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land, livelihood and investment

Millions forced to choose between hunger or Covid-19

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On the eve of May Day 2020, in full coronavirus pandemic, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released some hair raising statistics. About 1.6 billion workers from the informal sector are in dire straits because of the lockdowns governments have imposed to stop the spread of the virus. According to the ILO, some 60% of the world’s workers are in the informal economy, working without contracts, safety nets or savings.1 Depending on the country, women represent a higher or lower share of the informal workforce, but either way they are paid less than men.2
Now, because of quarantines and confinement, stoppages and curfews, there is no work. No work means no income. No income, no food. Without alternative income sources, the ILO warned, “these workers and their families will have no means to survive”.3
If workers in the informal sector are not able to feed themselves, they are also unable to continue feeding millions, if not billions more. Informal labour is what keeps food systems functioning in most of the world: it accounts for 94% of on-farm labour globally, and a big part of the workforce in food trade, retail, preparation and delivery in many parts of the world.4
The coronavirus crisis has laid bare our dependence not only on well functioning health and food systems, but the gross injustices inflicted on those working in these essential sectors in the “best” of times: low wages, no access to health care, no child care, no safety protection at work, often no legal status and no representation in negotiating work conditions. This is true in both the informal and the formal sectors of the global food system. Indeed, the contrast between the wealth at the top of the largest food companies and the plight of their frontline workers is extreme. Nestlé, for instance, the world’s number one food company, awarded its shareholders US$8 billion in dividends at the end of April 2020, an amount that surpasses the annual budget of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).5
The only question that matters now is how to ensure everyone has access to food while keeping people safe and healthy at every step from farm to consumer. Unfortunately, this has not been the priority that has shaped food systems over the past decades. But getting there is not as complicated as it may appear.
Shutdown leading to hunger
The shutdown of much of the world economy since March 2020 has meant that many people are confined to their homes or their communities and cannot work. Factories have stopped, construction projects halted, eateries and transportation closed, offices shut. In many countries, migrant workers and students immediately tried to go home, where they have family to lean on, but many got blocked for lack of transport or border closures.
These measures seem to have been implemented without much thought about the actual workings of food systems. Farmers have been mostly able (not always) to continue working on their farms, but they lack labour – precisely when it’s harvest or birthing time in many parts of the world – and the means to move produce and livestock off the farm to cooperatives, collection points, slaughterhouses, traders or markets. Closures of schools, offices and restaurants have choked the system, leading to enormous waste. As a consequence, milk is being dumped, animals are being euthanised and crops are being ploughed into the soil. Similarly, fisherfolk who fish at night in place likes Uganda have been grounded because of curfews.6
In the cities, violence, abuse and corruption have accompanied these shutdowns in incomprehensible ways. In East Africa, as in parts of Asia, street vendors caught out in the streets have been met with whips and rubber bullets.7 Riots have arisen in urban and peri-urban communities when scarce food aid arrived.8 In Lebanon, one person was even killed in such riots.9 And in eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, the government has simply decided that it will not feed the cities, only focus on the rural areas.10
