Latin America: The deadly cost of putting food on your table

Ramón Bedoya’s father was killed in Colombia last year after protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community

It has never been a deadlier time to defend one’s community, way of life or environment, especially in Latin America.

Global Witness’ latest annual data into violence against land and environmental defenders shows a rise in the number of women and men killed last year to 207 — the highest recorded total to date.

Research shows that agribusiness — including coffee, palm oil and banana plantations — is the industry most associated with these deaths.

Of the 207 murdered last year, the vast majority hailed from Latin America, which remains the most dangerous region for defenders, accounting for 60% of those killed in 2017.

Brazil saw 57 murders alone - the worst year on record anywhere in the world.

These defenders are part of a global movement to protect the planet. They are on the frontline of fighting climate change, preserving ecosystems and safeguarding human rights. They stand up for causes that benefit everyone: sustainability, biodiversity and justice. 

The failure of many governments and businesses to act responsibly, ethically and even legally was a major driving force behind a litany of crimes against activists last year. 

When rich tropical forest is levelled for monoculture crops, delicate ecosystems that could capture carbon emissions are lost forever. When open land is turned over for mining, soil and freshwater are poisoned, jeopardising the health and the future of nearby communities.

It is irresponsible business and investors – hell bent on meeting consumer demand and maximising profit – who, together with corrupt or negligent governments, make this all possible.

[Abridged from Global Witness.]