Testimonies collected by a PASC accompanier, Méta, Colombia, February 2017
Albeiro* is a farmer from the Meta region, in Colombia. On his plot of land, he cultivates cocoa, plantain and yuca. Some years ago, he witnessed the links between SOCODEVI and the Talisman oil company, both Canadian.
“I’ve been living on this farm for 30 years and I’m able to get by without the help of international cooperation groups. Before, yes, I was part of an association of farmers. One day, we received a visit from a Talisman engineer. With his big speeches, he informed us that a Canadian international cooperation organization was coming to the region”.
“Some weeks later, the farmer’s association – of which I was a member – was approached by SOCODEVI. The organization made pledges concerning an increase of our cocoa production and the opening of the international market for growers. SOCODEVI gave me gifts: a box to ferment my cocoa, a table to dry grains… But there was never an improvement in terms of production”.
Talisman is a Canadian oil company operating in different regions of Colombia. Since 2014, it has sold its shares to Repsol, a Spanish company. Repsol and Talisman are sadly known for their projects’ devastating effects on the environment, and by their practice of not respecting the right of consultation of local populations. Today, Repsol works hand in hand with Ecopetrol, the Colombian state petroleum company, which is in the process of being privatised.
The SOCODEVI society is, according to its own terms, “a network of cooperative and mutualist companies”. We find within it, for example, Canadian companies such as Agropur and the financial group La Capital. It is financed by different governments, among which Canada, by inter-regional development banks, and by companies of different countries. The petroleum company Repsol is currently in the list of its “financial partners and clients.” SOCODEVI receives funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via its “programme of development for Colombia.”
For the campesinxs (farmers) in the region, there is no doubt that SOCODEVI is a cog in the machine of a wider strategy, used by mining/energy companies to invite themselves, or rather, to impose themselves on their territory. Proof of it, in their eyes, is that the pamphlets made in promotion of SOCODEVI development projects bear the logo of Repsol, beside those of the Canadian government. It is not surprising since, in the Meta department, the Spanish oil company is the only partner of the “PROCOMPITE” project (Proyecto de fortalecimiento de la competitividad de las empresas asociativas Rurales), financed by the Canadian government.
One visit on their SOCODEVI website informs us that the other project led by this NGO in Colombia is situated “in the zones directly affected by mining exploitation and the activities of the London Mining and Minas PazdelRío companies”. This project is financed by the two mining companies concerned. Is it damage management or a strategy aimed at the social acceptability of destructive projects?
“Some months ago, Ecopetrol started to establish itself to initiate exploitation in our community. Already, with the seismic fracking which was used during the exploration phase, we noticed that water sources were drying. But in seeing the impact of the company’s presence on the social and environmental tissue, I decided to leave the farmer’s association. I was sick of this mascaraed… But the others do not notice the links between the company and SOCODEVI.”
The SOCODEVI contract lasts 6 years, or the necessary time for the company to install itself in the region.
“I seriously ask myself: Why does SOCODEVI offer us its aid for agricultural culture and production, if oil exploitation will destroy all of it?”
* The first name has been modified to ensure the anonymity of the testimony
2. PROCOMPITE (ou projet de renforcement de la compétitivité des entreprises associatives rurales), l'un des deux projets menés par SOCODEVI en Colombie : http://procompite.socodevi.org