Industrial tree plantations for wood, palm oil and rubber production are among the fastest growing monocultures and are currently being promoted as carbon sinks and energy producers. Such plantations are causing a large number of conflicts between companies and local populations, mostly in the tropics and subtropics. Within a political ecology framework, the present paper investigates the nature of such conflicts as related to the alleged impacts of the plantations, the protesters involved, and the modalities of the conflicts with a special emphasis on their outcomes. Relying on the most comprehensive literature review to date, corresponding to 58 conflict cases, I find that the prominent cause of resistance is related to corporate control over land resulting in displacements and the end of local uses of ecosystems as they are replaced by monocultures. Resistance includes the ‘‘weapons of the weak’’ and ranges from dialogue to direct confrontation and from local to international. It often involves NGOs, especially for legal issues. Demonstrations, lawsuits, road blockades and tree uprooting have been reported in several countries. Authorities have responded by repression in about half of the cases analysed, while popular struggles have been able to stop plantations in about one fifth, mainly through winning lawsuits or massive social unrest. While these movements can be regarded as classical land conflicts, they usually also have an ecological content, corresponding to forms of the ‘‘environmentalism of the poor’’. The documented large number of such conflicts suggests that policies promoting large-scale tree plantations should be reappraised.

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Global Environmental Change
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Gerber, J.-F. (2011). Conflicts over industrial tree plantations in the South: Who, how and why?. Global Environmental Change, 21(1), 165–176. Retrieved from