Oil Palm Monoculture in Ixcán Municipality, Guatemala: A Story of Dispossession and Deception

Herbert Sandoval, from the Social Intercultural Movement of the People of Ixcán, Guatemala (Movimiento Social Intercultural del Pueblo de Ixcán, Guatemala), has a piece on the World Rainforest Movement website about the destruction being caused by palm oil monoculture in the Municipality of Ixcán.

He writes about ‘systematic dispossession’, placing it in a historical context of state violence, resource extraction, and environmental destruction.

Oil palm is not traditionally grown in Guatemala. When palm companies arrived in the Municipality of Ixcán in the state of Quiché, or what is called the northern lowlands, they did not evict people to plant palm. Rather, they did so much more strategically. We call what they are doing systematic dispossession.

Traditionally, indigenous peoples in Guatemala manage land collectively. There are no bosses and no owners. Since the 1960s there have been “development” plans in the country, which have included the Xalalá Dam, oil exploration and exploitation, and oil palm. A highway called the Franja Transversal del Norte was built in order to transport these products. The Municipality of Ixcán, created just in 1985, was one of the municipalities most affected by the internal armed conflict (1960-1996).


Water pollution and scarcity have generated more awareness about the multiple impacts of palm monoculture. This issue has made communities aware of other impacts and has forged the resistance that currently exists in communities. This region used to get flooded quite a bit, but since 2018 it has been one of the regions most affected by droughts, leaving people without crops. People now understand that the greater the destruction of diversity, the greater impact the droughts will have on the territories.

Now in the lowlands, where there is still too much water, the company is making some ditches to drain the water. These ditches are carrying chemical waste pollutants into rivers.


The communities of Ixcán Municipality, as in all of Guatemala, have the right to decide what is and what is not grown on their lands.

You can read the full piece here, Oil Palm Monoculture in Ixcán Municipality, Guatemala: A Story of Dispossession and Deception.

Categories: Criminalisation, Environment, Evictions, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Migration, Military, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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