Connect with us

Environment And Renewable Energy

Forest Concessions, Colonial Concept



What a certain historiography terms civilizational expansion or capital’s expansion has in fact been the invasion and de-territorialization of peoples and communities using much epistemic and territorial violence. Concessions have been granted in areas that are not demographic voids, a colonial concept that ignores the fact that they have been populated for millennia.

Recently, peasant populations of the Brazilian savanah (cerrado), known as Back Communities and Pasture Fencing (Comunidades de Fundo e Fecho de Pasto), have been questioning the legal instrument of ‘concession of the real right of use’ (concessão de direito real de uso) that has been proposed by the Brazilian state to regularize the lands traditionally occupied by them. Through this instrument, the state grants for a certain period of time the right of use but retains ownership of the land. This instrument has been used in situations where the social interest, including the environmental dimension, is recognized. A specificity of the Comunidades de Fundo e Fecho de Pasto is the common use made by these populations of the land and everything else that is implied – water, fauna and flora. Often in these traditional territorial units, families have land next to their homes that only they use, but at the back (fundo) there is a common use area, where fruit or wood can be gathered, including some pasture land (pasto) where animals can graze. When such common use lands are further away from people’s homes, in non-contiguous areas, they are called fecho de pasto, but serve the same purposes as those termed fundo de pasto.

The fact that some of these communities are questioning the use of this legal instrument is noteworthy because it touches on the heart of the concept of ‘concession’, an expression that alludes “to the action or effect of granting, making available, putting at one’s disposal; consent, permission”. This questioning sets off from a condition of origin, i.e., their existence prior to the power of the state that self-attributes the power to concede. After all, the fundo or fecho de pasto communities constitute a territorial space of common use with a way of life based on customary law pre-dating the state, and not just chronologically, but also because these are traditional practices that continue to be current.

In fact, as a social group they demand the same as what international law recognizes for states as uti possidetis de iuris, the principle according to which those that in fact occupy a territory possess rights over it. Hence, they update a theoretical-political debate that indigenous peoples have been raising about their territories, whose origins pre-date the states of the current countries in which they live. These traditional peasant communities thus join indigenous peoples and the quilombola / cimarrones / pallenqueros communities, whose rights are recognized by ILO Convention 169, of 1989. This strengthens a recent trend in international law, as seen with the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In order for one to grasp how deep this process of recognition of rights is – of rights over territories already occupied –, note that one is dealing with processes not limited to these traditional peoples and populations, since all this recognition is intimately related with processes of decolonization following the end of the Second World War, chiefly in Asia and Africa (1) and furthermore, in the face of the massacre of the Jewish people in Nazi concentration camps. Since then, the rights of ethnic-racial minorities have been recognized inside states formerly considered uninational.

Recently, the indigenous peoples of America (2) took up again their protagonism, going as far as to question the exclusivity of the designation of the sub-region as “Latin America”, an expression that forgets the existence of peoples that have no Latin origin and that nowadays call the sub-region by their own name: Abya Yala (3). Bolivia and Ecuador declared themselves explicitly in their constitutions as plurinational states, in 2010 and 2008 respectively. Equally, other states recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and traditional communities to their territories even within states, thus no longer exclusively uninational.

The struggles of peoples and traditional communities call into question the colonial character in its continuity-discontinuity, given that “the end of colonialism did not mean the end of coloniality” (4). After all, the colonial way of thinking/acting and feeling – coloniality – outlived colonialism as a dated historical period. This is made clear by the permanence of the colonial concepts of ‘concession’, of ‘reservation’, of ‘guardedness’ or of ‘development’ that still persist in states and international agencies when referring to traditional populations or to concessions of forested territories. They forget that these groups/ethnicities/peoples/classes demand recognition of their territories and alternatives to development, and not development alternatives, in other words, living and coexisting well (Ubuntu, Sumaq Qamaña or Sumak Kausay) (5). These suggest other horizons of political meaning for life. And they do this by bringing to the debate an immemorial/ancestral time that calls into question the colonial time and its horizon of capital accumulation [always] in the short term.

