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For local communities and indigenous peoples, land rights are not just an abstract concept – they’re a matter of survival. But all too often, their rights to land are ignored or denied, leaving them vulnerable to land grabs by powerful governments and greedy corporations. This must stop.
On the northern coast of Honduras, Afro-Honduran Garifuna communities have lived for centuries.
At any gathering, you can hear men beating drums crafted from local hardwoods, while women dance and sing songs about their people's history. It’s the story of the integration of West Africans with the indigenous Caribes and Arawacos, making lives for themselves as farmers on the Caribbean coast of Central America.
But now their homes, farms and even the wood for their drums are at risk from palm oil plantations, real estate barons, and hotel developers who, with the government's blessing, are forcibly taking and exploiting their land, threatening their livelihoods.
Miriam Miranda is the indomitable leader of the Fraternal Organization of Black People of Honduras. She talks passionately about her fight to protect Garifuna lands and identity, her hands emphasizing every point. She tells us how “communities are being displaced, and cultures are being lost, because of the expansion of tourism and other developments.”
Barely taking a breath, she adds “but Garifuna women have incredible strength.”
Míriam has made powerful enemies. Yet she does not flinch while telling us how she was beaten by police during a peaceful protest, how it feels to be labeled a criminal by the state, and detailing the death threats she has received. These are not idle threats: one of her associates and close friend, indigenous Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, who was active opposing several projects threatening her peoples' lands, was assassinated in March.
Miriam and her community are asking the government of Honduras to approve a law that would ensure local communities have the right to freely accept or reject new projects that impact their land. Despite the danger, nothing will stop Miriam's fight. Because it is about more than just land – it is about the youth and their future.
Over 100 environmental and human rights defenders have been killed in Honduras in the last six years. This must stop. The government of Honduras and the international financial institutions need to fully recognize and uphold the land rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities. Share this story.