In the year 2004, following an initiative of the Brazilian “Network against the Green Desert,” an organization with a long track record of resistance to tree plantations, 21 September -national tree day- was chosen as a significant date to commemorate internationally the struggle against monoculture tree plantations.
In spite of the innumerable complaints against the impacts of these plantations, governments continue to promote forestry plans consisting of a package of legislative measures promoting large-scale plantations, mainly through subsidies, tax exemptions, soft loans, land concessions or other promotional mechanisms.
Those policies are increasingly being challenged by organizations and communities in affected areas and what follow are opinions from some campaigners in Africa, Asia and Latin America on this third International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations.
Soumitra Ghosh, from NESPON and National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers says: “India has a long experience of monoculture plantations that have destroyed forests and pastures, and livelihoods of people. We want no more monocultures and demand that the Government makes no attempt to hand over forest land to industrial houses for raising more eucalyptus or pine plantations. Let monocultures be banned everywhere.”
"Timber plantation expansion now being promoted by the South African government in the Eastern Cape province will not benefit local communities. Instead they will only bring more suffering to an already impoverished and marginalised region." said Wally Menne, chairperson of the Timberwatch NGO Coalition. He concluded saying that "The South African government must reverse its decision to promote the expansion of unsustainable timber plantations and should rather assist rural communities with sustainable projects around organic food production, tourism and small-scale manufacturing, that will genuinely help to ensure their long term welfare and self-reliance."
In the case of Chile, Lucio Cuenca, Director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, affirmed "that if the Government really wants people to believe in its slogan of 'Citizen Government' it should first eliminate the laws the dictatorship enacted to make the rich, richer and which even now are still in force, such as Decree 701 that gave subsidies and special credits and tax breaks to carry out plantations." Cuenca also denounced that the companies have managed to implement new strategies getting the State bodies to grant even greater amounts of public funds for the promotion of plantations. He concluded by saying that "an increasingly impoverished society is subsidising companies that are getting richer all the time. This cannot be defined as ‘citizen government’."
Indonesia has a long history of forest destruction and substitution by large-scale oil palm and pulpwood plantations. Rully Syumanda, from WALHI/Friends of the Earth stresses that “the introduction of oil palm plantations has been made at the expense of forests and forest peoples’ rights and have made local communities poorer. The main issue is therefore that indigenous rights to land are recognised in national legislation and that the right to free, prior and informed consent allows communities to accept or refuse plantations on their land.”
In the case of Brazil, Carla Villanova, from Friends of the Earth, stated that "taking into account the negative impacts of the plantation experience in other parts of Brazil, we totally oppose the State and Federal Governments' plans to support plantation companies." She added that "what is needed is not the support to major industries, but government support to other productive alternatives, benefiting those who really need it."
“Peoples throughout the South are struggling against large scale plantations”, said WRM international coordinator Ricardo Carrere. “On this International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations, we demand that governments put an end to the promotion of these socially and environmentally destructive plantations and to instead support efforts made by local communities to improve their quality of life in harmony with their environment”, he concluded.