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Coalition for Rainforest Nations announces sale of 6,106 REDD credits from Papua New Guinea to Blackstone Energy Services

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On 29 March 2021, REDD-Monitor wrote about a REDD deal that Kevin Conrad, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, signed with Papua New Guinea. Conrad claims the deal will mark “the very first time that (carbon) credits that have been approved by the UNFCCC are being marketed to an open forum to our consumers”. Conrad’s REDD deal was signed on 17 March 2021.

The Papua New Guinea newspaper, the Post Courier reported Conrad as saying that,

“Once we get everything signed up we are going to do a transaction next week, probably just a small one, about US$10,000, just to show and announce that the system is up, and all consumers need to show a transaction to bring other people in.

“We have a company in Canada called the Blackstone Energy, who will be the first company to buy from PNG and their idea is just to get the game started.”

This is a top down REDD deal, with little or no transparency. No process of free, prior and informed consent was carried out before Conrad signed the REDD deal with Wera Mori, PNG’s Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, and Ruel Yamuna, Managing Director of the Climate Change Development Authority.

Where the money from the carbon credit sales will end up is far from clear. PNG has not yet produced a REDD benefit sharing agreement.

A two-year-old “new report”

On 30 March 2021, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations put out a press release under the headline, “Papua New Guinea Slows Rainforest Deforestation after a Decade, According to New UNFCCC Report”.

The “New UNFCCC Report” is a report published by Papua New Guinea’s Climate Change and Development Authority and submitted to the UNFCCC.

The Climate Change and Development Authority’s report is Papua New Guinea’s First Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. It is dated December 2018.

The Biennial Update Report states that PNG achieved REDD+ results in 2014 and 2015 of 9,003,314 tCO2e. But in both 2014 and 2015, PNG emitted almost 40 million tCO2e from deforestation and forest degradation. The country can only claim REDD+ results because PNG, with the help of the FAO, created a Forest Reference Level that increases every year. As long as PNG’s forest destruction remains under the Forest Reference Level, PNG can continue to destroy its forests and claim millions of carbon credits from “REDD+ results”.

Meanwhile, of course, governments have not yet completed negotiations at the UNFCCC on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 involves the rules about creating a new carbon trading mechanism.

On 9 April 2021, REDD-Monitor received the following message from Mark Grundy of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations:

Subject: [REDD-Monitor] Contact
Name: Mark Grundy
Email: mark@cfrn.org
Website: https://redd-monitor.org/
Comment: Dear Chris,

Please correct your article about Blackstone’s purchase of nationally-issued REDD+ forestry carbon credits. The transaction was for 6,100 credits

You can view the deal on CFRN.org

Best
Mark

Sure enough, a Coalition for Rainforest Nations press release dated 8 April 2021 announces that Blackstone Energy Services has bought 6,106 carbon credits from Papua New Guinea.

Here are the Coalition for Rainforest Nations’ two recent press releases (neither of which mentions the ongoing negotiations about Article 6 of the Paris Agreement):

News: Papua New Guinea Slows Rainforest Deforestation after a Decade, According to New UNFCCC Report

Nine million UNFCCC-verified, forestry carbon credits issued for sale by sovereign government.

March 30, 2021, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s rainforest conservation efforts successfully slowed the pace of deforestation in 2014-2015, after bringing annual deforestation levels down to an annual average of 0.5% over a thirteen-year period, according to a report published by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As a result of these efforts, UNFCCC verified 9 million metric tonnes (mt) of carbon reductions for this period. The results were posted on UNFCCC REDD+ Information Hub along with four other prerequisites to UNFCCC REDD+ verification:

  • National REDD+ Strategy
  • National Forest Reference Level
  • National Forest Monitoring System
  • Safeguards Information Summary.

Highlights:

  • Deforestation: Between 2000-2013, Papua New Guinea saw an average loss of 0.5% of its national rainforest annually or 197,000 hectares of forest. The highest annual deforestation figures came in 2013 with a loss of 39,676 hectares. Loss was primarily due to conversion of forests to croplands for both non-commercial agricultural needs of its population (63%) as well as commercial agriculture (30%).
  • Degradation of remaining rainforests, primarily for commercial logging was also a major concern. Peaking in 2012 with 240,000 hectares, government action led to steadily declining degradation from 2013 onwards. 2014 and 2015 showed a marked decline in deforestation in both drivers.
  • Reforestation and forest rehabilitation activities: Conversely, efforts to enhance forest cover through reforestation and forest rehabilitation activities were limited, despite ambitious goals set out within Papua New Guinea’s Vision 2050 to establish 800,000 hectares of forest plantation by the middle of this century.

“These results are a testament to over two decades of national action and leadership – and are a fitting and timely tribute to the late Sir Michael Somare who pioneered global rainforest conservation. The data from 2014-2015 clearly show that Papua New Guinea has now turned a corner in our battle to stop deforestation,” said, Ruel Yamuna, Managing Director of the Climate Change and Development Authority.

Papua New Guinea’s 9 million mt of carbon reductions will become the first nationally issued REDD+ forestry carbon credits to go on sale to corporations and consumers. This comes after a decade of international negotiation to establish Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) as a global conservation mechanism under the Paris Agreement on climate change – which was achieved in 2015.

