We must believe that the world can be different

Posted on

It is vital that pension funds ensure their investments are not driving the deforestation that is destroying the lands of Indigenous peoples.

By the Guarani People of the Atlantic Forest, Brazil

We the Guarani people live on Indigenous lands in southern Brazil. Our lands have been devastated, confined between fields of monocultures. This impacts the very foundations of the nhandereko, our way of life, which is deeply rooted in agroecological practices and knowledge and inseparable from the forest. The forests contain materials and species that are fundamental to our culture. They are also sacred places, home to spirits, which must be respected and protected.

This process led to a wave of invasions and violent expulsions of our communities, who are still fighting to return to their territories and receive reparations for the damage they have suffered, facing intense land conflicts and legal disputes.

The massive use of pesticides in monoculture plantations around our villages severely affects the human and environmental health of our communities, making people ill, killing animals and contaminating the soil, rivers and traditional crops. Many pesticides that affect the villages have been banned or have their use restricted in countries of the global North, including the European Union, precisely because of their health impacts, including death. The companies that produce them are based in those countries where consumption is banned or restricted, but they are not prohibited from selling these toxic products to other countries where the poisoning of the most vulnerable populations is authorised.

One of the significant impacts of agribusiness is the loss of biodiversity, the restriction of access to forests, and the contamination of the environment. Our traditional Guarani seeds have already been partly lost, and the protection of those still preserved is challenged by land restrictions, pesticide contamination and the severe effects of increasingly pronounced extreme weather events.

As a result of the devastation of our people’s territory by agribusiness, especially soybeans, hunger has become a reality for many families who, paradoxically, have had their territory taken by the very people who claim to be responsible for ending world hunger – Brazilian agribusiness.

For the Guarani people, it is worrying that soybeans and other grains from regions that have displaced Indigenous peoples or directly impacted their territories are imported and financed by international companies and banks, pension funds and others, for animal feed production, without taking the local communities into account.

The profound socio-environmental impacts of agribusiness does not only systematically affect Indigenous peoples and traditional communities but also the whole of society and the future of the planet.

We call on Wales and countries around the world to act to ensure that investments in pension funds are not driving the destruction of our home in the Atlantic forest. We hope that you learn from our way of life, where we harvest traditional seeds and care for our forests. We must believe that the world can be different. We are uniting our energies to preserve life on the whole planet. Each person, each community, each country should be able to at least dream of many ways that, together, we can continue on this path, to take care of this world that we share.

Comissão Guarani Yvyrupa (CGY) is an autonomous Indigenous organisation that brings together communities of the Guarani people in the south and southeast of Brazil.

To find out more about how pension funds can become deforestation free read our pensions guidance.

This piece was first published as part of Saving for the future: A report into Wales’ public pension exposure to global deforestation.