Multi-Media Info Tour 2004

19 Marzo 2007

Aracruz Celulose dominates the economy in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil. The company established its first plantation in 1967 during the military dictatorship. Countless people were brutally forced off their lands including Indigenous, Afro-Brazilian communities and rural farmers. This destruction of rural life paved the way for the installation of the eucalyptus monoculture mega industry.

The pulp mill complex in Barra do Riacho which consists of three mills producing 2 million tons of eucalyptus pulp per year - the biggest in the world. Over 80% is exported for disposable tissues and special papers for consumption in the North.

Aracruz diverted six different rivers to fill this reservoir used to feed the mills for pulp processing. Aracruz Celulose has 220,000 hectares of eucalyptus in the state of Espírito Santo alone.

Today these rivers stand dry, but were once flowing and abundant providing vital habitat for plant and animals alike. Local people lived off these rivers for water, food and other basic needs. This river, Santa Joana, is now a broken river. The community of Barra do Riacho take their drinking water from what is left of it and are greatly concerned about their health.

Brazil has more than five million hectares of monoculture eucalyptus in the country. The eucalyptus is grown as a monoculture crop and harvested in 7-year rotation cycles. Large areas are harvested at one time. Eucalyptus fields are sprayed with many different types of agro-toxic chemicals to insure no species competition. The silence is eery inside the plantations. Pesticide overuse eliminates natural predators and causes the increase of short life-cycle 'pests'. The abundance of cupim, a type of termite, was obvious in the plantations.

Quilombos (Afro-Brasilian communities) have a sordid history with Aracruz. Many lands were taken by force during the military dictatorship. However, much of their traditions remain. This manioc press is essential to creating mandioca flour, a staple food in this region of Brazil.

The eucalyptus plantations surround small farms. The abundance of cupim is a threat to livelihoods. Living and working structures are traditionally made of native wood which are being infested by the cupim. While the people need wood for cooking and building the native flora is scarce and collecting eucalyptus is considered trespassing.

People are forced to build with cement blocks which many cannot afford.

The Tupinikim Indigenous community have struggled to keep their lands since colonisation. Over the last 40 years they have struggled against Aracruz Celulose. Today they have three separate areas of only 2,571ha of which the Tupinikim still struggle for the demarcation of 13,579 ha. The eucalyptus of Aracruz Celulose grows right up to the edge of this bean field on Tupinikim land causing water contamination, soil degradation, nutrient depletion, loss of light, loss of essential habitat and many other adverse effects.

This multi-cropped coffee, banana, and bean field is sprayed with natural fertilisers while eucalyptus looms in the background.

Agrarian reform remains a continuing struggle for people in Brazil. Millions of rural workers are landless in Brazil. More than 1000 people live in this Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST - Landless Workers Movement) camp located between a major road and eucalyptus owned by Arazruz Celulose. Land concentration of eucalyptus owned by huge corporations is made from a great social expense to local people. In this region Aracruz Celulose owns over 70% of the land.

More than 30 thousand landless families in the region are unable to receive land directly do to the land concentration in the hands of eucalyptus companies. While people remain without a small plot of land and their dignity the multinational corporations continue to expand the sector. These women grow medicinal herbs in the spirit of self-sufficiency on the main path in the camp.

Aracruz Celulose sub-contracts out to many companies rendering it impossible for workers to have access to long-term, safe and secure working conditions. Plantar is one of the major companies that manages the land of Aracruz Celulose. Plantar grows and plants the trees, applies the agro-toxics (including Mirex, Scout and Chopp), and waters the lands of Aracruz Celulose. European machinery is imported to speed the process of harvesting. With this transfer of technology many fewer workers are required. This photo shows the dramatic change from monoculture to an empty field. This is not a forest!

Inland eucalyptus is grown for charcoal production. The timber is burnt in the ovens and then extracted for the carbon component as a reduction agent in pig iron manufacturing. The companies argue that they bring work to the regions, however after planting and spraying, many workers are laid off without contracts before the trees are harvested. Workers are hired for short periods of time and then fired. In fact the fruit industry, despite being a monoculture, creates more jobs than the eucalyptus industry. Plantar ovens, located near headquarters in Curvelo, Minas Gereis.

Plantar S.A. Reflorestamentos was founded in 1967. Plantar provides forestry services to major companies mainly in the cellulose sector, produces cast iron works (pig iron or iron ingots), and eucalyptus plantations on its land. Plantar has 280,000 hectares of monoculture eucalyptus plantations, nearly 10 million plants, increasingly cloned - to extract timber and produce charcoal with which it supplies to its iron works.

The Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI) cited Plantar and V&M Florestal in its Final Report 2002 as practicing illegal outsourcing of labour negatively effecting the livelihoods of workers. As a result the Federal Public Ministry of Labour (MPT) filed a lawsuit against Plantar and V&M. Plantar was forced to sign an "Adjustment in Behaviour Agreement" while V&M openly refused. V&M Florestal is a merger between Vallourec, a French multinational and Mannesmann, a German multinational.

This Plantar worker wears a mask for protection.

Many masks do not function or are not provided by the companies. Many workers drink a glass of milk before and after working with the ovens which they believe protects their lungs from harm.

Trucks loaded with charcoal.

The World Bank set up the Prototype Carbon Fund to mitigate investments into Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in the South. CDM projects are one of the loopholes found in the Kyoto Protocol that allow Northern countries to offset their emission by investing in the South. Plantar SA is one company that is being considered by the World Bank as a potential PCF project. V&M Florestal is already in the emission trading market through an agreement with the International Finance Corporation, and Toyota Tsusho Corporation.

This nursery owned and operated by Plantar sits next to a river that is diverted to run the cloning operation, but it is not only the nursery that is causing the rivers to run dry. The remaining residents on the river live counting the days before they will be forced off their lands. Neighbours are bought out by Plantar and forced to leave for the favelas of the city. The rivers are dry or nearly dry. They live surrounded by hectares of eucalyptus that that intake enormous amounts of water from the earth. Eucalyptus is native to Australia and is not adapted to this environment nor can it ever be sustainable in these quantities.

This gorge near the nursery was once a flowing river. Eucalyptus grows inside of what used to be a river.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) began at the end of the 1980s in an attempt to award a green stamp of approval to sustainable forestry practices. However the market and power relations between the NGOs, governments and private sector have rendered the FSC a greenwash operation. Plantar was given FSC approval on 4.8% of its lands which the World Bank's PCF relies on for quality assurance.

But the local residents are not consulted by the World Bank, the FSC or Plantar. The World Bank's PCF boasts a thirty day open comment period on each project, however this only exists in cyberspace. This boy lives next to Plantar land and is ill. The family believes it is from agro-toxic run off on what is left of the river. Ten years ago the river still flowed, today it is nearly dry.

The eucalyptus industry has had such a huge impact on the rural economy that many people build their own ovens to produce charcoal from native trees. The companies insist they do not purchase native made charcoal, but the evidence stacks against them.

The Lula government recently announced its Federal Government National Forestry Plan. The plan intends to finance 2 million more hectares of eucalyptus plantations in the short term means through the existing companies and an out-grower scheme. The emission trading market is a useful tool for this purpose.