The REDD+ mechanism, the brainchild of late Sir Grand Chief Michael Somare – founding father of Papua New Guinea, was started by Papua New Guinea and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations in 2005 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The government of Papua New Guinea intends to set up a national biodiversity and climate change trust fund to manage and distribute the wealth accumulated from the revenues of nationally issued REDD+ forest carbon credits and other grants and donations. This will be announced in PNG Parliament in April.

A signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) took place on Wednesday March 17 in Port Moresby between the government of Papua New Guinea and REDD.plus to permit the sale of the forest carbon credits. Wera Mori, Minister of the Environment, Conservation & Climate Change and Kevin Conrad, Chief Executive of REDD.plus signed the agreement.

“Today’s agreement constitutes a significant milestone for the REDD+ story and for Papua New Guinea. People and companies will be able to purchase forest carbon credits that reward a country’s successful conservation efforts as well as count towards the Paris Agreement and the global carbon budget,” said Kevin Conrad, Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations. “Buying nationally issued REDD+ forest carbon credits is a powerful way to support global efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”

While Papua New Guinea’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement in which targets for emissions reductions in the land use and forest sector have not been identified beyond 2015, mitigation actions from its national policies, Vision 2050 and the Medium-Term Development Strategy 2030 have been set out.

Papua New Guinea’s nationally issued REDD+ forestry carbon credits were made available for purchase today on REDD.plus registry – provided by IHS Markit and trading platform by CBL. REDD.plus is currently managed by not-for-profit, Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

About

Climate Change and Development Authority, Independent State of Papua New Guinea

The Climate Change Development Authority is mandated under the Climate Change (Management) Act 2015 with the responsibility to contribute toward global efforts in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, through low carbon development that fosters economic growth and social welfare for the people’s wellbeing and prosperity. It is based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Learn more at PNG REDD+

Coalition for Rainforest Nations

The Coalition for Rainforest Nations is US 401c3 not-for-profit established by forested tropical countries to collaboratively reconcile forest stewardship with economic development. Its assists tropical governments, communities and peoples responsibly manage their rainforests. It is the architect of the REDD+ mechanism and is headquartered in New York.

REDD.plus

REDD.plus is the first digital platform enabling carbon neutrality under the Paris Agreement, and provided by IHS Markit and trading platform by CBL. It is a central registry and exchange for nationally issued carbon reductions or REDD+ Results Units from rainforest nations, certified by the United Nations. REDD.plus is owned and managed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

 

News: Blackstone Energy Services Buys First Sovereign Government Issued REDD+ Forestry Carbon Credits to Save Papua New Guinea’s Rainforests

Toronto, Canada, April 8, 2021, 07.00pm

Blackstone Energy Services, Canada’s leading energy services company made the first commercial purchase of UNFCCC-verified, REDD+ forestry carbon credits or REDD+ Results Units (RRUs), issued by the sovereign government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) today. Blackstone’s pilot purchase of 6,106 metric tonnes of forestry carbon credits is intended to both offset its historical carbon footprint back to 2003, and its estimated emissions up until to and including 2030. Beyond this pilot purchase, Blackstone plans to offer sovereign government issued carbon credits from rainforest nations to its portfolio of North American clients with a collective annual energy spend over US$2.5 billion.

“The sale sets a precedent for corporations wishing to achieve net-zero targets from carbon reductions directly linked to country efforts under the Paris Agreement and the global carbon budget,” says Ryan Duffy, Chief Executive Officer, Blackstone Energy Services. “The fact that these carbon credits represent UNFCCC-verified emissions reductions from national conservation efforts which have happened– and not future promises – is important to us and our clients.”

Blackstone bought carbon reductions created by PNG’s tropical rainforests from a two-year period of impact. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) verified that Papua New Guinea’s government, its agencies and local communities had successfully slowed the pace of deforestation across its 113.8 million acres (about the area of California) of rainforests. The credits came from a tranche of 9,003,314 metric tonnes of carbon emissions reductions issued by the sovereign government two weeks ago. To achieve these results, the government introduced a series of domestic initiatives and policies over a 15-year period, and also satisfied the UNFCCC verification process by submitting: a national conservation (REDD+) strategy, a national online forest monitoring system, forest reference levels, and other safeguards.

With Papua New Guinea being the current Coalition for Rainforest Nations Chair, Honorable Wera Mori, Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, was pleased to witness the first commercial transaction of nationally issued REDD+ credits and thanked Blackstone Energy Services for taking the lead as a responsible corporate citizen:

“The world is currently facing a climate emergency and PNG is mitigating the effects of climate change through rainforests and REDD+. This is also captured in PNG’s revised National Determined Contributions that was submitted last year to the UNFCCC, including the National Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 13 Climate Action Roadmap (2020 – 2030),” says Minister Mori.

Unlike project-based REDD+ carbon credits, which have been available on the voluntary carbon markets for over a decade, Blackstone’s purchase marks the first commercial transaction of nationally issued REDD+ credits or REDD+ Results Units. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) Mechanism, the brainchild of late Sir Grand Chief Michael Somare – founding father of Papua New Guinea, was started with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) in 2005 under the UNFCCC. It took a decade of international and domestic climate policy work as well as in-country capacity building and technical training to forestry commission teams across the world before the first carbon credits could become available today.

