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The Oil Palm Industry: A Blight on Afro-Colombia

In the hamlet of Imbirí la Loma in Colombia’s southwestern department of Nariño, Yaneth Sosa and her family once struggled to survive as oil palm farmers. But their lives became dire in 2007, when blight killed off most of the African palm trees in Nariño’s Tumaco municipality, where the country’s palm industry is concentrated. Blight, known locally as la pudrición de cogollo, has plagued much of Colombia’s palm production since 2006. Like most monocultures, palm plantations displace indigenous flora and fauna, destroying the ecosystem’s resistance to blight. They are also undermining food sovereignty in the region’s Afro-Colombian communities.

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