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Accountable Development To Communities

18 years’ search for justice; Kaweeri coffee case is back in court on 11th March

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By witnessradio.org Team

One of Uganda’s oldest forced eviction cases in which Kaweeri Coffee Plantation limited is accused of dispossessing land for over 2000 inhabitants is coming back in courtroom, now to hear a government appeal case against Kampala High Court ruling delivered in 2013.

The ruling ordered city lawyers and Uganda investment Authority to pay Kaweeri coffee victims 37 billion shillings, about USD 10 million in compensation.

The figure included Shs 3.8bn as special damages to the plaintiffs, Shs 1.1bn as disturbance allowance, Shs 2bn as general damages for the eviction of the plaintiffs, Shs 2bn as exemplary damages for oppressive and violent behaviour suffered by the tenants and Shs 1bn as damages in pain and suffering for the tenants. This is in addition to Shs 27bn accrued as interest on all the above damages 10 years since the case was lodged in court.

 

Justice Anup Singh Choudry in his 28th/March/2013 ruling said lawyers James Nangwala and Alex Rezida were dishonest’ while advising government in which an investor evicted over 2000 inhabitants and dispossessed 11.6 square mile piece of land in Mubende district to pave way for a coffee plantation and factory.

 

“Nangwala and Rezida were grossly, recklessly and deliberately negligent in failing to complete the purchase of the land, contrary to the conditions in the sale agreement…” said Justice Choudry

 

Nangwala and Rezida represented UIA, which identified the land for the investors, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) of Hamburg, Germany, in August 2001. Kaweeri Coffee Plantation Limited is a 100% subsidiary of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe

 

The case which was filed in court in 2002, has faced dramatic scenes and unnecessary delays as Judges who had been allocated to the matter kept rescheduling it.  

 

While filing their case, victims argued that NKG acquired the 11.6 square miles of contested land from UIA on a 99-year lease illegally. The land covered the villages of Keitemba, Luwunga, Kijunga and Kiryamakobe. They said that they were forcefully evicted from the land by soldiers from a nearby army barracks with the assistance of Mubende’s then Resident District Commissioner, Perez Katamba. In the process, they lost their property, livelihood, shelter and education.

Accountable Development To Communities

After 15 years of anguish, NFC evictees reunite to rent land to fight food insecurity

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By Witness Radio – Uganda.

Thousands of poor smallholder farmers that lost their livelihood to a forced eviction carried out by the New Forest Company (NFC) have decided to pick up the broken pieces and embark on a new journey to rebuild their lost glory. Armed with high hopes, the evictees are determined to acquire a three-year lease for 500 acres of land.

Purposely, the land is for agriculture, which was their sole source of income before being forcefully evicted by NFC which benefits from carbon credit financing. The chairperson of the evicted community said they have so far accessed 205 acres of land on a gentleman’s agreement from ‘good landlords’ whose lease fees will be partly paid after seasons’ harvests. The land is being occupied by 130 NFC victims. Evictee leaders’ target is that all NFC evictees get land to live on like they hitherto lived.

The chairperson of the evictees further confirmed that after a brutal eviction, many of the affected families were scattered in neighboring districts like Kassanda, Mubende, Hoima, Kakumiro, Kyegegwa, Rakai, Kibaale, Kagadi, and Kamwenge among others looking for survival.

“After over 15 years of suffering. A few of us resolved to start looking for our colleagues and get re-united to start advancing our original dreams. When people find something to do like finding land to grow food, everyone will be able to contribute some money to our causes and look for another piece of land to rent or buy so that we can live and feed our families. When we traveled and met them. We informed them about the proposal, and they accepted. It is now three months ever since we started farming on this land,” A leader of the NFC evictees said.

A glance at a village, where NFC evictees camped, you will see makeshifts littered everywhere and covered with blue tarpaulins. The residents have embarked on tilling their land preparing for the reason. They vowed to channel their eviction-related anger towards farming.

To many of them, this is not just a land lease, but a new lease of life to them.  The heydays of the 2000s are creeping back. They wake up earlier to till their gardens.