“This is a healthy milestone for the UNFCCC REDD+ mechanism. Both Blackstone’s purchase today and others in the pipeline offer encouraging early signs of corporate demand for this new carbon credit. We expect to see REDD+ Results Units playing a platinum role within both the compliance markets and as an Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcome (ITMOs), qualifying for international transfer of carbon reductions for countries under the Paris Agreement,” says Kevin Conrad, Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

Papua New Guinea’s REDD+ results were reported in a technical annex on REDD+ results to the biennial update reports and underwent technical analysis by UNFCCC. To view these reports and all UNFCCC requirements and safeguards, see Lima REDD+ Information Hub. Papua New Guinea’s REDD+ Results Units (RRUs) are available on REDD.plus platform, provided by Markit and trading platform by CBL. The government of Papua New Guinea intends to set up a national biodiversity and climate change trust fund to manage and distribute the funds accumulated from the revenues of nationally issued REDD+ forestry carbon credits and other grants and donations. This will be announced in PNG Parliament this month.

Blackstone Energy Services

Blackstone is an independent energy management firm that delivers purposeful change for clients by guiding large private and public-sector businesses on their journey to net-zero consumption. Their custom energy management solutions cover cost, consumption, and carbon improvements. With a client portfolio representing over 1 million tonnes of CO2e each year for scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is their vision to take all their clients to net zero by 2050. Blackstone is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact: Darlene Remlinger, VP Communications: dremlinger@blackstoneenergy.com
Tel. 416-628-2828 ext. 101

Climate Change and Development Authority, Independent State of Papua New Guinea

The Papua New Guinea Climate Change Development Authority is mandated under the Climate Change (Management) Act 2015 with the responsibility to contribute toward global efforts in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through low carbon development that fosters economic growth and social welfare for the people’s wellbeing and prosperity. It is based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Learn more at PNG REDD+

Contact Mr. Ruel Yamuna, Managing Director: ryamuna959@gmail.com

Coalition for Rainforest Nations

The Coalition for Rainforest Nations is a US 401c3 not-for-profit established by forested tropical countries to collaboratively reconcile forest stewardship with economic development. Its assists tropical governments, communities, and peoples to responsibly manage their rainforests. It is the co-architect of the UNFCCC REDD+ mechanism and is headquartered in New York. REDD.plus is owned and managed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. It is the first digital platform enabling carbon neutrality under the Paris Agreement, and provided by Markit and trading platform by CBL. It is a central registry and exchange for nationally issued carbon reductions or REDD+ Results Units from rainforest nations, verified by the UNFCCC. REDD.plus is owned and managed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

Original Source: REDD-Monitor

 

Corporate Accountability

Signs of harmful projects with financing from development institutions are spotted in Uganda…

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By Witness Radio Team.

The growth of a country is discerned by great leaders and innovators who see opportunities out of darkness and transform their areas from nothing to success. Those are great leaders whose interest is to see the developments in their countries and the well-being of their citizens.

Every single day, countries all over the world receive investors that acquire loans, grants, and donations to implement mega projects that are seemingly expected to develop host countries. countries and investors borrowing the money Often, countries and investors portray how these projects improve the livelihood of the browbeaten, au contraire, they have left many broken families, poor-dirty homesteads, and shattered dreams.

Uganda is one of those countries, whose citizens have paid a price for reckless or unsupervised and profit-led international investment. In a bid to implement its industrial policy, the country has welcomed both foreign and local investors with interests in the fields of extraction, industrial agriculture, carbon credit tree plantation, mining, infrastructural projects, and many others.

It has received billions of dollars from different financiers including commercial banks, Pension Funds, and International Development Finance Banks or institutions, among others. For instance, the World Bank has invested more than 20 Billion Dollars since 1963 and currently

Every project comes with its own chilling story. More often their stories are unheard by the World. Witness Radio – Uganda surveyed some projects in Uganda. This study revealed agony, illegal evictions, abject poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of life among others, as some of the consequences suffered by the would-be beneficiaries of these international funded projects across the country.

In the capital of Uganda, Kampala, over 1750 families were forcefully evicted from a city suburb, Naguru, for Naguru- Nakawa housing estates.  11 years down the road the project that was highly hyped is to take off on the grabbed land. Pleas from the victims of the eviction to regain their land have all fallen on deaf ears.

About 80km away from Kampala is the island district of Kalangala surrounded by the World’s second-largest lake, Victoria, and known for palm growing. When the palm-oil project was introduced to residents they were given the impression that it would improve their livelihoods and create job opportunities.  Instead, it has dumped thousands into poverty after their land was grabbed by BIDCO, a Wilmer international-funded project. People lost land and now work on plantations as casual laborers. The neighboring communities are accusing BIDCO workers of sexual and gender-based violence.

In the South-Western District of Kiryandongo, multinational companies including Agilis Partners Limited, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and Common Fund for Commodities among other financiers are forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people. The eviction has been on since 2017.

Workers that worked on a World Bank Project in Soroti, in the far east of the country, are accused of sexually harassing minors. Several young girls were defiled and left pregnant. Despite the government being aware of this none of the pedophiles have been brought to book, the World Bank-funded project in the Eastern Town of Soroti left several underage girls defiled and impregnated.

