Corporación Dinant is not driven by corporate greed

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Dear Editor,

I write in response to the article by Jiwan Kshetry entitled The Carbon Rush: Tracing the bloody trails of ‘Clean Development’” that was published recently by Setopati.  Mr. Kshetry’s article appears to be based on rudimentary Internet research that, unsurprisingly, has unearthed a familiar assortment of false accusations made by political extremists against my company, Corporación Dinant, and its Founder and Executive President, Miguel Facusse.  The manipulation of the media by such extremists – which Mr. Kshetry’s article perpetuates but which most NGOs accept is hugely exaggerated – is causing considerable harm to Corporación Dinant, our 8,000 staff and their 22,000 dependents, and the country of Honduras.

Having operated successfully and peacefully in Honduras for several decades prior to the land conflicts, Dinant was not initially prepared, trained nor equipped to deal with the complex security situation that took everyone by surprise and has afflicted the country since 2009.  We deeply regret the tragic and unnecessary casualties that have occurred on all sides of the land conflicts.  Dinant has consistently pushed for those responsible for the killings to be held accountable, which is why we immediately welcomed the decision by the Honduras Attorney General to undertake a special investigation into the Bajo Aguán, particularly as 19 Dinant employees have been killed, almost 30 have been injured and five remain missing as a result of the land conflicts.  We are doing everything in our power to support the public authorities in their enquiries.  We have consistently said that any past mistakes or disproportionate use of force by Dinant security staff and contractors in their efforts to defend themselves, company employees and property must be addressed by a public investigation and appropriate legal action taken as soon as possible.  We ask that the same standard be applied to all parties.  However, Mr. Kshetry’s assertion that Dinant employs a private militia to kidnap or murder those people that advocate a different opinion about land ownership in the Bajo Aguán is absurd and is a view he shares with nobody but the most extreme activists with a wider political agenda.

Mr. Kshetry is quite wrong to state that Dinant shows little regard for the environmental and social impact of our African Palm oil production.  Dinant planted its African Palm plantations on existing agricultural land that had been cleared by previous owners for such uses as cattle ranching and banana plantations.  No crucial habitat has ever been destroyed or negatively impacted as a result of our plantations.  There are no indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands within our plantations, and company policy prohibits us from acquiring land that contains protected areas, archeological sites or indigenous settlements.  We never cultivate in protected areas, wetlands or wildlife refuges, or substitute native forests for plantations.  Furthermore, we have no plans to acquire more land for plantations, and are focusing instead on increasing productivity through innovation.

Dinant rigidly benchmarks itself against the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil concerning the economic, environmental and social impact of our African Palm oil business; the sustainability of our supplies; and our engagement with local stakeholders.  All of our manufacturing facilities and African Palm oil plantations in Honduras have been awarded ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 status as a mark of their progress in environmental management and occupational health & safety.  Our use of home-produced organic compost has enabled us to reduce chemical fertilization at our plantations by 30%.  We invest heavily in R&D to produce high-yield varieties of African Palm that can be harvested more easily and require less land.  We manage breeding, rearing and release programs of endangered indigenous species such as jaguars, tapir, red macaw, white tail deer and green iguana, and we conserve over 7,200 hectares of tropical rainforest at four protected areas in Honduras.  As part of ongoing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, we have constructed a high-tech biogas recovery unit at our extraction mill in Aguán (with another planned at our extraction mill in Leán) that supplies clean energy to our self-sufficient oil extraction mill and other businesses in the region.   One pleasing sign of the increasing health of our immediate environment is the steady rise in the numbers of jaguars spilling over from our nature reserves and into our plantations.

Uniquely in Honduras, Dinant is implementing the criteria laid out in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights that govern how we vet, recruit and train our security men and women, and how they engage with members of the community.  We have improved our Community Engagement Program through surveys, formal grievance mechanisms and the recruitment of social workers based in surrounding areas.  Our enhanced Security Manual is the result of months of consultation and 3,600 hours of training for staff and contractors, including human rights training by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Through continued training, 100% background checks and re-vetting procedures, and greater reliance on company security staff rather than contractors, Dinant will improve its security procedures yet further over the coming months.  Crucially, Dinant has removed all firearms from all security men and women at all of our plantations and factories, which makes Mr. Kshetry’s accusation that Dinant is shooting peasants preposterous.

Dinant is not in conflict with the genuine peasant associations of Honduras: Our African Palm plantations support thousands of sustainable jobs with company pensions and compensation levels well above the national minimum wage; they have also significantly contributed to improving skills, education and health. We recognize the value and importance of engaging peacefully and transparently with those that hold different viewpoints and believe that we can find some common points of mutual interest. And we remain committed to contributing in any way possible to finding a long-term solution to the land conflicts.  Mr. Kshetry’s article is based on anecdotes and politically motivated rumors, and risks damaging attempts currently being made by NGOs, the World Bank, peasant movements and Dinant to come together to resolve our differences and find peace in a region of Honduras that needs all the help it can get.  I therefore invite you and Mr. Kshetry to visit Dinant’s operations in the Bajo Aguán so that you might appreciate that the experiences of the majority of people that live here are vastly different from the situation Mr. Kshetry describes.

I request that you kindly publish this letter alongside Mr. Kshetry’s original article in order that your readers are made aware of Dinant’s perspective on such crucial matters.  

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Yassid Kababie

 

Kababie is the Corporate Social Affairs Manager at Corporación Dinant, based at Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He can be reached at +504 2239-8800.

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