Indigenous leaders connected yesterday (31 October) with WUR students and staff in dialogue about deforestation, land grabbing and human rights in Brazil. ‘The agrobusinesses, the wild capitalism is taking our lives.’
Photo Guy Ackermans
A delegation of indigenous leaders from Brazil is currently touring Europe to raise awareness and demand action on pressing issues in the Amazon. After meetings with Dutch politicians and businesses, ten members of the delegation visited WUR on Thursday. 150 participants spent an evening with them at Impulse to exchange experiences and ideas. The event was hosted by the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Boerengroep and Greenpeace Netherlands.
The audience listened to first-hand accounts of threats faced by indigenous people in Brazil. Their leaders are concerned with discussions in Brazilian politics to take away their land for soy production and mining. ‘The agrobusinesses, the wild capitalism is taking our lives because we have a government that disrespects our rights and kills us’, said the young leader Erisvan Guajajara. At the same time, ecosystems and biodiversity are put at risk. ‘If our cultural diversity is threatened, so is biodiversity’, said Sonia Guajajara, one of the three female members of the delegation. ‘The air we breath comes from the forest we are trying to defend.’
The delegation stressed that European and indigenous people share the same struggle in a globalized world. ‘What happens in Brazil happens to all of us. If you do not act now it is your responsibility, and a big one’, said delegate Nara Baré. The Netherlands are a major importer of Brazilian soy which mainly serves as animal feed for the European meat and dairy industry. During the event, participants explored several topics, such as the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, in more detail. Group sessions sparked lively dialogue and resulted in a collection of thoughts and ideas on issues and solutions.
The delegation believes that the university can play a crucial role in addressing issues and bringing about the system change that is desperately needed. ‘We think that students, teachers and researchers are the path to change as they can strongly influence the public opinion’, said Angela Kaxuyana. Sietske van der Heyde, MSc student of Aquaculture and Marine Resource management: ‘We should all talk about these issues and try to get the government to sanction products causing destruction of forests and harming rights of indigenous peoples.’ The delegates also provided advice on individual action such as avoiding to buy products from conflict areas in Brazil and switching to green banks. They mainly stressed the importance of taking political action to protect Brazilian indigenous people and nature.