In late 2020, residents of Kawaala zone II woke up to the hail of armed men and graders evicting and destroying their properties to implement a multimillion-dollar project funded by the World Bank. The project is being implemented by the Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the government of Uganda.

The above-listed and other projects, on the other hand, continue to perpetuate violence and judicial harassment against leaders of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and community land and environmental rights defenders because of their work that resists illegal evictions and destruction of the environment among others.

Although project implementers such as government entities accuse local communities of occupying land targeted for projects illegally, in most cases victim communities have rights over these pieces of land because their settlement on the same land can be traced to have happened generations ago.

No matter how people are negatively impacted being by these harmful projects, financiers continue to release more money to the government and investors. The banks aim at profit margins other than the livelihoods of the people. In Bulebi village, Mbazi parish, Mpunge Sub County in Mukono district, Akon’s futuristic city is about to lead to the eviction of over 1000 residents whose entire lives have been built on their land.

In April last year, American rapper Aliaune Damala Badara well known for his stage name AKON visited Uganda in search of land for constructing the city. On the same business trip, he met President Museveni Yoweri Kaguta and expressed his interest in building a futuristic city with its currency. The president ordered the Ministry of Lands, housing, and urban development to look out for free land for his city.

However, on 7th Jan 2022, the Uganda Land Commission showed the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development “Hon Judith Nabakooba” land that was proposed for the Akon city. According to the Uganda land commission, the land is Freehold Volume 53 Folio 9 measuring I square mile.

This has sparked outrage amongst the affected as they were never consulted or consented to allow the project in their community. According to community members that Witness Radio interviewed, they said they heard the distressing news of Akon city through the Media.

The community said no official from the ministry has ever approached them about their land giveaway. “Our country is full of land evictions and evictors begin in that way. There has been no official coming on the ground to officially inform us about the project and neither have we heard any official communication of compensation.” Obori said.

Residing in the attractive village surrounded by freshwaters, the community asserts this has been the source of livelihood and advised the government to get alternative land for the City.

Controversies surrounding the land giveaway and ownership of the area still exist. A section of residents have protested and vowed not to surrender their land for the City. They claim to have acquired freehold titles from the Mukono lands board.

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Corporate Accountability

Breaking: over 350,000 acres of land were grabbed during Witness Radio – Uganda’s seven months ban.

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By Witness Radio Team.

As the onslaught on civil society heightens, its space continues to shrink which has bearing on the services they render to the communities. Witness Radio, was among the 54 organizations suspended by Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organizations on August 20th, 2021. The actions are amongst the recent forms of attack on civil societies in Uganda. Other numerous attacks include arrests of rights activists, harassment, tortures, and office- break-ins at night by security operatives who move away with valuables.

The effects of this suspension were felt by communities facing land grabs across the country. For seven months while the organization was suspended, over 300,000 people were evicted from their land and couldn’t access specialized and prompt legal assistance.

Witness Radio Uganda, globally known for its campaign against community land-grabs couldn’t assist these victims of land grab since it risked facing further sanctions from the Bureau in case it intervened. However, last week, there was some relief, when Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs lifted suspension and certified its operation.

According to Mrs. Bulyerali Joan, the Head Legal at Witness Radio – Uganda, the organization conducted a review of the evictions that happened during the suspension. With information and assistance from some lawyers, local journalists, and community land and environmental rights defenders across the country, the evictions watchdog was able to document cases of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were either forcefully evicted or received threats of evictions while in its limbo.

The ban imposed on Witness Radio coupled with the disruptive impacts of COVID- 19 resulted in the surge of eviction cases, especially in areas where the organization had a presence. Throughout the ban, without access to swift and prompt legal support, the communities resorted to sharing with the world their ordeal.

She further noted that the evictions were conducted in disregard of the law on evictions. “I was shocked to see powerful people and companies take advantage of our suspension to escalate the evictions of vulnerable communities that received our assistance. The evictions did not comply with the land eviction practice directives. None of them was preceded by legal court orders.”  She noted.

According to the Land Eviction directives, issued by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, evictions shall be preceded by valid court order, properly identifying the persons taking part in the eviction, and upon presentation of formal authorizations. The police and local authority of the area shall be notified and shall be present to witness the evictions, among others.

Based on the data gathered by the team, various communities across the country were left dispossessed by land grabbers without any form of assistance. Others have received threatening messages with intentions of dispossessing them off their land.

During the period under review, over 300,000 people across the country are believed to have been threatened with evictions, while 350,000 acres of land were either grabbed or on verge of being grabbed.

“However much, we gathered this information, we expect the cases to be higher because some evictions go unreported either due to the remoteness of the areas or other related factors.” One of the collaborators observed.

The evictions were extremely violent.  They were characterized by kidnaps, arrests and detentions, torture that often-caused unexpected grief to the communities.

Among the most affected districts include Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Kassanda, Hoima, Buikwe, Wakiso, Kikuube, and Bulambuli districts.

In some of the mentioned districts, the Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister toured and halted the evictions but the evictors continued unabated.

Mr. Kimazi Experito, a journalist based in Mubende, attributed the rise of evictions to the organization’s suspension which denied the evictions-affected communities access to specialized legal assistance.