This is not the time of our forests and of our territories inhabited since the Pleistocene, more than 19,000 years ago, as in the Chiribiquete Cultural Formation, in today’s Colombian Amazon region. How can a ‘forest concession’ be made while ignoring, for instance, the ‘tropical cultural humid forest’, as the Amazon rainforest has been termed lately? The Amazon region has some 39 billion trees grouped in 16,000 species, of which only 227 (or 1.4%) account for half of the biome’s total number of trees. Such species are known as hyperdominant. Among the hyperdominant species, there are 85 domesticated/managed populations whose dispersion and concentration were possibly influenced by human action in the past. It is known that açaí has been managed for at least the last 2,000 years, linked to areas of the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon forest where there is the formation of soils with so-called black earth, which are anthropogenic soils. The same has occurred for 11,000 years with the bacaba (Oenocaropus bacaba), the patauá (O bataua), the murumuru (Astrocaryum murumuru), the buriti (Mauritia Flexuosa), the inajá (Attalea maripa) and the tucumã (Astrocaryum aculeatum).

Classic studies show that practices grouped under the heading of ‘agro-forestry’ indicate that the hyperdominance present in the Amazon Forest was at least in part built through a process of co-evolution between indigenous peoples, plants and animals since the start of the Holocene. And not just in the Amazon. 76 families and 240 species of such plants have been identified on the basis of studies of seeds, xylems, phytoliths, starch grains and pollens preserved in sediments and archeological artifacts in Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, the USA, Guatemala, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Clearly, one is facing another paradigm, different from US/Euro-centrism, one that does not separate nature from culture or nature from society. Forests are not voids in terms of human occupation, of culture. Concessions of forest and other kinds (of lands or mining rights, for example) have been granted in areas that are not demographic voids, a colonial concept that ignores that these areas have been populated for millennia, as we have seen. For this reason, that which a certain historiography candidly terms civilizational expansion or capital’s expansion has in fact been the invasion and de-territorialization of peoples and communities using much epistemic and territorial violence (eco-cide and earth-cide).

This conflictive tension configured since 1492 in Abya Yala/America, nowadays takes on dramatic overtones with the struggle of the Peoples of Wallmapu, in the south of the continent. There, the Mapuche indigenous people has been retaking the territories that were violently seized against their concession, if you will allow me to use the term thus far used in its improper sense. New times are likely opening up, when we witness the Chilean Constituent Assembly, under the leadership of a Mapuche, propose on January 27, 2022, that the state rename itself a Plurinational and Intercultural State.
Carlos Walter Porto-Gonçalves,
Coordinator of the Laboratory for Social Movement and Territoriality Studies (LEMTO) of the Fluminense Federal University and professor of the Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Program in Human Sciences of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

(1) We consider that processes of independence from the former European colonial metropolises had already occurred in the Americas since 1776, in the USA, and 1804, in Haiti, followed by various other countries on this continent.
(2) We can admit that the resistance of the original peoples took place from the first moment of the process of colonial invasion/conquest. However, it is worth stressing the major rebellion that occurred in the Andean world, commanded by Tupac Amaru, Tupak Katari and Bartolina Sissa in 1781, which practically paralyzed silver production and contributed to the start of the independence processes led by the criollo elites.
(3) PORTO-GONÇALVES, Carlos Walter (2006). Abya Yala. In: SADER, Emir and Jikings, Ivana (eds.). Enciclopédia Latinoamericana. Ed. Boitempo, São Paulo and Madrid.
(4) QUIJANO, Anibal (2005), “Colonialidade do poder, eurocentrismo e América Latina”. In: Lander, E. (ed.), A colonialidade do saber: eurocentrismo e ciências sociais. Perspectivas latinoamericanas. CLACSO. Buenos Aires.
(5) Ubuntu among the Bantus in Africa, Sumaq Qamaña among the Aimaras and Sumak Kausay among the Quechuas in the Andes are concepts/cosmogonies these peoples use to designate their own ways of life, thus refusing to be identified with strongly ethnocentric concepts like development.

