Multinational financial institutions funding land grab in Africa
KAMPALA, UGANDA -Multinational financial institutions are behind the widespread violations of people’s rights and environmental destruction in Africa, says a new report.
By: Shadrack Kavilu / Gáldu
The report released by Friends of the Earth Uganda reveals massive violation of indigenous peoples land from World Bank funded land grabs in Uganda.
The report provides first-hand accounts from communities forced to give up their livelihoods, food supply and access to water to pave way for huge palm oil plantations.
The World Bank has provided millions of dollars in funding and technical support to palm oil expansion in forested islands off the coast of Lake Victoria in Kalangala, Uganda.
Nearly 10,000 hectares have already been planted covering almost a quarter of the land area of the Islands.
Palm oil plantations have come at the expense of local food crops and rainforests. Local people have been prevented from accessing water sources and grazing land.
The report notes that although rural communities’ customary land rights are protected under the Ugandan constitutions, in practice, these rights are being violated.
As a result, communities are being displaced and losing vital access to natural resources, including land for farming, firewood, forest products and in some places, water supplies.
The report says the projects have destroyed important cultural sites, eroded local peoples traditional customs that are vital to their livelihoods.
Forests have been cleared to make way for the plantations and wetlands have been drained, damaging the rich natural biodiversity.
It further warns that land grabbing in Uganda is intensifying and spreading throughout the country.
“People’s rights to land are being demolished despite protection from the Ugandan constitution. Small scale farming and forestry that protected unique wildlife, heritage and food of Uganda is being converted to palm oil wastelands that only profit agribusinesses,” says the report.
David Kureeba, a member of National Association of Professional Environmentalist (NOPE), one of the leading institutions that carried out the research says that the government must prioritise small scale ecological farming and protect people’s land rights
The report attributes the increased land grab in Africa to food, energy and financial crises that has seen corporations, rich governments and financial investors look towards land and agriculture overseas to secure food and energy supplies and provide new investments or targets for speculative capital.
This development of industrial scale agriculture projects to supply global commodity markets is depriving local communities of access to natural resources, exacerbating rural poverty and aggravating the risk of food crises.
The report notes that stopping land grab will also require a change in consumption patterns to make them more equitable and bring them in line with the planet’s capacity. Currently too many countries rely on other’s resources to sustain their standard of living thus driving global inequity and poverty.
Action is needed to support the development of small-scale, agro-ecological local agriculture projects, which allow local people to grow food for their communities and improve local food security.
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty Coordinator says the report shows fallacy of trying to make land grabbing work for communities or the environment.
Chandrasekaran says that decades of policies to privatise land and promote industrial farming from the World Bank have set the stage for a massive global land grab.
“Governments around the world need to stop land grabbing, not just try to mitigate its worst impacts. They must abide by their Human Rights obligations on land and drastically reducing demand for commodities such as palm oil from the West,” he noted.
The report demands that the government of Uganda conducts comprehensive research on the impacts of land grabbing and respects constitutional provisions on land tenure. It also calls on the government to comply and enforce its policies regarding social and environmental impact assessments, including assessments of impacts on local community based food production before the commencement of any project throughout the country.
It further calls on the government to respects and protect natural forests rather than promoting plantations at the expense of natural forests rich in biodiversity areas.
The government , the report says should hold International financial institutions (IFIs) and World Bank to account for funding projects that reduce poverty rather than those that promote poverty through violation of community rights and subsequent land grabbing.
The Kalangala oil palm project aims to plant 10,000 hectares of oil palm on Bugala Island in Kalangala district in Lake Victoria. Bugala Island is one of the 84 islands in Lake Victoria which make up Kalangala district. The island has a population of around 20,000 people, who mainly depended on fishing, subsistence farming and tourism before the introduction of oil palm.
The project is a partnership between the government and a private sector consortium, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), formed in 2003. OPUL brings together foreign investment from global palm oil giant Wilmar International, one of the largest palm oil biodiesel manufacturers in the world.
Wilmar has also benefitted from funding from the World Bank’s private sector arm but has been implicated in illegally logging rainforests, setting forests on fire and violating the rights of local communities in Indonesia.
The project is a joint venture between global agro fuels giant Wilmar International and BIDICO, one of the largest oilseeds companies in Eastern Africa with funding from International Financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Ugandan Government.
Published by: Silja Somby