Mozambican and Portuguese environmental groups, supported by international coalitions, received with “strong criticism” the first shipment of eucalyptus unloaded in Aveiro, destined for the company The Navigator, from the port of Beira, in Mozambique, reported on Wednesday Quercus.
The wood comes from eucalyptus plantations operated by Portucel Mozambique, a subsidiary of Navigator, and will be used in pulp and paper mills in Portugal. Another two shipments are expected this year, with a total of 100,000m3 of wood, the environmental organisation said.
Portucel Mozambique operates a concession of 356,000 hectares of land in the provinces of Manica and Zambezia, in central Mozambique, where it is introducing eucalyptus plantations. The area is more than three times greater than that controlled by The Navigator Company in Portugal, and so far only 13,500 hectares have been planted, according to the statement from Quercus.
Anabela Lemos, director of the Mozambican non-governmental organization (NGO) Justiça Ambiental (Environmental Justice) stresses that Portucel Mozambique claims that the plantations “are improving the living conditions of rural communities,” but the “reality” is that “this neocolonialist project is usurping land and livelihoods from thousands of peasant families, leaving them without options in life.
“While peasant families lose everything of most value, Portucel exports low value wood over 11,000 kilometers to supply Navigator’s factories in Portugal and still claims that it is contributing to their development. The promises of jobs, better lives and improved infrastructure made to the communities have all been broken,” said the activist, quoted in the statement.
NGOs working in Mozambique, Portugal as well as other countries have “called on the Mozambican government to revoke Portucel Mozambique’s land concessions due to the negative impacts the plantations are having on the livelihoods and food security of local farming communities.
“In all concession areas, 24,000 families may be impacted by future plantation expansion,” they estimate.
Paula Silva, from Quercus in Portugal, also cited in the statement, denounces the export to Mozambique of the “eucalyptus plantation model in Portugal,” with high “costs” for the “communities and biodiversity” in the country.
“We do not want the Navigator Company to reproduce in Mozambique or anywhere else the impact it had in Portugal, where decades of influence on politicians led to the deregulation of the forestry sector and huge impacts on the environment,” says the Portuguese activist.
“Despite the huge publicity effort, industrial tree plantations are not a solution to the climate crisis, they are not forests and have only one objective: to produce profit, even if this implies the destruction of native forests, soils, waters and communities. This is the business model of pulp mills, the capitalist model of plundering”, accuses João Camargo, from the Climaximo collective for climate justice.
The NGOs called on the World Bank to withdraw its financial support to Portucel’s plantations, stressing that “the International Finance Corporation, owned by the World Bank, controls about 20% of Portucel Mozambique’s shares, and the Forest Investment Program, another World Bank initiative, is helping to finance the planting of the first 40,000 hectares.
The NGOs conclude the communiqué with an irony, denouncing the fact that the planned eucalyptus plantations are part of “Mozambique’s promise to ‘restore forests'”, as part of the ‘Bonn Challenge’ – an initiative that aims to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land worldwide by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030 – and the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), both launched with the signing of the UN Paris Agreement in 2011.
One of the measures taken by the health sector, to prevent the spread of the disease, was to screen all teachers and students, who were in contact with them.