others’ land. I make bread at home and sell it for income. Actually my land was acquired for a dam long back, and I would never wish that to anyone. That’s why I’ve joined this movement against the NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation Limited) power plant being built in my village. If the local farmers’ fields are lost, what will we eat? During the protest, the men told us to go in front so the police would not use violence. But when we reached the front of the NTPC thermal plant the police beat us with lathis (long sticks) — even I got beaten. We were so scared. It was my first time in an agitation. The police chased us into hotels, the police station, even the train station! But the farmers’ movement told us not to be scared. One of my relatives is in jail. He’s a college student, and they just carried him off! I am committed to fight against NTPC. When we women work together, you will see what we do!

We don’t want the NTPC power plant. Whether they give us money, we don’t want the power plant. We don’t want diseases like TB, asthma etc. We don’t want the baby in the womb to be affected. Now we have learned the water surrounding the thermal plant is poisonous. We aren’t saying anything wrong. Let them shoot us if they want. Ultimately we don’t want to lose our land. We don’t want any loss of lives on their side or our side. They should have had a meeting with us farmers about the impacts of the power plant before starting work.

Why did the government acquire this land? Sure, they will get rich, but what will the poor do? What will the future hold for us? We are ready to fight.

*Name changed to protect identity

Voices from the field 7

The Yaqui defend its water from government and industry

Mario Luna, spokesman for the Vícam tribe, Sonora, Mexico.

In 2010 the state government announced the construction of an aqueduct which will remove millions of m3 of water from the Yaqui River. Water is part of the Yaqui ancestral territory, partly ratified in 1940 by presidential decree.

Although we have won in court, the government does not stop the project and promotes hatred against us.
When the mobilization began they began prosecutions against many involved, and many families had their supports from government programs suspended. They have also suffered harassment, audits, direct death threats, and kidnapping.

In its 74 years, the territory granted by the decree has never been met. Hydroelectric dams built in the 50s targeted only water for energy, and through the National Water Commission we were assigned only 250 million m3 per year from 800 million m3 capacity of the dam.

We were the last to know – through press releases – of the aqueduct project. The authorities did not consult us even if they are obliged to by various international regulations.

Only 8% of the Sonora River, is for citizen consumption; the rest supplies agriculture and livestock. Industry is growing in the region. Ford expanded to almost double its capacity; Holcim cement installed the second largest cement plant in Latin America; Heineken arrived and built the largest brewery in the world; Coca-Cola and Pepsico will expand their facilities for processed foods. The state government repeatedly violates the suspensions handed down by the federal judiciary. On July 15, the Federal Court of Hermasillo overturned the decision of a judge who authorized the suspension – for this reason we returned to blockade the federal highway as far as Vícam until further notice. We resist peacefully, but we are in the eye of the hurricane.