Colombia: Biodiesel from oil palm

Colombia: Biodiesel from oil palm

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By Tatiana Roa Avendaño

The western world, especially the northern countries, gave in to addiction to fossil fuels. Many solutions have been proposed to deal with it, but most of them let humanity's suicidal race continue.

The western world, especially the northern countries, gave in to addiction to fossil fuels. Many solutions have been proposed to deal with it, but most of them let humanity's suicidal race continue.

Biofuel megaprojects are one of the proposed solutions. Did those who presented them as an alternative measure the consequences that their creation could have on important ecosystems, peoples and cultures? This article first outlines the steps taken to open the way to these projects and focuses especially on the implications of the sowing of the African palm, from which one of the biofuels that is projected to be produced is derived.

Biofuels have their history. Quickly, we will say that during the energy crisis of 1973, Brazil converted part of its sugar mills to produce ethanol and became its first export power. Today Colombia wants to follow their example and become a producing power, particularly of bioethanol and biodiesel.

The laws begin:

In 2001, law 693 was issued, which is articulated with law 939 of 2004, thus opening the way for the production of biofuels. Law 693 stipulates that Colombian gasoline must have 10 percent ethanol in 2009 and that in a period between 15 and 20 years it should gradually reach a proportion of 25 percent. While law 939 of 2004, stimulates the production and commercialization of biodiesel in diesel engines, with a 5% percentage.

Since the end of 2005, the production of the Cauca, Providencia, Manuelita and Mayagüez sugar mills (all located in the department of Valle del Cauca), in addition to the Risaralda mill, is close to one million liters of bioethanol per day, destined to satisfy the demand from the West of the country and the Sabana de Bogotá. Furthermore, there is talk of the assembly of another 27 plants, spread over 17 departments of the country, to extend the 10% mixture with gasoline to the entire Colombian territory. According to the projections of the National Fuel Federation, by 2010 domestic consumption could double by just raising the percentage of the mix to 15%. By then, Colombia will have an export capacity of 2,300,000 liters of ethanol per day.

The palm for biodiesel

Legislation similar to that referred to in previous paragraphs is being prepared in relation to biodiesel, derived from African palm. There is already a derivative of this plant for food purposes, which is what is best known about it until today: an oil from which 600 thousand tons are produced. But actually it is biodiesel that interests us in this article.

Before mentioning figures, it is important to say that the major beneficiaries of the bioethanol legislation and that which is prepared for biodiesel are precisely the sugarcane agroindustrial companies from Valle del Cauca, a department located in the west of the country, whose mills are they mentioned when talking about ethanol, and in the case of biodiesel, agroindustrial companies from palm.

Now, does the consumption of diesel in the country for automotive transport grow at a higher rate than that of gasoline consumption? it exceeds the refining capacity of Ecopetrol (the national oil company), so that the country imports 5% of domestic diesel consumption. This opens up an opportunity for the agro-industrialists of the African palm, which have increased year after year the extensions of their crops.

Growth and market:

In Colombia, the expansion of this crop has maintained sustained growth. In the mid-1960s there were 18 thousand hectares in production. In 2003, there were more than 188 thousand hectares and currently there are around 300 thousand planted. In addition, seven plants are being assembled in different palm regions of the country, which have an approximate cost of 100 million dollars. According to the Colombian palm oil guild, Fedepalma, since 2001 Colombia was the main producer of palm oil in America and the fourth in the world, after Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria. Of the total oil production, 35% is exported.

However, several economic studies consider the international markets for oil palm to be very uncertain [1]. However, palm agro-industrial projects have been a priority for the current government and are promoted mainly in regions such as the Colombian Pacific, the eastern plains and the Caribbean region [2]. The goal is to reach one million hectares in a few years.

What lies beyond:

Scholars of this agro-industrial development have denounced that these crops have been used to launder drug money and as a mechanism for the paramilitaries to forcibly displace the population, since their purpose is to appropriate important and rich regions. Their strategy has been to displace people and once the lands are abandoned, they are occupied by palm companies. Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó, municipalities in the Pacific, are thunderous examples of this strategy: the Urapalma company illegally occupied those Afro-Colombian territories.

