Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust general manager Nelson Basaalidde (centre) demonstrates how oil palm is cultivated at the BIDCO factories in Kalangala. Net photo
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda government began handing over tracts of land for palm-oil production to Wilmar International Ltd.’s local unit, removing the final hurdle for an expansion project that’s been delayed for almost a decade.
The government in East Africa’s third biggest economy started allotting the land on Lake Victoria’s Buvuma Island in the last quarter of 2017 to Bidco Uganda Ltd., which plans a second nucleus palm-oil plantation. The state is procuring land on behalf of the company to hasten the process. Presently the country imports about 200,000 metric tons of palm oil annually, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil is used in a wide range of products including food, soap, cosmetics and biofuels.
Bidco expects to receive 6,500 hectares for its second plantation, where it will begin establishing nurseries for trees that will start producing in three to four years, according to the company’s Managing Director Rao Kodey. This is in addition to about 3,500 hectares that will come from out growers and small holder farmers. The company already has 6,000 hectares of palm-oil trees, 4,000 hectares for its out- grower and small holder farmers on Bugula Island.
“The process involves willing buyer and willing seller,” Kodey said, without divulging how much land the company has received so far. Smallholder farmers on the Island may plant a combined 4,000 hectares, he said. The company that plans to invest US$70million in the new oil palm estate, currently produces 30,000 metric tonnes, with potential to expand to 45,000 metric tonnes of edible oil per annum.
This development comes at the time edible oil consumption in the country has increased over the past decade from just 2.5kilogramme in 2005 to 4.5-5kilogramme per person per annum. However, this is still below the 21 kilogramme per person per annum as per the World Health Organisation. Based on the agreement signed between the Uganda government under the Vegetable Oil Development Project and Bidco, the government was supposed to give the former firm 24,000 hectares and an additional 16,000 hectares of land throughout growers countrywide.
However, poor land documentation and resistance from landowners have stalled the project. Bidco was to start planting palm oil trees from July 2012, when the implementation date was re-scheduled to April 2014, and later to an indefinite date due to the lack of sufficient land. Land ownership on Buvuma Island has been a thorny issue ever since the government showed interest in growing oil palm trees in the area.
Oil palm programme to roll to other areas
In June 2012, residents of Buvuma Island led by their district woman MP Nantume Egunyu protested the government’s move to give Bidco land on the island, insisting that residents have to be compensated to allow the project to start. Besides the nucleus estate and the outgrower scheme, the together with Bidco also plan to establish a processing plant on the island as part of a $147 million programme.
Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Ssempijja, announced in March this year that the government has secured $200m to roll out the oil palm project to other parts of the country. He said the government had tasked oil palm scientists to take soil samples for testing following a successful tour of the project on Bugala Island.
The new areas under consideration includes; Buikwe, Mukono, Mayuge, Namayingo, Masaka and the Bunyoro Subregion. Bidco began processing palm oil from its plantation in the Ssese Islands in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria in Uganda in 2009 under a $100 million World Bank financed vegetable oil development project.
The project was supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank, with Bidco Uganda Ltd and Wilmar Plantations playing a major role as the private investors. Environmentalists, however, have been against Bidco’s expansion into Buvuma and further north into Lake Victoria, citing a rise in environmental degradation and land grabbing. However, he High Court exonerated the manufacturer in 2016 for alleged deforestation for a vegetable oil farmland.
Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.
By Witness Radio team.
Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.
The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.
Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.
During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.
In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.
According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.
The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.
The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.
“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.
Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.
Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes
The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.
Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.
Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”
She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.
The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.
It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.
“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.
According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.
Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.
“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.
“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.
Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.
Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.
Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.
From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.
The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.
In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.
The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to
- fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
- avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
- strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.
Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
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