The Guardian reports this morning that armed groups in Colombia are driving peasants off their land to make way for plantations of the biofuel, palm oil. Surging demand for palm oil has prompted rightwing paramilitaries to seize swaths of territory, according to activists and farmers.

Thousands of families are believed to have fled a campaign of killing and intimidation, swelling Colombia’s population of 3 million displaced people and adding to one of the world’s worst refugee crises after Darfur and Congo.

Several companies were collaborating by falsifying deeds to claim ownership of the land, said Andres Castro, the general secretary of Fedepalma, the national federation of palm oil producers.

“As a consequence of the development of palm by secretive business practices and the use of threats, people have been displaced and [the businesses] have claimed land for themselves,” he said. His claim was backed by Christian Aid and the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia.

Christian Aid is funding an effort to protect peasants who are trying to reclaim land from the paramilitaries, said Dominic Nutt, who has visited the plantations. “It is the dark side of biofuel.”