He said Witness Radio has offered support to over 20 land-grab-affected communities in Mubende with legal support. “Witness radio is a game-changer that brought back lives of evicted communities to normal,” he lauded.

“Mubende is one of the fastest-growing areas because of gold and other minerals as well as factors related to fertile soils. Currently, it is one of the hotspots of evictions. Opportunists used this chance to grab land from people with full attention. Without the defenders, it’s often hard for people to get justice since local people are not much informed about land laws.” Kimazi explained.

Engineered by powerful people in public offices, multinational companies, and politicians using state machinery including the army and national police, forced evictions to continue to affect food sovereignty and threaten the role of indigenous communities to protect the environment.

During the same period, President Yoweri Museveni stopped any eviction without the approval of the Resident District Commissioners. However, legal experts warned that the move is to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. In a statement signed by Pheona Nabasa Wall, the Uganda Law Society President noted that the directive undermined the role and independence of courts in handling eviction matters.

That notwithstanding, “Occasionally, the residents are not given any opportunity to negotiate with the landlords. Even when the government obliges to pay landowners, neither does the government nor the evictor compensate for the damaged property. During evictions, properties that were made for their life end up being destroyed in seconds which causes lifetime misery.” Paul Kasoozi, a community land rights defender stated.

With different tactics aimed at alienating the poor from their land, it has been established that the police and the army continued to play a huge role in the largest forms of violent evictions through torture, arbitrary arrests, and detention and instilling fear and pressurizing the local communities to vacate their land on orders of the evictors.

Many of those community members who oppose land evictions end up being kidnapped, tortured, or arrested and detained to silence the community. It takes support from an organization defending communities’ land rights to intervene for such communities to get justice.

Days before the lifting of the suspension imposed on Witness Radio, communities neighboring the Katta Barracks in Bulambuli district, were violently evicted by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces under the alleged command of Lieutenant Colonel Mukiibi Julius without offering alternative resettlement.

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farm news

How the Gates Foundation is driving the food system, in the wrong direction

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Gates: the new king of the global food system?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent nearly US$6 billion over the past 17 years trying to improve agriculture, mainly in Africa. This is a lot of money for an underfunded sector, and, as such, carries great weight.

To better understand how the Gates Foundation is shaping the global agriculture agenda, GRAIN analysed all the food and agriculture grants the foundation has made up until 2020.

We found that, while the Foundation’s grants focus on African farmers, the vast majority of its funding goes to groups in North America and Europe.

The grants are also heavily skewed to technologies developed by research centres and corporations in the North for poor farmers in the South, completely ignoring the knowledge, technologies and biodiversity that these farmers already possess.

Also, despite the Foundation’s focus on techno-fixes, much of its grants are given to groups that lobby on behalf of industrial farming and undermine alternatives. This is bad for African farmers and bad for the planet. It is time to pull the plug on the Gates’ outsized influence over global agriculture.

In 2014 GRAIN published a detailed breakdown of the grants made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote agricultural development in Africa and other parts of the world.1 Our main conclusion then was that the vast majority of those grants were channelled to groups in the US and Europe, not Africa nor other parts of the global South.

The funding overwhelmingly went to research institutes rather than farmers. They were also mainly directed at shaping policies to support industrial farming, not smallholders.

Much has happened since then. For starters, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce in May this year, leaving the future of the Foundation and its grant-making in doubt. The news came as Bill Gates himself came under fire for supporting Big Pharma’s patent monopoly on COVID-19 vaccines, for effectively preventing people’s access across much of the world, and for how he treats – or mistreats – women.2 The Foundation’s agenda with agriculture has also been coming under increased scrutiny.

A 2020 report from Tufts University concluded that its work in Africa completely failed to meet the objectives that it had set itself.3 The African Centre for Biodiversity published a string of reports denouncing the Gates Foundation for pushing GMOs and other harmful technologies onto Africa.4

Amongst all this, the US Right to Know collective started a “Bill Gates Food Tracker” to monitor the multiple initiatives that Gates is involved in to reshape the global food system.5

GRAIN wondered whether the Gates Foundation had been receptive to the criticism of its food and agriculture funding. So we set out to update our 2014 report, downloaded the Foundation’s publicly available grant records and created a database of all of the Foundation’s grants in the area of food and agriculture from 2003 to 2020 – almost two decades worth of grant-making.6

The results are sobering. From 2003 to 2020 the Foundation dished out a total of 1130 grants for food and agriculture, worth nearly $US6 billion of which almost US$5 billion is supposed to service Africa.

There was no shift to try and reach groups in Africa directly, no refocusing away from the narrow technological approach, and no moves to embrace a more holistic and inclusive policy agenda.

Of course, the Gates Foundation is about much more than just making grants. The Foundation’s Trust Fund, which manages the Foundation’s endowment, has big investments in food and agribusiness companies, buys up farmland, and has equity investments in many financial companies around the world.7

These, and other activities of Gates in the area of food and agriculture, are illustrated in the infographic that accompanies this report.8

 

 

Infographic by A Growing Culture . For a more in-depth look at each category, visit our Instagram page
The Gates Foundation fights hunger in the South by giving money to the North

Graph 1 and Table 1 provide an overall picture of GRAIN’s research results. Almost half of the Foundation’s grants for agriculture went to four big groupings: the global agriculture research network of the Consortium Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA – set up in 2006 by the Gates Foundation itself together with the Rockefeller Foundation), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF – another technology centre pushing Green Revolution technology and GMOs into Africa) and a number of international organisations (World Bank, UN agencies, etc.).

