In Honduras, oil palm gained traction as a crop in 2014, when the former president Juan Orlando Hernández invested almost $72m (£57m) in loans and grants to incentivise its cultivation.
The problem is that the extensive cultivation of oil palm has not only proved to be lucrative, but also poses a risk to the environment.
Besides the environmental problem, illegal oil palm crops are also used by drug traffickers in Honduras and Latin America, supporting laundering and transportation.
According to Frances Thomson, Latin America specialist in the Centre for the Study of Illicit Economies, Violence and Development, agribusiness is now essential to the drug economy, fulfilling multiple roles.
For the past 11 years, Global Witness has documented and denounced waves of threats, violence and killings of land and environmental defenders across the world, and 2022 marks the beginning of our second decade documenting lethal attacks. The world has changed dramatically since we started documenting these in 2012. But one thing that has not changed is the relentlessness of the killings.
Last year, at least 177 defenders lost their lives for protecting our planet, bringing the total number of killings to 1,910 since 2012. At least 1,390 of these killings took place between the adoption of the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015 and 31 December 2022.
New Global Witness report shows nearly 90% of all environment-linked killings in 2022 were in the region, driven by land disputes, armed conflict and extractive industries.
Colombia was found to be the deadliest country in the world, with 60 deaths in total last year – more than a third of all killings globally. These figures come despite the country’s move in October 2022 to ratify the Escazú Agreement, a legally binding regional treaty to protect environmental defenders, and is almost double the number of killings reported in the country in 2021.
Other vulnerable countries in the region where Brazil, where 34 defenders lost their lives, compared to 26 in 2021, and Mexico, although the 31 murders recorded in the country last year were a drop from 54 in 2021, when it was the country with the highest number of killings. With 14 land- and environmental-linked murders recorded, Honduras was the country with the world’s highest per-capita killings. Mexico has ratified the Escazú Agreement, while Brazil is yet to do so, having only signed the treaty at its creation in September 2018; Honduras has neither signed nor ratified the agreement.
A network of illicit roads slicing through the Moskitia, an Indigenous territory rich in tradition that stretches from the Caribbean coast deep into Honduras and Nicaragua and encompasses the Moskitia forest, a crucial biological corridor the size of New Jersey that weaves together four natural reserves.
Underpinning much of the destruction are drug traffickers and their associates – bankrolled by cocaine consumption in the US and Europe – who are building the roads and laundering vast sums of money through cattle ranching and land speculation.
Loggers and ranchers had already opened up the first tracts of the road, clawing into Indigenous Pech territory and the buffer zone of the Rio Plátano biosphere, a Unesco world heritage site. But, as trafficking intensified, one narco faction pushed deeper into the forest and installed a heavily guarded gate. When that clan fell, others bulldozed through to the Tawahka Asagni biosphere.
This article provides background on the EUDR and potential for technology to monitor deforestation rates and help farmers provide information about their farming practices. A pilot in Indonesia is described, as well as potential future projects in Bolivia, Colombia and Honduras.
Almost half of the 401 murders of human rights defenders recorded in 2022 were against people involved in the defense of land and environment, according to the most recent report by the organization Front Line Defenders.
Latin America is the region with the highest number of cases of recorded violence against defenders.
The countries with the most cases are Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Honduras.
- A timber trade agreement that aims to ensure Honduras exports only legally harvested timber products to the European Union is the first of its kind to go into force in the Americas.
- Under the framework, a timber legality assurance system currently under development will be the backbone of licenses for the export of legal timber and timber products.
- Indigenous and agroforestry groups that took part in negotiations leading up to the agreement say they hope the deal will spur action to address illegal logging and land grabs affecting forests and communities.
Tegucigalpa, 12 septiembre 2022-
Today, the first meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) that oversees the VPA took place in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, getting the implementation of the VPA officially of the ground. Honduras is one of 15 countries that are implementing or negotiating a VPA with the EU. Honduras is the first country in Latin America where the VPA is in its implementation phase.
The VPA is an international legally binding trade agreement set to address the root causes of illegal logging and promote the sustainable use of forests to ensure trade in legal timber and contribute to tackling deforestation, forest degradation, and climate change. The deal also includes strong commitments on the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in relation to forests. Despite being a bilateral trade deal, the obligations apply to all Honduras’ export markets as well as its domestic market, thereby ensuring coverage of the entire forest sector and avoiding any circumventions.
Today marks the entry into force of the EU–Honduras voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT). This trade agreement aims to provide a legally binding framework that ensures that all timber and relevant timber products imported from Honduras to the EU are legally sourced. It also aims to strengthen the enforcement of forest law, governance, accountability and transparency in Honduras.
Deforestation in Honduras has many causes. Organized crime, narcotrafficking, illegal logging, and forest fires all greatly harm the environment.
Click here to access the Global Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (ILAT) Risk assessment tool and to download the Forest Trends User Guide describing the functionality of the ILAT Risk Data Tool.
Click here to access the Cattle Data Tool.