Original Source:  World Rainforest Movement

  • Members of the Mapuches Indians Movement ride their horses as a Chilean Mapuche stands guard during the burial ceremony of Jaime Facundo Mendoza Collio, who was killed during clashes with riot police, near Temuco city, some 680 km (422 miles) south of Santiago, August 16, 2009. Collio, 24, died on August 12, 2009 after being shot during clashes with police in a land dispute in southern Chile, local media reported. REUTERS/Jose Luis Saavedra (CHILE POLITICS CONFLICT)

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Leaders adamant on ending charcoal trade



The authorities of Paibona Sub-county in Gulu District have blamed political leaders for promoting massive tree cutting for commercial charcoal production.

 Mr Joseph Otim, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) sector manager, in an interview on Friday, said local leaders at sub-county and district levels connive with charcoal dealers in the guise of raising revenue.

“One of the biggest challenges in forest governance in this country is that the people who should be taking action are relaxed. The ones in office, the foresters, and the leaders at all levels view charcoal trade as a lucrative business. So everyone looks at what goes into their pockets, at the expense of conservations,” Mr Otim said.

He said some of the forest officials have been targeted and threatened by such leaders, especially whenever they impound forest products.

 “Another challenge is the people who are highly placed and connected in the security organs who issue threats,” Mr Otim added.

During a field assessment by the district authorities to map deforestation in the area last week, heaps of cut trees being burnt for charcoal were found but no dealers found on site.

 But in Akor and Ayweri villages that have chunks of deforested land, there are 193 registered commercial charcoal dealers. Some of these dealers were found on site and have been asked to abandon the trade. For fear of prosecution, some of the dealers withheld their identities. They, however, told Daily Monitor that they cannot abandon charcoal business because it is their only source of livelihood.

Mr Jackson Ayoli, the chairperson of Paibona Sub-county, however, said leaders cannot fight commercial charcoal burning because it is a major source of revenue.

He noted that the sub-county collected Shs3 million in the Financial year 2021/2021 from taxing charcoal and other forest products. From the September to November 2022 quarter, Mr Ayoli said the sub-county collected Shs3.1 million from forest-related products.

“Forest products are one of the major sources of local revenue in this sub county and without it, paying the allowances of the sub-county councillors and other staff would be a huge challenge,” Mr Ayoli said.

 The Sub-county Chief, Mr David Kercan, said Paibona projected to collect Shs 16 million in local revenue in the last Financial Year (2021/2022). Local revenue sources include local service tax, trading licenses, and operations from Non-Governmental Organisations. “However, we realised only 67 percent of local revenue projections, translating to Shs 10,720,000 out of Shs16 million,” he said.

Ms Betty Aol Ocan, the Gulu City Woman Member of Parliament, said local governments should be innovative and find other sources of revenues.

The Global Forest Watch says  Gulu District lost 988 hectares to illegal logging and charcoal burning in 2021—an equivalent to 440,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

It is also estimated that between 2001 and 2021, Gulu lost 38,700 hectares of tree cover.

Source: Daily Monitor

Continue Reading

Environment And Renewable Energy

EACOP Partners With Surveyors Body as Pipeline Land Acquisition Nears Completion.



The East African Crude Oil pipeline Company (EACOP) Ltd on Wednesday entered a partnership with the Institute of Surveyors of Uganda (ISU) which will see them work together to among others bolster local capacities ahead of the construction of the regional oil pipeline.

Through this arrangement, USU undertook to conduct training of EACOP staff and offering internship programs for university students from universities of Makerere, Ndejje and Kyambogo.
The initiative will provide a three-months training and internship placement for selected participating university students twice a year during the breaks between semesters.

The Institute of surveyors of Uganda (ISU) has over 2200 members that brings together land surveying, quantity, surveying, valuation surveying, mining, and hydrological surveying professionals whose mandate is to promote professional surveying practices that can enhance the quality of services under the various surveying disciplines in Uganda.