“Our life is back. We are not used to that life of calling for support from the government. If we have land we can support our families,” a joyful 45-year-old Munguzi Asanansi not a real name due to fear of retaliation from the company told Witness Radio-Uganda. His family lives in a rental unit provided to him by a friend in the Kyegegwa district.

Between 2006 and 2010, more than 900 families in 7 villages in Mubende were evicted to make a way for the UK- based New Forests Company (NFC). The villages included; Kyamukasa, Kanamire, Kyato, Kisita, Mpologoma, Kigumbya and Kicucula.

NFC was founded in 2004 with the “vision” of producing “sustainable” timber in East Africa amidst rampant deforestation. It was funded by Agri-Vie Agribusiness Fund, a private equity investment fund, and UK-bank HSBC Private Equity.

NFC is currently also benefiting from a new project supported by the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD); 160 million euros (more than 185 million dollars) from the Dutch government fund that aims to mobilize private sector finance into carbon projects. The DFCD is managed by investment manager Climate Fund Managers (CFM), NGO Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL), and NGO SNV, and it is led by the Dutch Development Bank, FMO. (1)

In August 2020, DFCD approved a 279,001 euros (around 327,000 dollars) grant and WWF technical assistance package for The New Forests Company (NFC), intending to develop the final business investment proposal for carbon certification in Uganda, for sustainable smallholder growth and timber market diversification.

This in reality would translate into generating carbon finance to support expanding their monoculture plantations and land grabbing.

In 2005, the tree plantations company signed a deal with Uganda’s National Forestry Authority (NFA) to develop 20,000 hectares of tree plantations in the Namwasa and Luwunga forest reserves under the carbon trading program, a market-based approach to privatize the carbon dioxide stored in trees for selling it as carbon credits to polluters.

Namwasa residents felt betrayed by their government which fronted profit-making ahead of their livelihood. “Some residents were not compensated. Even those that the Company claimed it compensated, are still struggling, and wallowing in poverty. We were duped and cannot trust the government again,” revealed a resident who preferred anonymity

A 59-year-old Nguzoba Stephie, not his real name due to fear of retaliation from the company still recounts the misery caused by the eviction. He said on a fateful day, he lost his garden of 35 acres in Kicucula village, houses were destroyed and livestock was looted. His property was not an inheritance but the fruit of hard work.

“I received no compensation after the eviction not even being resettled and now my family of 14 lives a miserable life. We currently live on my brother’s acre of land in the Rakai district. My children have nothing to eat. They don’t go to school. I also don’t have money to foot their medical bills when they fell sick,” he added.

Namugera Harriet (not real name), a former resident of Mpologoma is also among those that were evicted. Her family of 10 stays in Kampindu where residents were resettled. She says the harvests in Kampindu are poor due to barren rocky soils. She has never benefited from the Kampindu land. Her family too is struggling and children often starve due to scarcity of food.

“When I had this opportunity, I rushed to take it because the fact is Kampindu land is not land. Our harvests are always poor yet the family is bigger. In the end, it is difficult to support it. What some of us could do was to labor in people’s plantations to get what to feed the family,” she said.

The trio Nguzoba, Namukisa and Munguzi are beneficiaries of the land lease project. They are among the 130 families, who have so far gotten land. They said with this land, they shall be able to support their families and try to cope with better lives and probably wipe away the tears of 15 years of misery.

“We have suffered a lot. We have lost our dear ones just because, we have no money to pay hospital bills. Our children are married off at a tender age because we can’t afford education bills and many other related situations,” Mr. Patricia Kabuye not real name, another beneficially said.

Residents lauded their leaders for this achievement. However, the prayers and efforts of their leaders are to secure enough land for all residents who were evicted.

“Once we secure land for all people that will be a good move. We expect more than 500 acres on the same land for the families,” Mr. Ndagize told Witness Radio-Uganda.

He added that the communities were allowed to buy that same land once they have enough money.

