The Peruvian government has accepted that plans to expand palm oil production must first be consulted with the Indigenous communities that these projects would impact, according to a resolution signed by the Vice Minister of Culture.
The ruling only came after extensive appeals from the Federacíon de Comunidades Nativas del Ucayali y Afluentes (FECONAU), a representative organization of Indigenous communities in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon.
The May 9 announcement says that in response to a petition by FECONAU presented to the Minister of Agriculture in September, they have acknowledged that there are at least “13 Indiginous communities in the areas of production” that are identified in the proposed development, and that these communities must legally be consulted about the proposed plans.
The resolution “indicates that the Indigenous communities have the right to be consulted over the legislative acts that directly affect their collective rights over their physical existence, cultural identity, quality of life and development; and also be consulted in respect to the plans, programs, and regional and national development projects that directly affect these rights.”
Although Peru's palm oil output is a relatively small component of the global market, only accounting for roughly 1 percent of total global output, since 2003 the Peruvian government has prioritized the expansion of palm oil production along with other biofuels, primarily harming indigenous communities and leading to a rise in deforestation. With global demand for palm oil exceeding the productive capacities of the major producers Indonesia and Malaysia, companies have looked to expand into the Amazonian regions with suitable climate and soil.
In June of 2016 the Peruvian government signed the “National Plan for the Sustainable Development of Palm Oil in Peru,” which further developed the government's plan to expand palm oil development, which has more than doubled in the country in the past 10 years.
Because the Peruvian government does not recognize a significant portion of Indigenous territory, the government has so far been free to lease and authorize inhabited land to palm oil producers to clear and develop. Without recognized legal rights over their land, Peru's Indigenous who find themselves victim to destructive development projects have few channels of legal recourse to combat extractivism.
Since it is primarily cultivated in large plantations constructed in deforested rainforests, palm oil production is widely recognized as one of the most ecologically destructive crops worldwide. Over the past 30 years global demand for the crop has risen sharply, as it is used in the production of processed foods, cosmetics, and biofuels. In 1986 palm oil only accounted for roughly 2 percent of worldwide vegetable oil consumption, a figure that skyrocketed to 37 percent by 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.