By Rebecca Sommer
It created waves of headlines around the world when the Munduruku, an indigenous nation of approximately 13000 living in the state Para, Brazil, signed a carbon credit sales contract (REDD) with Celestial Green Ventures.
But it wasn’t the community, that signed the contract.
I uncovered this fact during my 2 1/2 month visit in the state Para where I was investigating the Belo Monte dam issue and the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples that would be directly impacted. (Also the Munduruka are trying to combat a dam in their area).
Upon hearing the announcement that they had signed a REDD contract, I called a human rights and climate justice colleague Marquinho Mora from the organization Faor. He informed that the Munduruku community was indeed very confused about the news that a contract was signed.
Interestingly, at the same time I was able to get my hands on 3 REDD contracts signed by three indigenous nations in the “Belo Monte” Altamira area with a criminal individual, by the name Benedito Milenio Junior.
Yet, Benedito had not signed the contract on behalf of his company, he signed as an individual, with no references to the company TopoGeo, that he claimed to the indigenous chiefs he would represent. To read more about this click article here.
Back to the Mundurukus’ REDD tale…
One of the chiefs, Osmarino Manhoari Munduruku, who lives in one of the 120 Munduruku villages, explained that it all began when the foreign cooperation Celestial Green Ventures approached them with a REDD project and contract at a meeting held in Jacareacanga City Hall in August 2011.
Chief Osmarino stated that councilors of the municipality and representatives of the FUNAI (Brazil’s governmental bureau of Indigenous Affairs) were present. Most of the Munduruku were against the concept of the project, and therefore the Munduruku agreed not to sign the contract.
Chief Osmarino recalls, that the “Munduruku warriors almost beat the company’s representatives”.
Celestial Green Ventures informed everyone present at the meeting, that two other indigenous nations had signed a similar contract with them. If this is true, I wasn’t able to find out which ones.
What happened next is the tragic reality of so many REDD contracts that have been signed by indigenous individuals who are not recognized leaders of the people they claim to represent.
Chief Osmarino explained that after the REDD meeting, twelve individuals; Munduruku that were not chiefs nor in any other representational position, non-indigenous advisors, councilors of the municipality and representatives of the cooperation, continued a closed, secretly held meeting in a hotel, where the contract was signed.
“The chiefs were against the company’s carbon credit sales contract proposal, but some indigenous and others, such as councilors of the municipality, signed the contract” explained chief Osmarino. “We did not know it, we learned that the contract was signed through the internet” he added.
“The contract was in sane, we couldn’t believe it when we finally saw it ” said Marquinho Mota, from Brazilian NGO FAOR. “The contract that was signed by a few individuals, and governmental authorities, without the free, prior, informed consent of the Munduruku community, granting the company Celestrial Green Ventures rights to the absolute unhindered, unrestricted use of their indigenous land for 30 years.” Marquinho added.
“In my opinion, this REDD project is bad because over the next 30 years we are according to the contract not allowed to hunt and gather, or to plant food, to fish, to remove fruits from the forest, or cutting wood when we need it,” said Chief Osmarino to Humanitarian Institute Unisinos in an interview.
The company Celestial Green Ventures offered the Munduruku a payment of 120 Million US Dollar for the REDD project. Yet it is not clear if payments have been made, and to whom, if at all.
Chief Osmarino Munduruku informed that the Indigenous Association Pusuru (Associação Indígena Pusuru) is assumed to receive the payment, but that no information has been provided to the Munduruku chiefs, if this transition did in fact, already take place.
On REDD-monitors website (which I highly recommend), investigative journalist Chris Lang states that ”In June 2011, Celestial Green Ventures sold one million uncertified, voluntary carbon credits to a London-based company called Industry RE. But the relationship between these two companies seems to go back to 2009, according to Industry RE’s website:
“In 2009 Industry Re partnered with Celestial Green as they entered into their first REDD project. This entailed the purchase of a majority share holding (97%) in a Brazilian company – Capital First Management Bank Ltda, who own 10,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in the state of Rondonia, Brazil. CFMB also had a mining licence for the gold mining on 4,300 hectares of this pristine area of land. By purchasing this company, Celestial Green have let the mining licence lapse and intend to preserve this ecologically delicate area through obtaining carbon credits under the REDD guidelines.”
To read the full article from Chris Lang CLICK HERE
“Recently, at our Munduruku assembly we decided that we want to cancel the contract. If money was deposited, we want that it is returned to the company.” said Chief Osmarino.
Excerpts from this contract have been published in Portuguese by the Humanitarian Institute Unisinos, I have attempted to translate it as accurate as possible:
First paragraph: This contract gives the company the right to perform all analyzes and technical studies, including unrestricted access to the entire area to its agents and representatives, for the purpose of collecting data, in order to obtain maximum validation of the forests carbon credits.
Second paragraph: This agreement aims to create conditions for the company Celestrial Green Ventures to proceed with the use of studies and available methodologies to get international validation carbon credits for a period of 30 years.
Third paragraph: The documents provided in Annex I give the company all rights to the carbon credits obtained by any methodology, including all rights to the benefits that will be obtained from the biodiversity of this area during the contract period.
Fourth paragraph: The owner (the Munduruku) agrees to provide the company with all permits and required documents (records, state and local permits, approval of licenses) for the company to carry out its activities in the project area.
Paragraph fifth: If carbon credits, for whatever reason, are unattainable from this property, then this contract will be null and void.”
Chief Osmarino informed that the contract also says that “the owner agrees not to perform any activity or changes in land-use, that may somehow negatively affect the design of carbon credits. The owner undertakes to maintain the property according to the methodology established by the company.”
“The owner agrees to comply with all local, federal and state laws in relation to the contract area.”
“Without the prior written consent of the company, the owner agrees not to carry out any works in the contract area, or to undertake any other activity that might affect the amount of captured carbon, or to contribute in some way, to negatively affect the image of the company and its project.”
“For the execution of works that the owner wishes to make in the contract area, it should present them to the company in writing. “
“Without the authorization of the company, the owner agrees not to undertake any invervention in the project area, such as the construction of buildings, cutting, logging, fires, dam construction, mining, agriculture, tourism, road construction or other activities that may have negative effects on the methodology used by the company for the validation of the project.”
“The owner is forbidden to sell, transfer or donate all or part of the land to third parties without the prior consent of the company.“
A committee of Munduruku have made the decision to deliver a report to the Brazilian Government outlining the circumstances behind this most recent manipulation and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples.
“We want the contract to be canceled.” said Chief Osmarino Manhoari Munduruku.
While in many countries these corrupt, illegal manoeuvrings of contract signing take place with Indigenous peoples, often pushed for by ruthless NGOs. (see an example VIDEO CLICK HERE), the Munduruku are actually lucky.
Brazils’ governmental branch dealing with indigenous peoples, FUNAI recently announced that over 30 contracts that have been signed or negotiated between indigenous peoples and companies are nullified and illegal.
To read more about the FUNAI announcement CLICK HERE