The other half ended up with hundreds of research, development and policy organisations across the world. The Gates Foundation claims that 80% of their grants are meant to serve African farmers. But of the funding to these hundreds of organisations a staggering 82% was channelled to groups based in North America and Europe while less than 10% went to Africa-based groups.

The breakdown of the NGOs that the Gates Foundation funds is even worse. Almost 90% of this funding goes to groups in North American and Europe whilst just 5% is directly channelled to African NGOs. The Gates Foundation seems to have very little trust in African organisations serving African farmers.

Not that we would want the Gates Foundation to just send more of its grants directly to Africa if it comes with the same corporate industrial farming agenda. But it illustrates the point of where the priorities of the Foundation lie.

For contrast, Oxfam spends over half of all its funding directly in Africa, and over a third in Asia and Latin America, a lot of it through local NGOs in these regions.9

The Gates Foundation gives to scientists, not farmers

As can be seen in Graph 2, the single biggest recipient of grants from the Gates Foundation is the CGIAR- a consortium of 15 international research centres launched in the 1960s and 70s to promote the Green Revolution with new seeds, fertilisers and chemical inputs.

The Gates Foundation has given CGIAR centres US$1.4 billion since 2003. Another priority for the Gates Foundation in its funding is to support research at universities and national research centres. Again, the vast majority of the Gates’ grants go to universities and research centres in North America and Europe. Together, all this research gets almost half (47%) of the Gates Foundation’s funding.

The Gates Foundation’s support for Green Revolution-style research extends beyond the scientists. One of the most significant recipients of Gates Foundation funding is a high-profile advocacy organisation called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates and Rockefeller Foundations launched AGRA in 2006 as a “farmer-centered” and “African-led” institution.

The reality is anything but. AGRA implements a top-down Green Revolution agenda with the main focus being to get new seeds and chemicals developed by Gates funded research centres and corporations into the hands of African farmers.

AGRA establishes, funds, coordinates and promotes networks of pesticide and seed companies and public agencies to sell and supply agriculture inputs to farmers across Africa. It also actively lobbies African governments to implement policies that favour seed and pesticide companies, such as patents on seeds or regulations that allow for GMOs.

The Gates Foundation has given AGRA a whopping US$638 million since 2006, covering almost two thirds of its overall budget. But AGRA’s results are underwhelming to say the least.

In the countries where AGRA is active, yields of staple crops increased only 18% over the past 12 years- far short of AGRA’s goal of doubling yields. Meanwhile, undernourishment (as measured by the FAO) increased by 30% in those countries.10

Instead of acknowledging that their data shows a complete failure to achieve their objectives and changing their approach accordingly, Bill and Melinda are doubling down. In early 2020 they launched their own new research institute called “Gates Ag One”.

This enterprise claims to speed up the development of new seeds and chemicals and get them to farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia more quickly.11 Where will the institute be based? Not in Ethiopia or Sri Lanka but in St. Louis, USA, home of Monsanto and other GMO and pesticide giants.

The Gates Foundation buys political influence

In many subtle and not so subtle ways the Gates Foundation grants are used to push policy makers to implement its top-down industrial farming agenda.

 

Gates at the 2006 World Economic Forum advising policy makers.

One recent example is the 2021 “High-Level Dialogue on Feeding Africa” that was held on 29-30 April this year.12 This forum, funded by the Gates Foundation, and organised by a number of Gates Foundation grantees such as the African Development Bank, CGIAR and AGRA, was meant to launch a policy and funding agenda to further push the Green Revolution into Africa.

The event attracted no less than 18 African heads of state and several other high-profile personalities. But, most remarkable of all, is that of all the international organisations with activities in Africa on the long speakers list of the dialogue, virtually all are Gates grantees.

The forum concluded with a commitment to double agricultural productivity, something AGRA and the Gates Foundation have been promising and failing to deliver for the last decade and a half.

Of course, AGRA itself is also actively pushing the African policy agenda. AGRA is among the key conveners of the annual Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which calls itself the world’s premier forum for African agriculture and has been convening annual meetings for the past decade.

Partners include some of the main global agrochemical corporations, such as Bayer, Corteva and Yara, and of course the Gates Foundation itself. Unsurprisingly, its agenda is clearly oriented to push government policies towards more chemical inputs, fertilisers and hybrid seeds.

On its website, AGRF has a special section it calls the Agribusiness deal room, which “has directly facilitated over 400 companies with targeted investor matchmaking and hosted more than 800 companies to explore networking opportunities”.13 This is clearly market matchmaking serving corporate interests, not farmers.

While most of the Gates grants are aimed at pushing technological solutions, many are also oriented towards policy change. A total of 45 grants address policy or policy makers. For example, Iowa State University got a grant to support implementation of policy changes aimed at increasing the supply of new seeds to farmers in Africa.

