In late June, the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), approved a US$200M loan to agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC). Under the guise of “sustainable development,” the loan will be used to purchase soy and corn—mostly destined for factory farms—grown on industrial mega-farms in Brazil’s heavily threatened Cerrado.
A biodiversity hotspot that is home to 5 percent of the world’s animals and plants and 216 Indigenous territories, the Cerrado has already lost half its native vegetation to cattle ranches and mechanized soy and corn mega-farms. LDC is just one of many agribusinesses, including Cargill, Bunge, JBS, and Marfrig, whose beef and animal feed operations are threatening to drive this ecosystem towards total destruction by 2030.
While IFC claims that its loan to LDC will “address higher demand and escalating food prices in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive way,” in reality, this investment will drive further environmental destruction and disenfranchisement of local and indigenous communities while enriching one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful industrial agribusinesses. In 2020, LDC generated US$49 billion in revenue and has US$3.5 billion in public and private financing available. With limited public investment in sustainable agriculture, one must ask why taxpayer funds are being used to support this well-resourced mega-corporation that has contributed to Cerrado ecosystem destruction over the past decade.
Since late May, Friends of the Earth, members of the Stop Financing Factory Farming (SFFF) Campaign and 230+ civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world have fought to block the investment. In numerous letters to the IFC and its government shareholders, groups documented how this investment is at odds with the bank’s own environmental policies and its commitment to align lending with the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Supporting industrial animal feed production does not advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals
The IFC justified its US$200 million loan by claiming that the funds would help to reduce deforestation through “support [for] a portfolio of eligible soy and corn farmers in Brazil that are committed to zero deforestation and conversion of native vegetation.” But these “eligible farmers” are multi-thousand-acre industrial operations located in the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Minas Gerais, which are already largely deforested. Even if incentives set up under the loan could prevent future land conversions, deforestation is only one of the many environmental and social impacts that should be addressed by public financing for a company like LDC.
Completely ignored in IFC’s loan analysis are the additional negative impacts of industrial farms’ use of pesticides and fertilizers on climate and air, soil and water resources. Also ignored were harmful social impacts of these operations, including pesticide-related illness and death, including among children, as well as the potential for land-grabbing, local community conflicts and the displacement of smallholder farmers.
Failure to address these serious issues undermines the IFC’s stated commitment to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. A 2019 German government report documents how large-scale soy operations in the Cerrado and elsewhere “are associated with social injustice and…environmental degradation that hinders the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” According to this report, agribusiness operations in the region threaten at least 8 of the 17 SDGs, including: 1: No Poverty, 2: Zero Hunger, 3: Good Health and Well-Being, 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and 13: Climate Action.
A coherent strategy to make LDC’s soy and corn operations more “sustainable” would have required a shift in agricultural practices that reduce fossil fuel, pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, as CSOs explained. A more “inclusive” and food security-centered strategy would ensure at least some support for smallholder, lower-carbon, regenerative crop systems and increased land access for traditional communities.
Diverting resources to feed animals instead of humans also threatens to aggravate the current global hunger crisis. As the crisis intensifies, the world’s 800 million+ hungry people would be better served by public development banks using taxpayer funds to support the production of diversified, truly sustainable and nutritious food rather than feed for factory farms that churn out cheap meat and dairy products for consumption in higher-income countries.
Paris Agreement misalignment: LDC is a major laggard on climate
Unlike some of its peers, LDC has yet to set Paris-aligned reduction targets for its GHG emissions. The company has committed to only meager 1 percent reductions in its Scope 1 and 2 emissions (those generated by the operations or activities the company controls). Even more important, LDC has yet to calculate its Scope 3 emissions (those generated by operations or activities a company does not control, including soy production), which likely make up more than 90 percent of the company total. At a minimum, the IFC and other public development banks should require any company benefiting from its preferential financing to set Paris-aligned GHG reduction targets.
Now that the LDC loan has been approved, IFC must be held accountable for its impacts
Together with global allies and partners on the ground in Brazil, the Stop Financing Factory Farming Campaign will continue to track LDC’s activities and demand accountability from the IFC for the harmful impacts of its lending. In a letter responding to the loan approval, more than 100 organizations have asked that the IFC disclose the names and locations of the industrial operations its funds will support so that groups on the ground can monitor the impacts of its investment. We have also asked that the IFC urge LDC to cut ties with suppliers known to be involved in illegal deforestation, land grabbing and/or other human rights violations.
The campaign will also continue to urge the IFC and its government shareholders to shift lending away from industrial livestock and monoculture feed production and toward smallholder, lower-carbon regenerative mixed crop systems. Such a shift would square with the World Bank’s own guidance concerning development banks’ role in encouraging capital investments that “incentivize more sustainable practices—properly valuing ecosystem services and mobilizing resources, knowledge and technology for smallholders, indigenous peoples and other producers to support a more equitable way of producing and consuming food.”