Meanwhile food companies have been granted lockdown exemptions that have greatly exacerbated the health crisis, without necessarily keeping people fed. Some of the world’s worst outbreaks of Covid-19 have been at meat processing plants owned by multinational corporations in Brazil, Canada, Spain, Germany and the US. Although these plants mostly produce meat for export, they were deemed an “essential service” and allowed to operate at full capacity, knowingly putting their workers and the surrounding communities at grave risk of infection.11 In the US, as of 6 May 2020, 12,000 meat plant workers have fallen ill and 48 have died.12 Seafood processing plants are hotspots too, such as in Ghana, where an outbreak at a tuna canning plant owned by Thai Union is responsible for 11% of the Covid-19 cases in the entire country.13 Supermarket workers and ecommerce platform employees have also been facing the huge difficulty of staying safe while keeping open for the purpose of rendering so-called “essential services”, exempt from the lockdowns. Oil palm plantations have mostly kept operational — to serve the production of much-needed soaps to fight the pandemic, their owners claim – but some have defied local ordinances or not provided the necessary protections for workers.14
The cure is at risk of becoming worse than the disease. People who have no work or wages since the pandemic broke – most of the informal sector, but also workers from the formal sector – are now facing the growing reality of hunger. The WFP says that the risk is highest right now in about ten countries, most of them engulfed in armed conflict, such as Somalia or South Sudan. But the lack of access to food due to Covid-19 work closures, and the resulting global recession that we are told will last for months, is now threatening many other countries. In India, 50% of rural people are eating less due to the lockdown.15 Worldwide, the number of people suffering acute hunger could double from 135 million today to 265 million by the end of the year, WFP says.16
Already, those hardest hit have been feeling the pain. The saying “I would rather die of coronavirus than hunger” is commonly heard in Haiti, Angola, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mayotte, India and Latin America, according to news reports.17 In Belgium, it’s “Either we die of hunger or of coronavirus. We have to choose.”18 In West Africa, the saying is “Hunger will kill us before corona does”.
What’s clear is that if this spreading hunger does reach the scale of a global crisis, it will not be for lack of production or even because of hoarding. There is plenty of supply. It’s the distribution system that has shown its incapacity to feed us safely – especially the highly concentrated and globalised part that cannot respond to the crisis.
Creative community responses
One of the first measures many authorities took to halt the spread of coronavirus was to shut down restaurants, cafés, food stalls and fresh markets. As a response, communities have devised many other ways to get food to where it is needed, often using social media. On Facebook and Whatsapp, groups have been formed to collectively identify where food stocks are located or to collectively procure produce from farmers. Shuttered restaurants and cantines are using their resources to access and repackage bulk food supplies like flour or grains, repackage them and sell them in small quantities. “Repurposing” has become the word of the day, as communities come together, or take form, to find and move food through creative means.
Farmers have also devised innovative ways to sell and move their produce. In Europe, they have started home sales, deliveries to hospitals and online sales, in addition to connecting with consumers directly through community-supported agriculture schemes and farmers’ markets.19 In Asia, farmers have been going online through social media or ecommerce tools to organise alternative markets.20 For example in Karnataka, India, farmers have started using Twitter to post videos of their produce and connect with buyers. Others are resuscitating traditional systems of bartering, to overcome their lack of cash and match supply with demand.21 In Indonesia, a union of fisherfolk in Indramayu, West Java, has started an initiative to barter with local farmers’ groups through a collective action called “fisherfolks’ food barn”. As restaurants and markets have shut down, the fisherfolk have no buyers. So they exchange fish for rice and vegetables with farmers. This is providing food and livelihood security to the different communities.22
In Latin America, rural communities are the ones least affected by the virus. Many of them are organising to give away food to the poor in the cities. In Cauca, Colombia, the Nasa people – who consider themselves longterm survivors of viruses, wars and the incursion of agribusiness – have collectively organised a “food march” and brought supplies from their harvest to impoverished neighbourhoods in the cities, defying the lockdown.23 In Brazil, without any state support, the Landless Workers Movement has donated 600 tonnes of healthy food to hospitals, homeless people and other vulnerable communities in 24 states across the country.24 Members are also converting urban cafés into soup kitchens and educational facilities into makeshift hospitals, where allied healthcare workers are rendering their services.25