These Chocó communities received title to their lands in November 2000, after years of repeated human rights violations [3], nine years after the National Constitution recognized the territorial rights of black and indigenous communities. The title was received at a time when communities were displaced. Upon returning, they found their territory occupied with palm crops. Then began a long legal process and complaint on their part to recover their territories, tinged with major irregularities to favor oil palm companies.

Aftershocks in the south:

Something similar happens in the Tumaco region (south of Colombia, on the border with the neighboring country of Ecuador). The communities have also experienced forced displacement and threats, and this is how companies or the State itself propose to the members of the community councils as an alternative to remain in their territory to become "rural sector entrepreneurs."

In other words, they are forced to get involved in alliances or productive chains with palm entrepreneurs. In this way, the territories that were previously humid forests have been converted into palm monocultures, so that black communities are stripped of their culture and their territory and regions that are among the most diverse on the planet are destroyed.

Last June, President Uribe expressed in the Fedepalma Congress, in

Villavicencio the following:

[…] I would ask that […] [the Minister of Agriculture] quarantine the businessmen of Tumaco and the Afro-descendant compatriots and not let them get up from the office, where they are locked up until they reach an agreement. It has to be like that ... Lock them up there and then propose them as a case [sic], which the State provides, that they reach agreements on the use of those lands and the government provides risk capital resources. And propose a date for them and say: gentlemen, we declare ourselves in a conclave and we don't leave here until we have an agreement […] Because here we must recognize the good and the bad, in this Meta and in Casanare and in what begins to give in Guaviare, some formidable palm growths, in Tumaco, no. And Tumaco that has the highway, go a little north, that area of ​​Guapi, El Charco with excellent conditions and without a palm tree and full of coca that we have to eradicate […].

These statements generated the anger of the black communities that responded with force to the President of the Republic:

If this oil palm, Mr. President, is your pilot megaproject, in our ethnic territories it is not. Worse still: if it were, it would lead to very serious environmental, social and cultural damage. We affirm this based on what we have experienced with this monoculture from the late sixties to the present, that is, for more than thirty-five years, suffering the impacts of more than twenty thousand hectares of forced planting of this " Plantation inside camará ”, since it even continues to expand violently in our collective territories [4].

The palm entrepreneurs and the promoters of these companies now have new reasons to continue growing with the biodiesel production proposals. And yet the stories of the plantations are painful. They are stained with the blood and tears of the black and peasant communities of the Pacific, Magdalena Medio, and the Colombian Caribbean. It is the silent story of the forests that disappeared to be transformed into a plantation. It is the story of ancestral cultures transformed into palmic proletariat. It is those voices that demand to stop the destruction proposed by the defenders of biodiesel.

* Tatiana Roa Avendaño is a member of Censat Agua Viva- National Center for Health, Environment and Work -Bogotá, Colombia


Ombudsman's Office. Defense Resolution. N ° 39 of 2005

The viewer. "Land law could lend itself to money laundering", October 21, 2006.

Management of the Colombian Institute for Rural Development - Incoder ”, August 2006.

Salinas, Yamile, the twists and turns of the oil palm, Abdala Friday, Nov. 10, 2006

Office of the Attorney General of the Nation. "Analysis of the execution of the Agrarian Reform and the Management of the Colombian Institute of Rural Development - Incoder", August 2006.

Websites visited:

Semillas Magazine,


[1] World production is increasing day by day and prices remain low

[2] The edaphoclimatic characteristics of these regions are optimal for the development of these crops

[3]… Violation of human, economic, social and cultural rights, with serious limitations for the entry of fuel and medicines. Added to this is the disappearance of almost all of the traditional villages and hamlets due to oil palm plantations, abandonment, destruction of their homes ... and the disappearance of roads that impede communication between communities, which that has disarticulated the social fabric. (Grupo Semillas, magazine number 24) Forced displacement by armed groups (Defensoría del Pueblo, 2005).

[4] Letter to the president of the republic from the ethnic territorial authorities and legal representatives of the Community Councils of Black Communities of the ethnic territory of the Kurrulao (Colombian South Pacific)

Video: The Future of Sustainable Oil Palm Plantations in Indonesia (June 2022).


  1. Goltikora

    Very helpful post

  2. Moises

    I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are mistaken. I can prove it.

  3. Jafar

    It is unexpectedness!

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