A reference filed by CSOs against the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is set for hearing.
By Witness Radio Team
Four East African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have petitioned the regional court of justice, seeking both temporary and permanent injunctions against the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)
The reference submitted by the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice-Kenya, and Center for Strategic Litigation in Tanzania highlights significant issues including threatening local livelihoods, food security, public health, biodiversity and the global climate that have failed to be addressed by both the governments of Uganda and Tanzania.
According to the reference filed on the 6th of November 2022, the governments of Uganda, and Tanzania and the Secretary General of the East African Community have violated environmental laws, human rights obligations, and regional agreements, in authorizing French oil giant, Total, to build a massive oil pipeline from Hoima, Uganda to Tanga, Tanzania.
For years, communities and civil societies have echoed concerns over the impacts of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project which has affected thousands in Uganda and Tanzania. Human rights organizations claim French energy giant Total and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corporation involved in the $3.5 billion EACOP have failed to fully address concerns raised by the project to host communities.
The 1,443km people crude oil export pipeline which is expected to impact over 118000 people will transport Uganda’s crude oil from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania.
The project will cross through 10 districts in Uganda, a distance of 296 kilometers, and 25 districts in Tanzania, covering eight regions, and 25 districts is estimated to be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world.
Its impact has largely been witnessed by the PAPs, leaders, and human rights activists opposing the project including land grabbing, harassment, and arrests of community leaders and rights activists.
“Construction of the pipeline will destroy farmland, disrupt livelihoods and exacerbate food insecurity. Thousands of people are to be displaced and have already been told not to set up or plant any long-term structures or crops and yet they have not been given any compensation yet. These impacts are set to cause major social disruption and erode social cohesion, leading to increased poverty in areas affected by the EACOP in Uganda and Tanzania.” The reference reveals in part.
The reference further adds that the pipeline will traverse protected forests, such as the Wambabya and Bugoma reserves, and endanger numerous water sources of great importance to millions of people in East Africa, including Lake Victoria. The pipeline passes along the Lake Victoria basin which is a major water source for millions in not only East Africa but the whole of the African region. This risks and exposes Lake Victoria and River Nile to danger through oil spills and pollution. The EACOP will also significantly impact biodiversity and put numerously vulnerable and endangered species native to Uganda and Tanzania at risk, including elephants, lions, and giraffes.
The EACOP has been widely criticized by civil societies and other actors advocating for the rights of affected people expressing the unaddressed concerns the project is likely to expose to the host communities.
On the 14th of September 2022, the European Union Parliament passed an advisory resolution to suspend the oil pipeline for a year citing disastrous human and environmental rights violations associated with the project.
According to the resolutions by the European Parliament legislators, the oil pipeline has caused the displacement of people from their land without fair compensation, caused harassment, criminalization, intimidation, and arrests of human rights defenders, and closure of NGOs, and is likely to endanger the nature reserves and habitats.
The case is scheduled to be heard in Kampala on the 11th of November 2022.
The private sector, civil society organizations, government bodies, and development partners are to meet and discuss how to strengthen responsible business conduct in Uganda.
By Witness Radio team.
For years, victim communities, and community land and environment defenders in Uganda have been facing negative impacts and reprisals arising from business investments. These investments often require large sizes of land and the government occasionally takes the responsibility to acquire land for these investments. However, the acquisitions or allocations of public or community land tend to leave the communities past retrieval.
Communities are faced with devastating impacts ranging from environmental challenges such as pollution of air and water, forceful evictions, and unfulfilled pledges such as good jobs that not only cause damages to their lives but also to the future generations.
Recently, a government entity the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) wanted to expand the Lubigi drainage project with funds from the World Bank. But, during the initial stages of land acquisitions, the KCCA hid under the public health Act, Cap 281Act, to evict the people and then smoothly expand the drainage channel. This happened without sensitization, compensation, or resettlement of the project-affected persons.
According to documents seen by Witness Radio Uganda and testimonies from the affected communities, they had lived on the land for many years and were surprised to face eviction threats.
Continuously members of this community continue facing retaliation for their resistance to the land grab for the infrastructural project. Ever since the project began, community land defenders have been persecuted for their works and subjected to false charges including fraud, simple robbery and currently continue to report at police and courts over the charges. In contrast, others are on run for their dear lives.
Similarly in the Mubende district, a Chinese company has rendered thousands homeless over since it started its tree planting activities in 2011. Formosa tree planting company is planting eucalyptus and pine trees within the district. Over 12 villages have suffered the worst of this so-called development. These include; Butoro, Kyedikyo, Nakasozi, Namayindi, Kitebe, Kisiigwa, Namagadi, Mukiguluka, Busaabala, Ngabano, and Kicucuulo located both in Maduddu and Butoloogo sub-counties and those that resisted continuing to face violent threats from the company and its workers.