In Zimbabwe, the lockdown has crippled the movement of agriculture produce off of large farms across the country. Small farmers, will limited support, are hustling to fill the gap, finding new ways to get vegetables and other supplies to markets. Peasant movement organisers say this shift in the food matrix shows that the country’s 1.5 million small holders are capable of feeding the nation.26
Local governments, private citizens and companies have also been doing their share. In Vietnam, public dispensers called “rice ATMs” have been invented to allow families to access a free daily ration of rice without physical contact or hoarding.27 In India, the state of Kerala has launched a campaign called “Subhiksha Keralam” aimed at achieving self sufficiency in food production through subsidies, infrastructure and other support mechanisms.28 In Thailand, mobile vegetable shops have been revived under the quarantine with support from Bangkok’s local authorities. The city wholesale market is providing small producers and traders hundreds of trucks to allow them to shift to door-to-door deliveries.29 And in many parts of Africa, motorbike delivery services are adjusting their practices to help get food supplies to people who need them.30
Whether it’s through solidarity, mutual aid, volunteer work or cooperatives, and whether it’s formal or informal, this surge in community-oriented efforts to get food to where it’s needed is crucial and needs resourcing, urgently. While grassroots initiatives are not “the” solution, they certainly point in the right direction.
Shift to community-based food systems
To prevent the disaster that both ILO and WFP are warning us about, we would call for three kinds of measures.
Immediate:
1) Resource community initiatives: As a matter of urgency, we need massive recognition of and support to community efforts to feed those in need. Funds, tools and other resources should be allocated to these efforts. This can mean funding or materials for neighbourhood groups or indigenous communities who need personal protective equipment, rooms or spaces in which to organise and transport food pantries. It can mean resources for regional and local governments to do the work together with community-based organisations, cooperatives and farmers. And it should mean support from local governments themselves, whether through policy measures or infrastructure. Many are already doing this, but it needs scaling up, massively and quickly. While the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other donors help governments face health crisis funding needs, most of it is going to big business. It would be better to allocate more to local governments so they can support community efforts.
Longer term:
2) Improve conditions for farmers and workers: We need to uplift the position of food system workers, from production or procurement all the way to retail, delivery and food service. This means things like: higher wages or a universal basic income that will pay low-income workers much better or reach people outside the wage economy; a seat at the table to redefine work and renegotiate work processes, as many unions are clamouring for; full rights to health care, hazard pay, safe working conditions and child care; and, perhaps most importantly, a better status in society. Farmers must also be supported with safe systems to get produce to markets and fair prices that provide for their livelihoods. At the same time, farm labourers must receive decent wages and healthy work conditions. The Covid-19 crisis has made it clear how important farm work, transportation, food distribution and delivery are to our well being. People working in the system are frontliners as much as the health care workers. They deserve a better place, better pay and a fairer distribution of benefits – and now is the time to make that structural change.
