Indigenous Leader, Beka Munduruku, is here to confront the Cargill-MacMillan family
Beka Munduruku, a 21-year-old Indigenous leaderfrom the remote Sawre Muybu village of the Brazilian Amazon traveled to the US (October 9-15) to deliver a message from her people to the family owners of Cargill, Inc., the world’s largest agribusiness company. Her visit to the company’s Minneapolis, Minnesota headquarters marks the first time an Indigenous leader from Brazil is taking Cargill to task on their home turf for its deforestation and human rights abuses it has pledged to end but nevertheless continue.
Cargill is the largest and most notable corporate presence associated with this destruction and is driving increased expansion, threatening Beka’s village. Despite Cargill’s numerous commitments to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from their supply chain, they are in the process of dramatically increasing infrastructure in high-risk areas of South America. According to Beka’s letter, “while your company publicly promises to end these practices, you only expand further into our lands.”
Cargill is a family-owned company. Approximately 20 people, broken down into two branches of the family, the Cargills and the MacMillans, own about 88% of the company. They are the fourth richest family in America, with more billionaires than any other family on Earth. While not necessarily engaged in the day-to-day business of the company, as its owners these individuals have the ultimate say over — and the ultimate responsibility for — Cargill’s practices.
The Munduruku people of the Tapajós River basin are already routinely confronted with the destructive activities of Brazil’s soy trade. And despite Cargill’s numerous commitments to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from their supply chain, they are in the process of dramatically increasing infrastructure in high-risk areas of South America, including the territory of the Munduruku.
The worst example of Cargill’s unceasing expansion is the Ferrogrão—a 1,000-kilometer railway that Cargill wishes to cut through Indigenous lands in the Amazon to transport soy produced from the destruction of the Cerrado – a critical ecosystem to the south.
Last year, the forests and savannas of the Cerrado were destroyed at a rate of 8,000 acres a day. This is an area of destruction the size of Minneapolis every five days. Half of the Cerrado’s 10,000 species of plant, are found nowhere else in the world. It is home to nearly a thousand birds and three-hundred mammals.
The construction of the railway will destroy 2,000 square kilometers of the Amazon forests including currently federally protected Indigenous Territory. The path of the Ferrogrão will impact six indigenous lands, 17 conservation units and three isolated tribes. According to a policy brief by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) the project will cause severe socio-environmental damage to Indigenous populations, opening their lands to more land grabbers and illegal miners and loggers that already invade and burn the forest and murder the Indigenous people who oppose them.
The Brazilian Supreme Court has ruled that the Ferrogrão is illegal, but economic interests like Cargill want to change the laws to allow for construction.
The president of Cargill in Brazil, Paolo Sousa, recently said that anyone who opposes the Ferrogrão is “irresponsible.”
We are fighting for our lives. For our land. For our cultures. For our children and grandchildren. This is not irresponsible. What is irresponsible is for your company to make promises to end deforestation while continuing to expand into our territories and giving license to others to do the same.Beka Munduruku