By human and natural rights activist, Rebecca Sommer

Source: Earth Peoples

March 27, 2012

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.

Photo © Rebecca Sommer

But it wasn’t the community, that signed the contract.

I uncovered this fact during my 2 1/2 month visit in the state of Para where I was investigating the Belo Monte dam issue. Upon hearing the announcement, I called a human rights and climate justice colleague Marquinho Mora from the organization Faor, who informed me that the Munduruku community was indeed very confused about the news themselves.

Interestingly, at the same time I was able to get my hands on 3 REDD contracts signed between Indigenous nations in Altamira area, and an criminal individual, by the name Benedito Milenio Junior.

Yet Milenio did not sign on behalf of his company, he signed as an individual, with no references to the company he claimed to the indigenous chiefs he represented.

Back to the Mundurukus’ REDD tale …

One of the chiefs that lives in one of the Mundurukus 120 person village, explained that it all began when the foreign corporation Celestial Green Ventures approached them with a REDD project and contract at a meeting held in Jacareacanga City Hall in August 2011.

Chief Osmarino Manhoari Munduruku 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 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 the recognized leaders of the people they claim to represent.

Chief Osmarino explained that after the REDD meeting, twelve individuals; Indigenous Munduruku that were not chiefs nor in any other representational position, non-indigenous advisors, councilors of the municipality and representatives of the corporation, 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 insane, we couldn’t believe it when we finally saw it” said Marquinho Mota, from the 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 Celestial Green Ventures rights to the absolute unhindered, unrestricted use of their indigenous land for 30 years.” Marquinho added.

Photo © Rebecca Sommer

“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 Osmarino in an interview to Humanitarian Institute Unisinos.

The Celestial Green Ventures corporation 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 me that the Indigenous Association Pusuru (Associação Indígena Pusuru) is assumed to have received the payment, but that no information has been provided to the Munduruku chiefs, if this transaction did in fact, already take place.

On the REDD-monitor 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 carbon credits in the forest.

Second paragraph: This agreement aims to create conditions for the company Celestial Green Ventures to proceed with the use of studies and available methodologies to receive international validation carbon credits for a period of 30 years. 

Third paragraph: The documents provided in Annex I grant 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 me that the contract also states 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 invention 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 NGOs.

Brazils’ governmental branch dealing with Indigenous peoples, FUNAI, has 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


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