3) Rebuild public food systems: We need to reinvent and reinforce public, community-controlled markets in the food sphere, from the local level up. And we need to connect these markets to the produce of small scale farmers and fishers. The coronavirus lockdown has shown us, quite starkly, how we cannot rely on global trade as a strategy and how corporate sector control over key segments of our food supply makes survival precarious. We need to put an end to public funds going to large food or agribusiness corporations, except as support for workers. We also need to address concentration in the food industry through measures like anti-trust or anti-factory farm legislation, and direct support towards small scale fisheries, abattoirs, dairies and wholesale markets. We know that more pandemics will come. Now is the chance to move forward and consolidate a public orientation to our food systems, somewhat like in the health sector where we have public medical research, public hospitals and generic medicines outside the grip of patent laws that serve corporate greed. Food is not merely a public good; it’s a social good and needs to be guaranteed, protected and provided to all like healthcare.
If one thing positive comes from this crisis, it could be that we regain and reassert public systems in our countries, after decades of privatisation and encroaching corporate control. These systems should support and build on solutions that local communities are already providing. Food, like health, is a crucial place to start.
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1 Domestic workers who are contracted and farmers or vendors who have registered businesses are not part of the informal economy definition.
2 ILO, “Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture”, 2018, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_626831.pdf, page 21.
3 ILO, “As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods”, 29 April 2020, https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_743036/lang–en/index.htm
4 ILO, “Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture”, 2018, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_626831.pdf, page 21.
5 Nestlé, “Results of the 153rd Annual General Meeting of Nestlé S.A. held on April 23, 2020”, https://www.nestle.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/annual-general-meeting-2020-summary-minutes-en.pdf. In 2018, the WFP raised US$7.2 billion, see: https://www.wfp.org/overview
6 International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, “COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems”, April 2020, http://www.ipes-food.org/pages/covid19
7 Alex Esagala et al, “Canes, tears in Kampala over coronavirus”, Daily Monitor, 26 March 2020, https://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Photos-that-will-compel-you-cancel-your-journey-Kampala/688334-5505362-g3u0ib/index.html and Boitumelo Metsing, “Food parcel protest turns ugly as cops fire rubber bullets at hungry residents”, The Star, 29 Apr 2020, https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/sport/food-parcel-protest-turns-ugly-as-cops-fire-rubber-bullets-at-hungry-residents-47325962
8 Tom Odula and Idi Ali Juma, “Stampede in Kenya as slum residents surge for food aid”, Associated Press, 10 April 2020 https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/stampede-in-kenya-as-slum-residents-surge-for-food-aid
9 Jean Shaoul, “Protester killed in Lebanon during riots against soaring food prices”, World Socialist Website, 29 April 2020, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/29/leba-a29.html
10 ”Swaziland govt. confirms it will not feed the starving in towns and cities during coronavirus lockdown”, Swazi Media Commentary, 29 April 2020, https://allafrica.com/stories/202004290702.html
11 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, “UFCW calls on USDA and White House to protect meatpacking workers and America’s food supply”, 30 April 2020, http://www.ufcw.org/2020/04/30/covidpacking/. While European meat packers are also experiencing outbreaks, they have not been as deep and widespread as in the US where corporate concentration is higher, says IPES (op cit).
12 Leah Douglas, “Mapping Covid-19 in meat and food processing plants”, Food and Environment Reporting Network, 22 April 2020, https://thefern.org/2020/04/mapping-covid-19-in-meat-and-food-processing-plants/
13 Rachel Sapin and Drew Cherry, “Thai Union plant is source of coronavirus outbreak that sickened over 500, officials say”, IntraFish, 12 May 2020, https://www.intrafish.com/processing/thai-union-plant-is-source-of-coronavirus-outbreak-that-sickened-over-500-officials-say/2-1-807547
14 ARD, Green Advocates, JUSTICITIZ, MALOA, NMJD, RADD, Synaparcam and YVE, “We demand justice and safety for workers on Socfin’s rubber/oil palm plantations during the Covid-19 pandemic”, Open letter to Socfin, 29 April 2020, https://farmlandgrab.org/29602
15 “Coronavirus impact | Half of rural India is eating less due to COVID-19 lockdown: Survey”, Monetcontrol, 13 May 2020, https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/covid-19-impact-half-of-rural-population-eating-less-amid-coronavirus-crisis-5259491.html
