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Pulp And Paper Giant Denounced As The First Delivery Of Eucalyptus Arrives In Portugal From Mozambique


14 July 2021–The first delivery of eucalyptus
trees to Aveiro in Portugal from the port of Beira in
Mozambique has been received with strong criticism by
Mozambican and Portuguese groups and two international
coalitions. The wood is from eucalyptus plantations operated
by Portucel Moçambique, a subsidiary of The Navigator
Company, and will be used in pulp and paper mills in
Portugal. Two more deliveries are expected this year with a
total volume of 100,000m3 of wood.

Portucel
Moçambique has been granted 356,000 hectares of land in the
provinces of Manica and Zambézia in central Mozambique to
establish eucalyptus plantations on, which is more than
three times the area that The Navigator Company controls in
Portugal. So far, only 13,500 hectares have been planted,
but already a large number of communities have accused the
company of violating their rights. [1]

Anabela Lemos
of Justiça Ambiental in Mozambique said“Portucel
Moçambique says that its plantations are improving the
living conditions of rural communities and bringing economic
development to Mozambique. In reality, this neo-colonial
project is usurping the land and livelihoods of thousands of
peasant families, leaving them with no options for their
lives. While peasant families lose everything that is most
valuable to them, Portucel exports low-value wood more than
11,000km to supply Navigator’s factories in Portugal and
claims that this is contributing to their development. The
promises made to communities of jobs, better lives and
improved infrastructure have all been broken.”

NGOs
have appealed to the World Bank to withdraw its financial
support for Portucel’s plantations. The International
Finance Corporation, owned by the World Bank, controls about
20% of Portucel Moçambique’s shares, and the Forest
Investment Program, another World Bank initiative, is
helping to finance the planting of the first 40,000
hectares. This was included in Mozambique’s pledge to
“restore forests” under the Bonn Challenge and the
African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100),
which were launched alongside the signing of the UN’s
Paris Agreement in 2011.

Kwami Kpondzo, Africa
regional coordinator for the Global Forest Coalition said:
“The World Bank is giving Portucel millions to plant
eucalyptus in Mozambique under the false pretext that
afforestation with plantations can help solve climate
change. The opposite is true. Converting forests and
agricultural land to plantations releases large amounts of
carbon. In addition, the wood is shipped thousands of
kilometers just to be turned into short-lived paper products
such as office paper, toilet paper and supermarket
packaging, or burned to generate electricity in
Navigator’s pulp mills.”

Sergio Baffoni,
campaigner with the Environmental Paper Network, said:
“The wood-fibre plantations planned by Portucel
Moçambique have turned into a boomerang for local
communities and the environment. The plantations have spread
over people’s land and over some of the last remaining
miombo woodlands, causing pollution, soil erosion, loss of
biodiversity, increased risks of water shortage and forest
fires in an area already prone to drought.”

NGOs
working in Mozambique, Portugal and internationally have
called on the Mozambican government to revoke Portucel
Moçambique’s land concessions due to the negative impacts
that the plantations are having on the livelihoods and food
security of rural farming communities in the areas that have
been planted. Across Portucel’s concession areas, 24,000
families could be impacted by future plantation
expansion.

Paula Silva, a member of Quercus in
Portugal stated: “Portugal’s eucalyptus plantation model
is being exported at great cost to communities and
biodiversity in Mozambique. We don’t want The Navigator
Company to replicate the impact it has had here in Portugal
in Mozambique or elsewhere, where decades of influence over
policymakers have led to the deregulation of the forestry
sector and huge impacts on the environment.”

João
Camargo, a member of the climate justice collective
Climáximo in Portugal, reminds us that “The Navigator
Company’s practices mimic a colonialist extractive model,
where African countries are treated like a mine. Everything
is extracted at low cost with enormous damage to the
Mozambican people, and there are rich rewards for the
shareholders of multinational companies. On top of this,
despite enormous publicity efforts, industrial forest
plantations are not a solution to the climate crisis. They
are not forests and they have only one objective: to make a
profit, even if this implies the destruction of native
forests, soils, waters and communities. This is the pulp and
paper business model, a capitalist model based on
plunder.”

Notes:

[1] See: https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Portucel_O_Processo_de_acesso_%C3%A0_Terra_e_os_direitos_das_comunidades_locais.pdf,
https://environmentalpaper.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/171117-Discussion-Document-Portucel-Report-2017-English.pdf
and https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-cover-63/#mozambique

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