Speaking during the MOU signing ceremony held in Kampala today, EACOP Managing Director Martin Tiffen said while they are currently employing several surveyors registered with ISU, they needed a platform for a stronger collaboration.

The partnership is hoped local content and capacity building in the oil sector in Uganda

“We have been consumers of services of different kinds of surveyors…but this agreement is a way for some of our staff to improve on their professional qualifications” he said“It also gives us a mechanism to receive students who need (internship) positioning into our organization.”

On his part, Dr. Nathan Kabwami, the President Institute of Surveyors echoed the significance of commitment of EACOP to the partnership with the Institute of Surveyors of Uganda to facilitate the delivery of quality training to future surveyors that will work on this incredible project.

“I thank EACOP for this commendable skilling initiative and urge all University students who meet the criteria for this program and are interested in being part of the transformation of Uganda’s oil and gas industry to embrace it.” He said.
Land Acquisition.

Meanwhile, Mr Tiffen revealed that EACOP is progressing well with the process of acquiring land for the pipeline.
Since February last year when the oil Final Investment Decision was signed, Tiffen says over three quarters of project affected persons (PAPs) have been paid off.

There is a total of 3648 PAPs spread across 170 villages where the oil pipeline will pass through inside Uganda.
The EACOP MD also revealed that so far, construction of new houses for people for displaced families is nearly complete and that all 180 houses will be handed over to the owners early this year.


Continue Reading

Environment And Renewable Energy

Ugandan communities battle to benefit from mining on their land



Communities in Karamoja face an uphill task organising to beat international capital and authoritarian politics.

Rupa, Uganda – A handful of artisanal miners stand shirtless in an open pit, breaking boulders that glint white in the sun. Nearby, soldiers stand sullenly at the gate of the Sunbelt Marble Mine and Factory, owned by Chinese businessmen who have sunk $13m into the project.

These are the two faces of the mining rush in the Karamoja region of northeast Uganda: small-scale freelance miners, toiling with basic equipment for scant reward, and a mix of wealthy foreign and local investors protected by the state.

Here in Rupa, a sub-county of Moroto district, the locals have seen companies come and go, buying up land and dividing communities. So in 2017, when they got wind that a Chinese company was coming, they were determined to do things differently: this time, they were going to organise.

It was a pioneering attempt to ensure that local people benefitted from mining, building on customary ownership and exploiting little-used provisions of Ugandan land law.

But the story of how it worked – and how it did not – shows just how hard it is for communities to organise in the face of international capital and authoritarian politics.

Mining rush

Many of the 1.2 million people in Karamoja are cattle-keepers, driving their herds across grasslands managed by clan and custom. The rains are fickle, so negotiating access to pasture involves an element of give-and-take.

But the mining companies that are exploring the region want something solid and immovable: the minerals that lie beneath the soil, including marble, limestone, copper and gold.

In the early 2000s, the army forcefully disarmed the gun-wielding cattle-raiders who once roamed the plains, and speculators rushed in during the ensuing peace.

“The first businesspeople who came were taking over the land,” says Simon Nangiro, chairman of the Karamoja Miners Association, which represents small-scale miners in the region. “Companies come with military accompaniments … [They’re] negotiating behind the scenes with people who are vulnerable.”

According to the mining cadastre, the government has granted full mining leases in Karamoja to four companies – Sunbelt, Tororo Cement, DAO Marble and Mechanized Agro – across 79 square km (31 square miles) of land.

It has also issued licences for exploration to dozens of other local and foreign companies on roughly 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) and is considering applications on nearly 5,000 square km (1,931 square miles) more.

Documents like leases, licences and land titles are how the modern state speaks – but it is a language foreign to Karamoja, where ownership is rarely written down and only a quarter of people can read.

“Here in Karamoja we have a customary land tenure system,” explains John Bosco Logwee, an elder in Rupa and one of the leaders of organising efforts there. “As a result, people [from outside] looked at the land and thought it does not belong to anybody.”