The evictee leader further says 34 of the evictees have died due to eviction-related injuries and illnesses.

A leader of a village which is hosting evictees said, they welcomed the developments in the community and are looking forward to supporting them.

“That land has been free for many years. We are happy that people shall be settling and utilizing it,” he added.

When we spoke to the NFC about the poor lives people are living in and its failed attempts to secure them enough land, their Corporate Social Responsibility Programme Manager, Mr. Kyabawampi Alex, in emailed documents said four hundred and fifty-three households were carefully selected by the Resettlement Committee and were resettled on the land, now known as the Kampindu Settlement and priority was given to those in most need.

“Residents were encouraged to form a Cooperative. They named it Bukakikama Cooperative Society Limited representing the affected communities. 600 Million Uganda shillings (about 168,921 dollars) were wired on its account was able to purchase 576 acres of productive land in the Mubende district and priority was given to households most in need as the Cooperative was not able to purchase enough land to resettle every member,” the documents read.

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Accountable Development To Communities

The New Forests Company in Uganda: Villages Evicted, Deceived and Dumped into Poverty

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In the early 2000s, neighbouring villages envied Kanamire, a village located in the Mubende district, in the central region of Uganda. It had made a name in farming, and its story of success was spreading like a wild bushfire. Its inhabitants had set a high bar for anyone who practiced small-holder farming. The arable land and farming practices was the magic behind their success.

Kanamire’s villagers used to spend the entire day either tilling their gardens or weeding their crops in anticipation of a bountiful harvest.

“The population in the village had surged and was now entirely thriving on farming. Bigger and sprawling shops were everywhere. Houses made of baked brick were replacing the grass thatched ones. We proudly called it home,” 54-year-old Obutu Danial reminiscences about the heydays.

As a norm, amongst the rural women, there is an unwritten creed of maintaining peace with your neighbours. The first person to harvest, at least, shared part of the harvest with the neighbours. This belief had stood the test of time and Kanamire’s women were no exception. “We had enough land. We grew enough food for the families. We would give yields to our neighbours, for example beans, and in return, they would also do the same when theirs are ready. And [we would] also sell the surplus to cater for other needs”, a woman farmer reveals.

Twenty years down the road, the exemplary village no longer exists. Acreages of banana, coffee and maize crops, among others, were razed down, and families were brutally evicted by the London-based New Forests Company (NFC).

New Forests Company and the carbon market

NFC was founded in 2004 with the “vision” of producing “sustainable” timber in East Africa amidst rampant deforestation. It was funded by Agri-Vie Agribusiness Fund, a private equity investment fund, and UK-bank HSBC Private Equity. The East Africa region in which Uganda lies is one of the most fertile regions and thus, it was chosen for the plantations business.

In 2005, the tree plantations company signed a deal with Uganda’s National Forestry Authority (NFA) to develop 20,000 hectares of tree plantations in the Namwasa and Luwunga forest reserves under the carbon trading program, a market-based approach to privatize the carbon dioxide stored in trees for selling it as carbon credits to polluters. This generates additional profits for the Company.

NFC is currently also benefiting from a new project supported by the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD); a 160 million euros (more than 185 million dollars) from Dutch government fund that aims to mobilize private sector finance into carbon projects. The DFCD is managed by investment manager Climate Fund Managers (CFM), NGO Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL) and NGO SNV, and it is led by the Dutch Development Bank, FMO. (1)

On august 2020, DFCD approved a 279,001 euros (around 327,000 dollars) grant and WWF technical assistance package for The New Forests Company (NFC), with the aim of developing the final business investment proposal for carbon certification in Uganda, for sustainable smallholder growth and timber market diversification. This in reality would translate into generating carbon finance to support expanding their monoculture plantations and land grabbing.

The Kanamire village’s eviction

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) is a Government agency established under the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act of 2003, as a corporate body responsible for the so-called “sustainable development,” the management of Central Forest Reserves (CFRs) and the provision of technical support to stakeholders in the forestry sub-sector.

