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We condemn Harvard’s $325 million sale of farmland in the Brazilian Cerrado

The Stop Harvard Land Grabs Campaign condemns Harvard’s recent $325 million USD sale of land in Brazil through its private equity financial vehicle Solum Partners. 

We recently learned that the company Insolo, a large agribusiness company of which Harvard owned over 95%, was sold to Terrus, a Brazilian agribusiness company. Terrus is run by Ricardo Faria, a businessman with political ties to Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president with a terrible record of trampling Indigenous rights and accelerating deforestation. Faria plans to expand planting on the newly purchased land, which was transferred to his ownership in November.  The Cerrado region of Brazil is highly biodiverse and at high risk of deforestation — nearly half of its native vegetation has already been lost in large part due to agribusiness.

The Stop Harvard Land Grabs Campaign is ashamed to hear of Harvard’s irresponsible actions. Members of the Harvard community have spoken out for years about Harvard’s disastrous land investments. Harvard’s land business has displaced local communities and expanded agribusiness plantations with devastating impacts in one of the world’s most biodiverse and ecologically important regions. Independent research has shown connections between Harvard’s land and massive fires in Brazil, polluted local waterways, and intimidation of local communities. Rather than taking responsibility for its disastrous actions in Brazil, it chose to sell its land to a business magnate who will use the lands for large-scale agribusiness. 

All of this was done in the name of increasing Harvard’s wealth. Does Harvard really become wealthier when its investments exacerbate the climate crisis? Do Harvard’s land holdings make it a “smart investor” or a force of neocolonial conquest that is, in search of profit, willing to upend people’s lives anywhere in the world? 

We believe that Harvard can do better. Much better. The university still has hundreds of millions of dollars invested in land in Brazil and around the world. The Harvard Management Company released a report this month trumpeting its commitment to climate-friendly investing, while remaining silent on its land holdings. This silence is not acceptable and as concerned members of the Harvard community, we will not allow it to continue. 

Our message to Harvard is that we are watching. Over 350 people have signed our petition demanding:

  1. Harvard Management Company (HMC) give full transparency about the scope and impacts of the endowment’s land holdings and those held by companies or funds it is invested in
  2. Harvard immediately begin to return land back to affected communities
  3. Harvard pay reparations to affected communities for the harms of its investments
  4. HMC adopt a policy of making no new farmland investments

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