In Uganda as a whole, an estimated 80 percent of the land is held customarily although exact figures are hard to come by. The problem of proving who owns what worries everyone from activists, who warn of land grabs, to the World Bank, which wants to spur rural property markets.

Under the 1998 Land Act, communities can create “communal land associations” (CLAs) to defend their collective land rights. More than 600 have been incorporated nationwide, often with World Bank support.

Some of the first to be established were in Karamoja, where 52 were set up in 2012-2013 by a non-governmental organisation, the Uganda Land Alliance. According to Edmond Owor, its former executive director, the CLAs had some early successes in fending off fraudulent investors. But in 2016, the Alliance itself collapsed due to internal governance problems, leaving the fledgling CLAs on their own.

“The creation of a CLA is a very easy process, and that’s where the easy work ends,” says Simon Longoli, executive director of the Karamoja Development Forum (KDF), a civil society group based in Moroto. “We find it very difficult to trust a piece of paper to ensure the rights of the community over a piece of land.”

What people really needed, he thought, was organising and capacity building to assert the rights they had on paper. In short, they needed power.

A makeshift nursery school for children at a small-scale mining site in Rupa sub-county, Moroto district, Uganda, on 24 November 2021
A makeshift nursery school for children at a small-scale mining site in Rupa sub-county, Moroto district, Uganda, on 24 November 2021.

Community organising

Communities in Rupa had been at the forefront of Karamoja’s mining rush. A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch described how two foreign-owned companies had come to the area and started exploration without the consent of the locals.

“International capital has come into Karamoja, it has allied itself with powerful political and military elites at the centre, facilitated by influence peddlers,” says David Pulkol, a Rupa indigene who formerly served as a member of parliament, government minister and head of Uganda’s external intelligence agency. “Those three are in the same bed, dispossessing the ordinary people of their livelihoods.”

So in 2017, the three clans of Rupa sub-county joined their CLAs together to form the Rupa Community Development Trust (RUCODET), taking out the formal title to the land on behalf of 35,000 people.

Longoli and his KDF colleagues arranged training for the trust’s leaders in negotiation and other skills. No other community in Karamoja had organised on such a scale to take on mining companies.

The arrival of the Sunbelt mine would give RUCODET its first major test. Under Ugandan law, all minerals belong to the government. But landowners have “surface rights” to the land itself, which have often been trampled by mining companies.

Now, thanks to RUCODET, the Chinese investors would have to negotiate with the community. “It was tough,” says Logwee, the elder. “We had no experience before of that kind of thing.”

Sunbelt had strong backing from Operation Wealth Creation, a sprawling Ugandan military programme that started out giving seeds to farmers and was now helping build fruit factories, disburse credit and develop the minerals sector.

The programme is led by Salim Saleh, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s ubiquitous brother, whom many consider the second-most powerful man in the country. He is a feared general with extensive business interests, who has been accused by UN experts of grabbing resources during the 1998-2003 Congo war – an allegation he has always denied.

As part of the negotiations, a team from RUCODET travelled 400km to Kapeeka, where a Chinese-owned industrial park has been constructed close to Saleh’s personal residence. Longoli of KDF says that some leaders in RUCODET and in local government were taking calls from Saleh himself to get an agreement signed.

Major Kiconco Tabaro, a spokesman for Operation Wealth Creation, claims that it was not directly involved in the negotiations but has “a strategic working relationship with all ministries, departments and agencies of government” to “help bring about socioeconomic transformation”.

It was hard to say no to a man like Saleh, and the leaders of RUCODET did not. In 2018, they signed away surface rights to 3.3 square km of land to Sunbelt for 21 years, receiving compensation of 1.8 billion shillings ($500,000), they say.

By one yardstick, that was a lot of money. Small-scale miners in Rupa say they get just 100,000 shillings ($28) from traders for filling a 7-tonne truck with stone, a task which takes four people at least a week.