The World Economic Forum received a grant to support a “policy platform for ag innovation and value chain development”, whilst the African Centre for Economic Transformation got a grant to promote agricultural transformation in Africa aimed at policy reforms. In addition, the Foundation is actively involved in bankrolling the “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” project, implemented by the World Bank, amongst many other initiatives.14

Gates’ enthusiasm for GMOs is made clear through its grant database. Michigan State University received US$13 million to create a centre in Africa that provides training for African policy makers on how to use and promote biotechnology. The African Seed Trade Association got a grant to increase farmers’ awareness “of the benefits of replacing their older varieties of crops with newer seed”.

AATF got US$32 million to increase awareness on the benefits of agricultural biotechnology and another US$27 million to fund the approval and commercialization GMO maize in at least four African countries.

So the Gates Foundation is not only funding public acceptance of GMOs, it is also directly funding the approval and commercialisation of GMOs in Africa.

Gates grantees are clearly carrying the Gates agenda and influencing global agricultural policy. In just over a decade, the Gates brainchild in Africa, AGRA, has managed to manoeuvre itself from nowhere right into the centre of agricultural policy discussions across the continent.

Similarly, while resistance to GMOs in Africa remains high, the AATF is managing to get legislation adopted to accept GMOs, as seen most recently in Ghana.

It’s just as important to look at who the Gates Foundation is supporting as who they are not supporting; African farmers.

The Foundation provides zero funding to support farmer seed systems, which supply 80 to 90% of all the seeds used in Africa. Instead, it provides a lot of funds to initiatives that destroy them.

Furthermore, the Gates Foundation props up biofortification as a solution to malnutrition, taking funds and attention away from much more practical and culturally appropriate efforts to improve nutrition by enhancing on-farm biodiversity and people’s access to it.15 Over the last decade or so, the Gates Foundation has given US$73 million to biofortification initiatives that essentially seek to artificially pack nutrients into single crop commodities.

Then, of course, there is Bill Gates himself. Sitting down with heads of state, policy makers and business leaders, Gates tries to convince them that his view of the world is the one to go after. The world has gotten used to pictures of him shaking hands or sitting shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the world.

Indeed, many of those leaders seem very eager to be in these pictures and heed his advice. The most recent display of this was at Joe Biden’s virtual “Leaders Summit on Climate” where Gates shared his vision on how to fight the climate crisis.16

His recipe to tackle the climate crisis is very similar and equally dangerous to how he wants to feed the world: develop new technologies, trust the market, and put in place policies so that corporations can make it all happen faster.17

Gates clearly isn’t listening to or learning from the people on the ground. So why should anyone listen to him? Rather than being listened to, Gates and his top down corporate technology agenda must be resisted and stopped in its tracks.

GRAIN wishes to thank Camila Oda and María Teresa Montecinos for their help in compiling the database and to ‘A Growing Culture’ for their feedback on the draft and their work on the infographic.

Click here and here to consult all the food and agriculture grants of the Gates Foundation