16 Paul Anthem, “Risk of hunger pandemic as COVID-19 set to almost double acute hunger by end of 2020”, WFP, 16 April 2020, https://insight.wfp.org/covid-19-will-almost-double-people-in-acute-hunger-by-end-of-2020-59df0c4a8072
17 Bello, “Choosing between livelihoods and lives in Latin America”, The Economist, 2 May 2020, https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/05/02/choosing-between-livelihoods-and-lives-in-latin-america; “Lebanon: A New Surge in the Popular Struggle”, International Socialist League, May 4, 2020, http://lis-isl.org/en/2020/05/04/libano-un-nuevo-salto-en-la-rebelion-popular/; La Rédaction, « Ici, on a plus peur de mourir de faim que du coronavirus ! », Charlie Hebdo, 6 avril 2020, https://charliehebdo.fr/2020/04/courrier/courrier-des-lecteurs-mayotte-on-a-plus-peur-de-mourir-de-faim-que-du-coronavirus/; AFP, “Dans l’Inde confinée, les pauvres luttent pour survivre”, 9 avril 2020, https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2020/04/09/dans-linde-confinee-les-pauvres-luttent-pour-survivre; AFP, “Haïti: mourir de faim aujourd’hui ou du coronavirus demain”, 3 May 2020, https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Haiti-mourir-faim-aujourd-hui-coronavirus-demain-2020-05-03-1301092306; AFP, “«Mieux vaut mourir de cette maladie que mourir de faim»: les Angolais bravent le verrouillage du virus”, 6 Avril 2020, https://www.fr24news.com/fr/a/2020/04/mieux-vaut-mourir-de-cette-maladie-que-mourir-de-faim-les-angolais-bravent-le-verrouillage-du-virus.html.
18 Annick Ovine, “’Nous, on doit choisir: mourir de faim ou crever du coronavirus’”, La Libre, 16 March 2020, https://www.lalibre.be/belgique/societe/nous-on-doit-choisir-mourir-de-faim-ou-crever-du-coronavirus-5e6f91fc9978e201d8bcf20c
19 European Coordination Via Campesina, “ECVC survey on the impact of Covid-19 on peasant farming”, April 2020, https://www.eurovia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ECVC-SURVEY-ON-THE-IMPACT-OF-COVID-19-ON-PEASANT-FARMING.pdf
20 Zhenzhong Si, “Commentary: How China ensured no one went hungry during coronavirus lockdown”, Channel News Asia, 19 April 2020, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/coronavirus-covid-19-china-grocery-food-security-price-delivery-12640426
21 Shahroz Afridi, “Madhya Pradesh: Left without cash, lockdown forces villagers to adopt barter system”, Free Press Journal, 22 April 2020, https://www.freepressjournal.in/bhopal/madhya-pradesh-left-without-cash-lockdown-forces-villagers-to-adopt-barter-system
22 Pandangan Jogja, “Barter Ikan Nelayan dengan Beras Petani, Cara Nelayan Bertahan di Tengah Pandemi”, Kumparan, 11 Mei 2020, https://kumparan.com/pandangan-jogja/barter-ikan-nelayan-dengan-beras-petani-cara-nelayan-bertahan-di-tengah-pandemi-1tOVhGXPMQr
23 Rita Valencia, “Los nasa de Colombia dicen: Porque no seremos los mismos, hay que liberar”, Ojarasca, 9 May 2020, https://ojarasca.jornada.com.mx/2020/05/09/nasa-de-colombia-porque-no-seremos-los-mismos-hay-que-liberar-1000.html
24 MST, “Produzir alimentos saudáveis e plantar árvores: a Reforma Agrária Popular no combate ao Coronavírus”, 29 de março de 2020, https://mst.org.br/2020/03/29/produzir-alimentos-saudaveis-e-plantar-arvores-a-reforma-agraria-popular-no-combate-ao-coronavirus/
25 Rebecca Tarlau, “Activist farmers in Brazil feed the hungry and aid the sick as president downplays coronavirus crisis”, The Conversation, 5 May 2020, https://theconversation.com/activist-farmers-in-brazil-feed-the-hungry-and-aid-the-sick-as-president-downplays-coronavirus-crisis-136914
26 Ignatius Banda, “COVID-19: Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers step into the food supply gap”, IPS, 12 May 2020, http://www.ipsnews.net/2020/05/covid-19-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers-step-food-supply-gap/
27 ”Vietnam entrepreneur sets up free ‘rice ATM’ to feed the poor amid coronavirus lockdown”, 16 April 2020, https://youtu.be/lWLuIO1DGAA
28 Samuel Philip Matthew, “COVID-19 in Kerala: Staying ahead of the curve”, Newsclick, 9 May 2020, https://www.newsclick.in/COVID-19-Kerala-Highest-Recovery-Rate-Pandemic
29 Juarawee Kittisilpa, “Thai grocery trucks get new life from coronavirus shutdown”, Reuters, 14 April 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-thailand-grocery-t/thai-grocery-trucks-get-new-life-from-coronavirus-shutdown-idUSKCN21W0O4?il=0
30 AFP, “African e-commerce firms get coronavirus boost”, 15 May 2020, https://news.yahoo.com/african-e-commerce-firms-coronavirus-boost-033743948.html

