FIAN | 19 June 2023
Rural communities in Piauí, Brazil, request urgent action against ongoing violence, land grabbing and deforestation
A delegation of leaders of several rural communities in Southern Piauí has handed over a letter to state authorities asking for urgent action to safeguard their rights against the expansion of monocropping of agricultural commodities and land speculation. Loss of land combined with ongoing deforestation is destroying their livelihoods, disrupting communities, and causing food and nutrition insecurity.
The letter, which is signed by FIAN International and several international organizations, denounces the fact that threats against community leaders and deforestation have intensified in recent months. On 5 March, Mr. Adaildo José Alves da Silva, an indigenous leader from the community of Morro D'Água who has been resisting land grabbers, was attacked with a machete by an unidentified man who called on him to give up his land.
Simultaneously, deforestation has escalated in different parts of Piauí. According to satellite images, 2,590 hectares have been deforested on a farm called Kajubar since February 2023, whose area overlaps with land claimed by local communities. Importantly, Piauí is part of the Cerrado, the world’s largest tropical savanna and one of Latin America’s most important and biodiverse ecosystems that borders the Amazon.
“Human rights violations in Piauí caused by land grabbing, deforestation, fumigation with toxic agrochemicals and other pollutants, as well as physical and psychological violence against rural communities, have been widely documented and brought to the attention of state and federal authorities,” the letter handed over today states. “The perpetrators of the violence are usually individuals linked to local land grabbers and/or agribusinesses, but research has shown that international investors play a key role in encouraging human rights violations and environmental crimes in the region.”
In May 2023, after local and international organizations had raised the issue of problematic investments for 10 years, the German doctor's fund Ärzteversorgung Westfalen-Lippe (ÄVWL) withdrew from land purchases that had led to land grabbing for soy monoculture in the Cerrado.
Piauí authorities recently cancelled the environmental licenses of several large farms and imposed fines on big landowners for ongoing illegal deforestation. However, the Piauí Land Institute, INTERPI, has hitherto failed to swiftly implement a recent land law, which gives priority to collective land titles of rural communities. Therefore, human rights violations, land grabbing and deforestation continue.
The letter states that “Protecting the tenure rights of rural communities is vital to ending violence and ecosystem destruction in Piauí. Brazilian federal and state authorities have an obligation under national and international human rights law to recognize and protect communities’ tenure rights, in particular their collective tenure rights.”
With today’s action, rural communities pressure authorities to guarantee community members' physical and mental integrity and to accelerate the issuance of collective land titles to rural communities. Moreover, they call for intensifying efforts to stop deforestation in Piauí, especially on lands claimed by rural communities.
Read the letter here (in Portuguese).
For more information, please contact Philip Seufert at [email protected].