Entering the community of Semochán involves a slow, bumpy drive off the highway. Through the window, perfect lines of young, green palm trees stretch out interminably in the gathering morning heat.
A dozen dirt-floored homes dot Semochán, in the northern Guatemalan state of Petén. The predominantly indigenous Q’eqchi residents harvest maize and beans from small plots of family-owned land. But over the past decade, the semi-tropical climate and flat terrain has attracted the interest of palm growers. Hoping to cash in on the growing global demand for palm oil (used mainly in commercial baked goods), they have reportedly bought more than 20,000 hectares of arable land in the region.