Our joint venture company Veracel operating in southern Bahia, Brazil, strives to engage with local communities to address concerns related to land ownership and land use.
Our joint venture company Veracel runs a state-of-the-art pulp mill and eucalyptus plantations in southern Bahia, Brazil. Major stakeholder concerns in Brazil relate to land ownership and land use, landless and indigenous people's rights, the water use of plantations, and local social and development issues related to poverty. Veracel actively restores and conserves areas of Atlantic rainforest in and around the tree plantations.
Veracel's large-scale land ownership and the consequent elevation of land prices have particularly been a major concern among some stakeholders. We strive to engage actively with all local stakeholders and to be an active member of local communities. To address these challenges and to reach our goals, we have established ongoing projects with neighboring communities:
Dialogue with landless people's movements
Veracel is in dialogue with the Government of the State of Bahia and the representatives of seven social landless movements. As part of this dialogue the Sustainable Settlement Initiative was launched in 2012, aiming to provide farming land and technical and educational support to help hundreds of families improve their incomes. This initiative is facilitated by the Government of the State of Bahia through the Secretariat of Institutional Relations (SERIN), and conducted in cooperation with landless people's social movements and the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA).
Through this initiative, the social movements have pledged to leave areas occupied since July 2011, while Veracel has agreed not to seek to repossess areas occupied before that date. The initiative involves a total of 16 500 hectares of Veracel's lands for the settlements, including 14 000 hectares covered by the recent negotiations and 2 500 hectares covered by an earlier agreement with MST. In terms of the number of people assisted and its geographical scope this will be the most significant land reform project in Brazil over the last 25 years.
At the end of 2014, an additional 2 219 hectares of Veracel's land were still occupied by social landless movements not involved in the Sustainable Settlement Initiative. The occupied area has increased due to new occupations by the social movement FETRAF (Federation of Family Agriculture Workers) as part of its efforts to be included in the Sustainable Settlements Initiative. This additional occupied area is reported on in the Global Responsibility section of our Interim Reviews (LINK), on a quarterly basis.
Supporting family farming
Veracel manages a major initiative with the state government known as the Pact for the Development of the Discovery Coast [LINK]. Under this agreement the government has committed to reimburse Veracel ICMS for tax credits paid by the company between 2011 and 2015, in return for a commitment of Veracel to invest in local development programmes.
With investments expected to total 9 million Brazilian Reais (EUR 2.9 million) by the end of 2015, the pact will greatly benefit family farmers in several communities near Veracel. The Pact's projects contribute to the sustainable development of family farming by forming associations for small producers and indigenous communities.
Veracel also enables local beekeepers to keep their beehives on the company's land. In 2014 a total of 119 honey producers organised in seven cooperatives participated in this scheme, producing more than 110 tonnes of honey.
Veracel and its partner farmers are continuing to pioneer the concept of group forest certification in southern Bahia. Partner farmers enjoy concrete benefits from the forest certification process, since it streamlines farm management, enhances working conditions, and facilitates the establishment of conservation areas. Read more: [LINK] http://biomaterials.storaenso.com/news/bahian-farmers-efforts-rewarded)
Addressing social issues
Veracel cooperates with the NGO Instituto Mãe Terra on a project that will train 46 selected young people – one from each of the communities located within the defined influence area of Veracel's forestry operations – to act as agents for local development in their own communities. The project will help them to network and gain support from partners and public policies. The training covers topics such as identity, citizenship, human rights, education, environment, community development, drugs, violence, sexuality, family issues and information technology.
Since 2012, Stora Enso and Veracel have been working together with the NGO Childhood to combat child abuse and exploitation in nearby municipalities. The project, which also involves the NGO Tribo Jovens, aims to help formulate, implement and strengthen related public policies, and provide related training for professionals. This cooperation has become part of the wider Territory Protection Programme, which is facilitated by Veracel. The programme brings together government initiatives, private companies and civil society projects aiming to promote and defend the human rights of children and adolescents.
Engaging with indigenous communities
Veracel is continuing to engage actively with the area's 17 indigenous Pataxó and Tupinambás communities, and work closely with the NGO Tribo Jovens to improve the conditions of indigenous people. This cooperation programme has been fostering social, economic and environmental development since 2006.