But Sunbelt expects gross revenues of $30m a year, according to the 2021 manifesto of the ruling National Resistance Movement – making the payout to RUCODET equivalent to one week’s turnover. A spokesman for Sunbelt declined an interview request for this story.

The leaders of RUCODET used 100 million shillings ($28,000) to set up 94 educational scholarships for schoolchildren and university students. Some of the rest was handed out as cash to community members.

But there was protest from those who felt left out and mutterings that money was misused or even stolen – allegations which Logwee dismisses as “speculation”. Three people familiar with the matter told Al Jazeera that the lawyer who advised RUCODET charged 400 million shillings ($110,000) for his services, which included the cost of surveying and titling the land.

Then tragedy struck. The leader of RUCODET was a man called Marjory Dan Apollo Loyomo, a brother of the former spy chief Pulkol. “He was very strong, he was very charismatic, he was very committed,” recalls Longoli. He was also the elected chairman of Rupa sub-county, which meant he had to represent his people in disputes.

In 2019, after a decade of peace, the armed cattle-raiders started to make a comeback. Loyomo had disagreed with aspects of the army’s handling of the issue.

On December 17 that year, according to the UN Human Rights office, the army called him to a military detach in Rupa. It had impounded cattle after a raid; local people were angry. Loyomo, as sub-county chairman, tried to deliberate with the officers. A soldier shot him dead.

The regional army commander was transferred soon afterwards. His successor, Brigadier General Joseph Balikudembe, says that he cannot comment on the incident due to ongoing proceedings against the soldiers involved.

Nobody that Al Jazeera spoke to wanted to speculate on the reasons for Loyomo’s killing, but everyone agreed that it was a devastating setback.

“The loss of a torchbearer, the founder chairman, has been a very big loss for RUCODET,” says Logwee, who has succeeded him to the role.

“He was fighting really for his people,” argues Joyce Nayor, an activist and Rupa resident who is critical of the trust’s current leadership. “Since he died, RUCODET has also died a natural death.”

Hardly any local people got jobs in the Sunbelt mine, Al Jazeera heard on two visits to the area with local activists. Some small-scale miners have been allowed to remain in a corner of the land that was allocated to the company, where they break boulders for sale.

They complain that Sunbelt tried to push them into an ever-smaller area and take away the traders who would buy their stone – and that RUCODET has done little to help.

“RUCODET is there in name only,” says Isaiah Aleu, a miner.

John Bosco Logwee (second right) and other leaders of RUCODET outside their offices in Rupa sub-county, Moroto district, Uganda, on 29 November 2021
John Bosco Logwee (second right) and other leaders of RUCODET outside their offices in Rupa sub-county, Moroto district, Uganda, on 29 November 2021 

Choppy waters

Land trusts and CLAs are promising tools for communities to defend their rights, say land campaigners. But there is no consensus about how they should navigate turbulent political waters.

Pulkol is now helping build RUCODET’s capacity through the Africa Leadership Institute, a non-governmental organisation he leads. He thinks the best hope for Karamoja is to work with investors and government for shared benefits, rather than to block them altogether.

Longoli, the activist, is not so sure. Often when it comes to minerals, “the best deal is just no deal”, he says. “RUCODET, because of pressure from above or pressure from within the institution, was in a hurry to close deals.”

Yet he remains hopeful that organisations like RUCODET can be the basis for something better. “These are not perfect but they give a bridge somewhere,” he says.

The next test is coming soon.

In Loyoro sub-county of Kaabong district, 100km (62 miles) to the north, a new company called Moroto Ateker Cement is exploring for limestone. Pulkol, representing the local government of Moroto, sits on its board.

The state-owned Uganda Development Corporation has a 45 percent stake in the project. The seven clans of Loyoro have started the process of forming a trust, after the RUCODET model.

Meanwhile, in the bush, surrounded by soldiers and tsetse flies, exploratory drilling machines bore down into their land.

Source: Al Jazeera

Continue Reading

Resource Center

Legal Framework




Subscribe to our newsletter

No spam mail' ever' its a promise