At least seven community land rights defenders since 2018 are languishing in jails for crimes they did not perform. According to the residents, the Formosa Company is responsible for false charges against the defenders. They were arrested for 15- 35 years.
“Wounds caused by Formosa to me can never heal. In 2017 my two sons; Sam Serugo and Yona Sejjombwe were arrested and imprisoned for 34 years over the same struggles. And again they came threatening to kill us if we did not move off our land. We have lived and occupied this land for decades.” Cecilia Namawejje revealed this to Witness Radio researchers.
Communities still grapple with these related outcomes, sadly those who advocate for their rights are arrested for sabotaging the projects. These and other related issues are expected to be discussed by participants in a two-day 4th symposium on business and human rights on November 9th and 10th 2022.
The 4th annual symposium that will be held at Imperial Royale Hotel Kampala will bring together more than 100 stakeholders across Uganda and beyond to advance responsible business and human rights agenda in the region.
The symposium organized by Resource Rights Africa (RRA) and partners will bring together private sector players, government actors, academia, media, civil society, and local community representatives from Karamoja and Tooro regions to explore how accountability and remedy mechanisms for business-related human rights abuses can be enhanced to advance respect for people and the planet in the next decade.
The symposium is based on the theme “Strengthening Responsible Business Conduct in Uganda to advance respect for people and planet in the next decade.”
NFA land giveaway bonanza turns Luweero farmers into destitute.
By Witness Radio Team
Land evictions in Uganda spiral and are a thorn in the lives of many poor Ugandan communities whose entire livelihood thrives on substance farming.
The government, and its agencies, especially the National Forest Authority (NFA), have been singled out by communities for aiding forced evictions to give way for land-based investments by the untouchable wealthy local and foreign investors.
The insatiable thirst for carbon credit schemes has left many smallholder farmer communities grappling with the life-threatening effects of violent land grabs masterminded by the National Forest Authority and fueled by unpoliced and loitering international funding.
The continuous evictions have left millions of indigenous and local smallholder farmers homeless and landless. Uganda’s National Forestry Authority has been cited in several cases for donating land occupied by communities to investors (both local and foreign) for planting trees in the name of reforestation of depleted forests for carbon credits.
Over 2900 acreages in the Luweero district belonging to residents were donated to investors to grow eucalyptus and pine trees while part of the said land is occupied by a goat farm.
Every time a conversation about NFA crops up, Topi Nalwoga is a taken-back to the 2015 eviction by NFA in Yandwe, Butuntumula Sub-County, Luweero district. It disintegrated her community and deprived her of human interaction. What used to be homes to friends and relatives is now littered with trees. Neither was she spared. Her home is in the middle of a tree plantation.
Nalwoga said before the evictions would harvest coffee, maize, matooke, and mangoes from six acres of land to educate and provide for her family of 7.
This practice is not different in other parts of the country. On a fateful day of 18th May 2019, in Luweero, Yandwe village woke up under the invasion of armed soldiers and police who burnt houses and razed down their gardens claiming they were illegally occupying Mbale Central Forest Reserve land.
A 49-year-old, former landlord is now a casual laborer on nearby plantations to put food on the table for her family. In a day, Topi earns 5,000 Uganda Shillings (equivalent to 1.31 USD) explaining that it cannot meet all her family’s needs. Before, she was earning about 1,000,000 Million Uganda Shillings (about 262.62 dollars) from her proceeds in a season.
“I spend my daily wages on food. My children no longer go to school because we have been turned into slaves in our own country,” she revealed.
Her settlement on the land has a lineage bond. Her grandfather Mr. Kosia Katula occupied the grabbed land in 1921 before its gazettement as a forest reserve. Later in 1944, her father was born and inherited the land.
The NFA gazetted the Mbale Central Forest Reserve in 1967 when people had already settled on it. This accordingly meant that the community had to be consulted, compensated, or resettled before the evictions.
Her story is not different from the other 700 community members who lost their source of livelihood in NFA evictions in the same area.
Some of the residents that have resisted the forceful evictions were barred from using the land. About 9 families have their houses trapped in the middle of the tree plantations laboring elsewhere to feed their families.
Mr. Wilson Kabiira who had 20 acres says he was denied access to his land. He said the NFA employed gangs to beat people who had refused to vacate the land.
“My family is starving because I have nowhere to work from, when they find you attempting to do any work on the land, they beat you and raze down your crops,” he added.
He added, “Our young girls have been married because ideally, they dropped out of school, families do not have food and many of them have separated as a result.
During the evictions, people lost property worth millions. The community says the NFA did not consult, or compensate them for their land.