Brazilian State Prosecutor to investigate land grab highlighted by Oxfam

Posted by Lucy Brinicombe Senior Press Officer

29th Oct 2013

An investigation into a four-year delay to resolve a land dispute in Brazil has been announced, following a report from Oxfam profiling the case.

The case involves a fishing community that was violently evicted from their homes to make way for the Usina Trapiche sugar mill on the islands of Sirinhaém in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil. The mill supplies sugar to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. 

Oxfam's report Nothing Sweet About It was launched earlier this month, urging food and beverage companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods to tighten their supply chains so the ingredients they use are not grown on land that has been grabbed from communities that depend on it for their survival.

The State Prosecutor Silvia Regina announced last week that the Federal Public Ministry was launching an investigation into the delays since 2009 in setting up an Extractive Reserve (RESEX) on the land that would enable the local community to return to the mangroves where they fished and grew food to earn a living and feed their families.

Gabrielle Watson, Oxfam's Behind the Brands campaign manager in Brazil, said: "Action to restore local people's access to their land is long overdue. The community has fought for years to resolve this conflict but Trapiche and the local authorities have repeatedly blocked progress. We hope this investigation will finally help restore the community's rights."

About 30 fishermen and social organisations that have been involved in the case, including the Pastoral Land Commission, the Pastoral Council of the Fishermen and the coastal Reef Institute, attended the hearing to defend the rights of traditional communities living in region since 1914.

One fisherwoman there said: "While the state delays the creations of extractive reserves, sugar mills and the other developments are destroying the traditional territory for thousands of families who live and use the natural resources in a sustainable manner, protecting the environment."

The public prosecutor said she will request formal justification from the Office of the Presidency for the delays in the creation of the extractive reserve. According to the prosecutor, if no statement or justification is given by the state, the next step will be to take legal action.

Since Oxfam launched the report in support of its behind the Brands campaign, more than 175,000 people have signed petitions and taken action to urge food and beverage companies to root out land grabs in their supply chains. Oxfam is urging companies to declare zero tolerance for land grabs to help prevent cases like Pernambuco from occurring and to play a constructive role with their suppliers in resolving the cases highlighted in the report. 

"Companies need to take preventative measures to avoid land grabs in the first place, but it is important that local cases are resolved," said Watson. "We hope that the action of the Pernambuco State prosecutor helps ensure a positive outcome for the community."

ENDS

Notes to editors: 

For more information contact Lucy Brinicombe 07786 110054 / lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk
Find out more at: http://www.behindthebrands.org/en-gb

Blog post written by Lucy Brinicombe

Senior Press Officer

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