Harvard University invests its endowment in order to raise money for research and other expenses needed to run a top-notch higher educational institution. Early in Harvard’s history the endowment was only invested in common stocks, but more recently Harvard has began to invest in natural resources as well.
Large timber plantations in the Ibera Wetlands of Argentina have been one of the university’s most profitable investments to date. In 2007, Harvard purchased two timber companies, EVASA and Las Misiones, which encompass 217,166 acres of land and are worth $55.2 million. Since then, the Oakland Institute reports, “the university has rapidly expanded the timber plantations into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities.”
The Oakland Institute’s report brings to light the negative impacts of Harvard’s timber plantations, which are drastically reducing the local, ecologically significant wetlands. In addition to their direct ecological consequences, the plantations reduce the productivity of local communities’ farms, create public health problems, and cause damage to public roads.
“Harvard’s plantations are destroying our way of life,” said Adrían Obregón, a member of the San Miguel Association of Small Producers, an organization of smallholder farmers who live near Harvard’s plantations. “We want Harvard to stop expanding its plantations within our communities.”
“Harvard has repeatedly tried to hide its reckless behavior in the Iberá Wetlands under the guise of responsible investment,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. “This report by Harvard students is a call to maintain the integrity of the university’s investments.”
Source: Anuradha Mittal and Sam Wohns, “New Report Reveals Harvard University’s Timber Plantations in Argentina Degrade Worlds Second Largest Wetlands, Endanger Surrounding Communities,” Oakland Institute, October 15, 2013, http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/press-release-harvard-endowment-argentina.
Student Researcher: Gruiicel E. Santiago (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Evan Haarz (California State University East Bay)