Graph 1

Graph 2
Table 1: Gates Foundation agricultural grants by type of grantee, 2003-2021
Agency
$US million
Main recipients
CGIAR
1,373
The CGIAR is a consortium of 15 international research centres set up to promote the Green Revolution across the world. Gates is now amongst its major donors. Main recipients include: IFPRI ($223 million), CIMMYT ($346m), IRRI ($197m), ICRISAT ($151m), IITA ($166m), ILRI ($74m), CIP ($91m), and others. Most of the grants are in the form of project support to each of the centres, and many of them are focusing on developing new crop varieties.
AGRA
638
A total of 20 grants for core support and AGRA’s main issue areas: seeds, soils, markets, and lobbying African governments to change policies and legislation.
Int’l orgs (UN, World Bank, etc.)
601
World Bank – IBRD ($192m); World Food Programme (WFP) ($99m); UNDP ($54m.); FAO ($88m.) UN Foundation ($76m). The lion’s share of the grants to the World Bank are to promote public and private sector investment in agriculture ($70m), WFP is supported to improve market opportunities for small farmers, UNDP to establish rural agro-enterprises in West Africa, and the support to FAO is mostly for statistical and policy work.
AATF
170
AATF (African Agricultural Technology Foundation) is a blatantly pro-GMO pro-corporate research outfit based in Nairobi. The bulk of the Gates’ support is to develop GMO drought-resistant maize, a project that has already miserably failed according to many. But it also gets support to raise “awareness on agricultural biotechnology for improved understanding and appreciation”, and to get legislation approved for allowing GMOs in African countries.
Universities & National Research Centres
1,393
Over three quarters of all Gates’ funding to universities and research centres goes to institutions in the US and Europe, such as Cornell, Michigan and Harvard in the US, and Cambridge and Greenwich Universities in the UK, amongst many others. The work supported is a mix of basic agronomic, breeding and molecular research, as well as policy research. A lot of it includes genetic engineering. Michigan State University, for example, got $13m to help African policy-makers “to make informed decisions on how to use biotechnology”.
Although most of the Foundation’s grants are supposed to benefit Africa, barely 11% of its grants to universities and research centres go directly to African universities and research institutions ($147m in total, of which $30m for the Uganda based Regional University Forum set up by the Rockefeller Foundation).
Service delivery NGOs
1,446
The Gates Foundation sees these as agents to implement its work on the ground. They include both large development NGOs and foundations, and the activities supported tend to have a strong technology development angle or focus on policy and education work in line with the Foundation’s philosophy. A whopping 70% of these grants end up with US-based beneficiaries, and another 19% in Europe. African NGOs get 4% of the NGO grants ($73m total, $36m of which goes to groups in South Africa, and another $13m for “Farm Concern International”- an NGO based in Nairobi with the mission of building “market-led business models” for small farmers).
Corporations
244
A relatively minor share of Gates’ funding goes directly to the corporate sector. Most of the grants are for specific technologies developed by the corporations in question. Major grantees include the World Cocoa Foundation ($31m), a corporate outfit representing the world’s major food and cocoa processors, for improving marketing and production efficiency, and Zoetis (a Belgium based veterinary transnational – $14m) for getting veterinary products to farmers.
Total
5,865
Table 2: Gates Foundation agricultural grant recipients, top 10 countries 2003-2021
(Excludes grants to CGIAR, AGRA, AATF and International organisations)
Country
$US million
Main recipients
USA
1,657
The USA is by far the largest recipient country of Gates agricultural grants meant to benefit farmers in poor countries: $1,657 million dished out in over 400 grants. Recipients include US universities and research institutions to produce crop varieties and biotechnology research for farmers in Africa (e.g. Cornell University, a whopping $212m in 26 grants), big NGO projects mostly oriented to develop technology and markets (e.g. Heifer, $51m, to increase cow productivity and Technoserve Inc., $51m, to push new technologies), and several policy and capacity building projects to push the foundation’s agenda in Africa and elsewhere.
UK
466
A total of 81 grants with a focus on research such as for the University of Greenwich to work on pests and diseases in cassava and other crops (10 grants totalling $73m), and for the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (9 grants totalling $169m) to produce livestock medicines and vaccines sold by the private sector to African farmers.
Germany
154
8 grants for the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ) to develop supply chains for African cashew and rice farmers and other projects ($57m), and another three grants for the German Investment Corporation to work on African cotton and coffee farming ($47m), amongst others.
India
98
Total of 33 grants to a variety of grantees including three grants to PRADAN ($34m for women farmers training), and three grants to BAIF ($16m) to give farmers access to the latest livestock breeding technologies.
Netherlands
95
Mostly for five grants to the Wageningen University for agronomic research on grain legumes, supporting digital farming and other projects ($57m).
Canada
74
A total of 20 grants mostly towards universities to ensure adoption of new technologies, develop commercial cassava seed supply chains in Tanzania, and to produce vaccines for livestock diseases, amongst other programmes.
Australia
61
A total of 24 grants mostly to universities and research centres (including $30 million for the University of Queensland) to develop sorghum and cowpea hybrids for Africa, and provide genetically improved cattle, amongst other programmes.
China
48
Mostly for the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (two grants totalling $33 million) to develop new rice varieties for farmers across the world.
Uganda
46
Mostly for RUFORUM (two grants totalling over $30 million to support agricultural research universities in the region). RUFORUM was established as a programme of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1992 and became an independent Regional University Forum in 2004.
Kenya
43
Grants for Farm Concern International to create market-oriented value chains for a number of crops, and to a number of agribusiness companies active in the region to do the same.
Total top 10
2,742
$US2.7 billion, or almost half of all agriculture funding from Gates went to grantees in these 10 countries: over 90% to countries in the North.
1 GRAIN, “How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?”, Nov 2014. https://grain.org/e/5064
2 See: Luke Savage “Bill Gates Chooses Corporate Patent Rights Over Human Lives” In Jacobin, 2021. https://jacobinmag.com/2021/04/bill-gates-vaccines-intellectual-property-covid-patents, and: Tim Schwab, “The Fall of the House of Gates?”, in The Nation, May 2021, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/gates-me-too-divorce/
3 Timothy A. Wise, “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa”, Tufts University, July 2020. https://sites.tufts.edu/gdae/files/2020/07/20-01_Wise_FailureToYield.pdf
6 The original Gates database is available from their website: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/committed-grants. The GRAIN database which includes a grouping of different types of grantees can be downloaded from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-ItZGNKANeY00Rv-LRxotRVjStoSXyor/view?usp=sharing and
7 See also: GRAIN, “Barbarians at the barn: private equity sinks its teeth into agriculture”, 2020, https://grain.org/e/6533
8 For a more in-depth look at each category, visit GRAIN’s Instagram pagehttps://www.instagram.com/grain_org/
10 Timothy A. Wise, “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” Tufts University, July 2020. https://sites.tufts.edu/gdae/files/2020/07/20-01_Wise_FailureToYield.pdf
11 See: “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Statement on Creation of Nonprofit Agricultural Research Institute”, Seattle, January 21, 2020. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/ideas/media-center/press-releases/2020/01/gates-foundation-statement-on-creation-of-nonprofit-agricultural-research-institute
15 GRAIN, “Biofortified crops or biodiversity? The fight for genuine solutions to malnutrition is on,” 4 June 2019: https://grain.org/e/6246

Original Source: Grain.org

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