Cultural Survival endorses Grassroots International's campaign to protect Garifuna's land rights and lives.
The Garifuna People and Lands are Threatened
In Vallecito, Honduras, the Afro-descendant Garifuna community is threatened by agribusinesses intent on developing their ancestral land for palm oil production. In late August, 200 Garifuna families from a dozen different communities mobilized to reclaim 2,500 hectares of their ancestral land earmarked for development by large agribusinesses. The families set up camp, staking claim to the land that they intend to recover through non-violent protests as part of their right to self-determination.
The lands legally belong to the Garifuna people; in 1997 they sought and later received land titles from the National Agrarian Institute. But powerful elites, such as local business magnate Miguel Facussé, did not accept the decree. Facussé usurped the Garifunas’ land, planting 100 hectares of palm oil. Today, his territory completely surrounds Vallecito. In total, 86% of Garifuna land has been seized by non-Garifunas over the last 18 years, despite a Supreme Court ruling upholding the Garifunas’ title to the land.
Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed by Honduras, states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.” But paramilitary groups, allegedly hired by local agribusinesses, Facussé, or others, are threatening Garifuna for attempting to recover their land. Politically motivated killings, kidnappings, and death threats against farmers and Afro-descendant leaders have increased steadily since the 2009 coup. In the Bajo Aguan region, 65 small farmers have been killed as they reclaimed illegal landholdings from giant plantations that will produce biofuel for export. These small farmers simply want to grow food to feed themselves and their communities.
“Against their weapons, our drums are all that we have”
-Alfredo Lopes, vice president of OFRANEH
Tell Honduran officials to protect Garifuna communities.
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