The Face of Exploitation

One argument that proponents of aggressive production of palm-oil, especially in Asian countries make, is that the economic development is a beneficial because it provides employment and wealth for the local population. This could not be further from the truth as the following, personal accounts of Fredi and Volario show.

Ashley Schaeffer, an environmental and animal rights activist, met with Fredi and Volario and tells a horrific account of how workers on palm-oil plantations are treated. Even though Fredi and Volario live in different places, their stories play out very similarly. Both followed the promise of good pay and easy work and left their hometown to work for “PT 198”, a subcontractor of a big Malaysian palm-oil producer.

Upon arrival, they were assigned the task of spraying the plantations with toxic chemicals. They were neither given protection for their hands nor lungs says Schaeffer. After working hours, the 14 and 21 year old were forced inside a camp with no sanitary installations where they would spend the night among other plantation workers. After months of slave labor (they did not get paid), Fredi and Volario fled the plantation.

Sometimes it is important to give these big controversies, like the palm oil issue a face. It is far too easy to be ignorant. Fredi and Volario show, that the exploitation is very real and affects the lives of human beings just like you and me.

Fredi and Volaria telling their story