Al Jazeera recently picked up the story about David Nilsson’s questionable REDD carbon trading activities in Peru. REDD-Monitor has been following this story since April 2011 when Indigenous organisations AIDESEP and COICA produced a statement condemning Nilsson and demanding that the public prosecutor’s office intervene by expelling Nilsson from Peru.
In September 2012, AIDESEP announced that a court in Peru had issued an arrest warrant against Nilsson. But while Nilsson cannot re-enter Peru, the contracts that he has signed with Indigenous Peoples in Peru remain.
In December 2012, Al Jazeera produced a short news piece about Nilsson and the Yagua communities in Peru. Nilsson denies that he is exploiting Peru’s indigenous peoples. “Well, what else are they getting?” he replied when Australian TV journalist Liam Bartlett suggested they were getting a bad deal. “Who else is giving them a better deal in the world?”
Bartlett described Nilsson’s activities in Peru as a scam. “A monumental double-cross, and an environmental travesty,” he said in a programme broadcast by 60 Minutes Australia in July 2012.
Nilsson’s activities have led to a split in the Yagua communities in Peru. In October 2011, Javier Fasenando, president of FEPYRA, a federation of Yagua communities, signed a contract with Nilsson. One month later, other community members put out a statement opposing Nilsson’s carbon activities.
In 2012, Simeon Tegel, a journalist from Global Post, met Fasenando. Although Fasenando said he could understand the contract he had signed, which is in English, Tegel reported that “Fasenando struggled to confirm even the spelling of his own name.” Tegel added that other indigenous leaders told him that Fasenando is unable to read or write.
Nevertheless, in August 2012, Fasenando sent a three page letter to the Australian Ambassador in Peru, to complain about the Australian 60 Minutes documentary about Nilsson.
Below is a transcript of the Al Jazeera piece.
‘Carbon pirate’ acquires Amazon resources
By Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera, 29 December 2012
Mariana Sanchez: Community leader Angel Yaicate had a hunch. A bad feeling that something would go wrong when this Australian, David Nilsson, arrived at the Yagua communities along the Amazon River two years ago. Nilsson came to strike a deal with these tribesmen for the control of all land resources for the next 100 years. He said his company Amazon Holdings would give them millions of dollars. They signed.
Angel Yaicate: I tried to warn my colleagues and other communities to debate the contract to be informed of what were our duties.
Mariana Sanchez: David Nilsson is known in Australia to be a carbon pirate or carbon cowboy. He’s after carbon rights to sell them in the international carbon credit market. Nilsson promised 50% of the sales to these Peruvian tribal members. They are poor and most are illiterate. And so far they have yet to see a penny.
Ana Rosa Saenz (Director, Instituto del Bien Comun): I’ve asked them, do you know the contents of the contract? They say no.
Mariana Sanchez: The Yaguas gave up territory that means their livelihoods. They live on fishing, agriculture and logging. They’ve lived here for centuries and now they fear they will lose their land.
Eliades Vasquez (President, Yanayacu): The agreement says we have to go to Australia to make any claims. But we are poor. How will we get there?
Mariana Sanchez: Peru’s police should have warned against Nilsson. Although he cannot return to the country, the scam uncovered by the Australian media hasn’t stopped. Authorities say Nilsson’s counterparts remain in the Amazon working for him.
Angel is going from one community to another promising to organise their legal defence.
Angel Yaicate: This is our land and we won’t have a stranger or anyone else come here and trick us.
Mariana Sanchez: But Angel is one of a few lonely fighters in this vast territory. For now he can only warn these tribesmen to reject succulent money offers, while bringing them hope that their rights over their lands will be preserved.