Between 2006 and 2010, more than 10,000 people were evicted from their lands in the district of Mubende to make way for the NFC plantations. Despite this, in 2008, the Uganda Investment Authority, which is mandated to “advise Government on appropriate policies conducive for investment promotion and growth” (2) named NFC an ‘Investor of the Year’ for planting monocultures of pines and eucalyptus while villagers miserably live on a barren and crowded piece of land.

In February 2010, residents of Kanamire woke up to a hail of NFC representatives and graders, who were under the protection of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and the Uganda Police Force (UPF), which in turn were under the command of the then Mubende Resident District Commissioner Nsubuga Bewaayo. They destroyed the villagers’ properties worth billions of Uganda shillings before the forced eviction, to give way for a NFC monoculture plantation.

The others villages that suffered forced eviction in the Mubende district due to NFC plantations are Kyamukasa, Kigumya, Kyato, Kisita, Mpologoma, and Bulagano villages.

Three years after the evictions, NFC agreed to resettle victims after fretful engagements with human rights activists and other villagers’ supporters addressing the violence that locals experienced during the evictions.

In an agreement signed by the company and the villagers of Kanamire, NFC agreed to pay them a total of 1.2 billion Uganda Shillings (around 340 thousand dollars). And residents were requested to form and join a cooperative society, which would allocate half of the money to buy land and the other half to cater development projects, such as boreholes and schools. Evictees were forced to pay subscription fees to become a member. Those that had no money by then to join the cooperative, were not included in the resettlement process. (3)

“We formed Bukakikama Cooperative Society and 600 million [Uganda Shillings] for land was wired on the cooperative account,” (around 170 thousand dollars) Mr. Bakesisha William, the former cooperative chairman said.

Mr. Bakesisha said the 600 million Uganda Shillings bought land equivalent to 473 acres (around 190 hectares) in the Kampindu village, in the Mubende district. Out of the 901 families, 453 were allocated 1 acre (less than half an hectare) of land. The remaining 448 families haven’t been compensated or resettled up to date.

Everyone in the cooperative had to pay 30,000 Uganda Shillings (around 8.5 dollars) to join. There were additional payments victims had to make, namely: 3,000 Uganda Shillings (almost one dollar) for having a share in the Cooperative and 5,000 Uganda Shillings (1.42 dollars) as the initial saving pot. Upon the fulfilment of the above required payments, the cooperative chairman would issue identification numbers.

And only those who had met such requirements would be registered as an eligible member of the cooperative to benefit from one acre of land to resettle.

In Kampindu, the place where the evictees from Kanamire were ‘resettled’, malnourished children in tattered clothes wandering all over the village are your first sight. The angry, hungry and mean-looking youth and their fatigued elders are crowded in makeshifts and muddy houses. Others with hoes on their backs and dirty feet reveal their destitution.

Even those that received one acre of land are not in any way better than those that did not receive it. They too are wallowing in poverty. They were resettled on a barren piece of land.

It has been established that even what is supposed to be claimed as resettlement has not been met. No relief support was offered, like basic housing, foodstuffs, water or clothing. They were dumped and abandoned by the UK-based multimillionaire company.

“Both groups are living poor lives. Those that got a chance to resettle on an acre of land are suffering. The land is too small to cultivate. It is located in hilly areas that can’t either be built in or be farmed. And the others that had no chance are starving and working as labourers on other people’s plantations for survival. About 5 cases of fatality resulting from the displacement have been recorded in the areas,” a researcher at Ugandan media platform Witness Radio noted.

Mr. Rwabinyansi Charles is one of those that were allocated land in Kampindu. The 75-year-old father of 11 cannot forget the ruthless manner in which NFC grabbed his land and threw him at Kampindu, a place he describes as hell.

“It is as if I don’t have land. Look, it is filled with stones hard to build in or farm. When you plant crops, they dry. Look at the maize that was planted last season,” he said while referring to a piece of land he had received from NFC.

11 years back, Mr. Rwabinyansi was a happy villager. Before his eviction, he had 30 acres (around 12 hectares) filled with crops of coffee, bananas, cassava, among others. Besides this, he also practiced animal husbandry on his land.

“On a good season, I would harvest over 30 bags of coffee, 20 of maize, and 15 of cassava. I would sell them while my wife at home would grow what fed us. We also sold the milk from our four cows, so it was indeed a good life,” he narrated.

Now, on a well-wisher’s piece of land in Kampindu, stands a makeshift tent that Mr. Rwabinyansi and his family call home, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Not even death will relieve the eviction-related pain because even in death, the eviction has continued to haunt them.

“I cannot build on that land. It is not safe for me. I cannot also build here, because any time, the owner may want to use it. I recently lost my daughter in law and I had nowhere to bury her”, he reveals.

When someone dies, among the Baganda indigenous, a condolence message is accompanied with a decent burial and a farewell message to the deceased, “Wummula mirembe” which is akin to “Rest in Peace”, however, this was not the case for Mr. Rwabinyansi’s daughter in law. “We struggled to get where to bury her. But finally, God had mercy on us. A nearby friend gave a portion of his land to lay her to rest,” he added.

The chairperson of the affected communities for NFC, Mr. Julius Ndagize, faults the criteria that informed the processes of allocating the evictees the one-acre piece of land.

“Firstly, the land is too small to accommodate all of us, and the procedures of first buying shares and savings in the cooperative were also not favouring my people since they had no money. People including those who got land to have nothing to eat. Imagine a family of 15 children, all have grown and built on the same land, where will they dig. The only benefit that the group which got land has ahead of those that did not get is that they have where to bury their beloved ones,” he explained.

The pain of losing a promising young generation to an eviction

The evictees are now grappling with shocking eviction-related consequences, including child pregnancies, child labour, and school dropouts.

“Cases of early marriages and child labour are high in the area, children no longer go to school because ideally if a parent lacks what to eat, can he educate a child. And people are dying because they have no money to go to the hospitals” he further said.

Mr. Ndagize said the smallholder farmers are now working as casual labourers. “Given the fact that the land is small and infertile, these people go and work in the neighbouring farms to get what to eat,” he added.

Smallholder farmers’ contribution to the national food basket remains unrivalled, but when you speak to them, they believe they have been let down by their government, and thrown under the bus by multinationals like NFC.

“If agriculture is the backbone of Uganda as they say, why do they take the small we have, we were not starving, and neither were we begging anyone. But look at me now. Next time you will either find me on the streets begging or dead in my house,” depressed villager Rwoga Nyange concludes.

Efforts to talk to the Corporate Social Responsibility Programme Manager from New Forests Company, Mr. Kyabawampi Alex, were unsuccessful, as he did not respond to Witness Radio’s emails by press time.

Witness Radio – Uganda

(1) WWF, The DFCD supports in carbon certification in Uganda, August 2020, https://www.wwf.nl/wat-we-doen/aanpak/internationaal/Dutch-Fund-for-Climate-and-Development/The-DFCD-supports-in-carbon-certification-in-Uganda

(2) Uganda Investment Authority, https://www.ugandainvest.go.ug/about/

(3) Witness Radio, The Agony of a Tree-Planting Project on Communities’ Land in Uganda, in WRM Bulletin 251, September 2020, https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section1/the-agony-of-a-tree-planting-project-on-communities-land-in-uganda/

This article was first published by WRM Bulletin 257 on 27th/Septmember/2021

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Accountable Development To Communities

Impacts of Projects funded by Development Finances: Case series of local landlords in Ugandan that have been reduced to casual laborers.

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By Witness Radio– Uganda Team

Communities in Uganda whose land is targeted for industrial agriculture, mining, carbon credit tree planting, infrastructural development projects, and others will take decades to understand the ‘true’ meaning of the word “development” due to sufferings associated with forced land acquisition

To them, the development-financed projects mean kidnapping, causing disappearance and torturing of landowners that resist violence from the time of acquiring land for investments, gang raping of women by companies’ workers, and destruction of properties worth millions of dollars among other human rights violations/abuses.

Kikungulu, one of the villages affected by harmful investments in Kiryandongo, a Mid-Western District in Uganda, was once a community of budding smallholder farmers. Gifted with fertile soils, and hospitable culture attributable to its cosmopolitan fabric is no more.

Between 2017 and 2018, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, a subsidiary of Rai Dynasty based in Kenya, under the guard ship of soldiers cladding Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) uniforms, forcefully evicted communities in the Kiryandongo district without prior consultation, compensation, or being offered alternative resettlement.

Tusabe Emmanuel is one of the farmers whose land was forcefully taken by Kiryandongo Sugar limited. He said before losing his land, he would harvest over 12 bags of maize and eight (8) bags of sorghum from his land, which could earn him at least Uganda Shillings over 3.6 million, equivalent to US dollar 1,100 that would cater to the needs of his family.

“I fed my family well, educated my children, and provided basic needs from the proceeds of my harvest” Tusabe, a 25-year-old, reminisced about his past.

Over 15000 smallholder farmers lost their farming land to the company and were left to gamble for life. The company is currently using land that belonged to smallholder farmers to grow sugarcane as raw materials for its sugar factory.

In May 2022, while commissioning the company’s 60 million United States Dollars Kiryandongo Sugar Plant, President Yoweri Museveni urged the evictees to maximize the low-lying benefits associated with a project by seeking employment opportunities.

From a landlord to a laborer: after losing his livelihood, Tusabe sought employment from his evictor Kiryandongo Sugar limited. In an interview with Witness Radio, he sought and got employment, as a casual laborer and paid a daily payment of 3500/= which is equivalent to 0.98 United States Dollars on which shillings 1500 is deducted for his lunch hence remaining with 2000/= that tallies to 60,000/= UGX (15.94 USD) a month.

After a year, he had to quit the job over low payment. He said because there was no other way one could survive without land other than being a slave to the evictor and getting paid peanuts.

“Our dreams were shattered by a company, which took our land for free and claimed was bringing development and employment. This was a myth. We do not have investors instead we have parasites surviving on our resources” he said.

He further revealed that after losing his land, he can not feed his family as all his children have since dropped out of school.

Another case involves New Forests Company (NFC), which plants monoculture forests for carbon credit mitigation. Between 2006 and 2010, more than 10,000 people were forcefully evicted from their lands in the district of Mubende to make way for monoculture tree plantations.

Following the forced eviction of locals from their land, exemplary villages no longer exist. Acreages of banana, coffee, and maize crops, among others, were razed down, and families were brutally evicted by the London-based New Forests Company (NFC).

NFC is currently also benefiting from a new project supported by the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD); 160 million euros (more than 185 million dollars) from the Dutch government fund that aims to mobilize private sector finance into carbon projects. The DFCD is managed by investment manager Climate Fund Managers (CFM), NGO Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL), and NGO SNV, and it is led by the Dutch Development Bank, FMO.

In August 2020, DFCD approved a 279,001 euros (around 327,000 dollars) grant and WWF technical assistance package for the New Forests Company (NFC) to develop the final business investment proposal for carbon certification in Uganda for sustainable smallholder growth and timber market diversification. In reality, this would translate into generating carbon finance to support expanding their monoculture plantations and land grabbing.

A 59-year-old Steven Ndyanabo still recounts the misery caused by the eviction. He said on a fateful day, he lost his garden of 35 acres in Kicucula village, houses were destroyed, and livestock was looted. His property was not inherited from his parents but bought them using his hard-earned money.

“I received no compensation after the eviction not even being resettled. My family of 14 lives in poor life. We currently live on my brother’s half-acre land in the Rakai district. My children have nothing to eat, and dropped out of school as the majority of them have been forced into early marriages because of the situation were forced into by an investor.

He added that he was one of the richest people in the area, with plantations of maize, beans, bananas, and coffee that I grew at my farm. He further said, he would earn about 5 million enabling me to live a better life.

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