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land, livelihood and investment

In memory of land and investment women victims in Uganda on the International Women’s Day 2021

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Good dreams shattered as forced land evictions breed child marriages in Hoima districts…

By witnessradio.org Team

Atimago Prisca, at the age of 11 years, was among the many children that lost their dreams of a good life when her families and the entire Rwemutonga village were invaded by anti-riot police and other security agencies and got evicted on orders of a rich man.

The evictor was Joshua Tibagwa who grabbed land to be used by an American company, McAlester Energy Resources, from Texas as a petroleum wastewater facility.

Uganda discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Graben region in 2006. Uganda has approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, with at least 1.4 billion estimated to be economically recoverable. In addition to producing and exporting crude oil, Uganda plans to build a refinery to produce petroleum products for the domestic and EAC markets. However, many citizens continue to ask whether oil discovery is a curse or a blessing…?

The 1000 villagers on a fateful day woke up to screaming, a hail of live bullets and teargas followed by the setting of fire onto people’s homes and looting of properties. Families fled to the nearby bush because armed personnel was threatening to kill whoever would resist vacating the land.

“Before we heard one of our neighbors screaming out loud that, please forgive me, do not burn my house, now where do you want me to go, please have mercy. At first, we thought that they were being attacked by thieves. Shortly, in less than 10 minutes, a group of more than 10 armed policemen to our home and asked us what we were still waiting for, my mum replied to them that this is our land. They ordered us to immediately leave. Our father too tried to resist but one of the armed men told him that he would be killed if we don’t leave our home” Said Atimago.

Atimago, now a single mother of one at the age of 17 years, dropped out of school on a day of forceful eviction since her parents were rendered financially weak to meet the basic needs of 10 children.

Atimago who wanted to become a midwife narrated that after surviving a deadly land eviction, a well-wisher identified as Atien Oketch offered a 40×40 piece of land where they camped as a community and built some temporary structures and life became very hard.

“You imagine a family of 10 to sleep in that small structure, it was terrible that we could not manage the situation, some of us decided to get married. “At the age of 13, I decided to go for marriage since we had nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat, and no privacy, and I hoped that marriage would give me peace but that did not come” added Atimago.

She further explained that her marriage did not last long since his husband was not caring.

“After getting pregnant he told me to leave that he had nothing to do with me. He used to beat me which forced me to leave our home to a friend’s. Up to this time, he does not offer any help which forced me to stay with my parents,” she added.

Atimago’s story is not different from over 40 young girls in Rwamutonga who lost their education because of evictions in 2014 and they have since married been off.

“We were not even served with eviction notices, we didn’t know that we were going to be evicted, and police just came with four trucks full of police officers. They started firing bullets in the air and tear gas. Police together with the deputy RDC [Ambrose Mwesigye] burnt down houses, destroyed our properties, and even looted some,” some residents claimed.

 In an interview with Nelson Atich, Bugambe sub-county Councilor and representative of the evictees, he said the eviction was an advantage to the Boda Boda men who opted to marry these girls since many did not have wives.

“Of the over 1000 people, 700 were children and 60% were girls who could not tolerate this situation. For three years we were staying in a camp which is a deadly scenario for the girl child. What is annoying is that most of them after being used or impregnated were dumped,” he said.

However, after the eviction, the victim community ran to court and in 2015, Masindi high court ruled in their favor that the eviction was illegal. “The Eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama.

Whereas in 2017, the evictees were resettled back to their original land, but the lost dreams of a good future will never be recovered as the court did not consider awarding them for such damages.

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land, livelihood and investment

CSOs urge banks and other IFIs not to finance E.Africa oil pipeline project… 

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – More than 260 charities on Monday, the 1st/March/2021 urged banks and international financial institutions throughout the World not to finance a $3.5 billion oil pipeline in East Africa, concerned the project could lead to the loss of land for poor communities and livelihoods, environmental destruction and surging carbon emissions.

In a signed open letter 263 charities, estimated that once the project financing is availed, it will displace 14,000 households across Uganda and Tanzania will lose their land and hundreds of families will need to be resettled as a result of the pipeline and oil development.

As currently planned, the East African Crude Oil Pipe Line (EACOP) will pass through 178 villages in Uganda and 231 in Tanzania, leading to massive physical and economic displacement.

The proposed 1,445-kilometer crude oil pipeline worth $2.5 billion will stretch from Hoima in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania and expected to carry 216,000 barrels of crude oil per day (10.9 million metric tons per year) at ‘plateau production’ 

South Africa’s Standard Bank, Japan’s SMBC, and China’s ICBC are all advising the parties behind this pipeline, and are likely to be working to arrange the project finance loan. They’ll need other financiers to join them.

However, the undersigned CSOs from across the world who stand in solidarity with the directly affected communities and local CSOs defending community rights have urgently demanded financial institutions of the project to halt its funding that would displace tens of thousands of people, endanger the critical ecosystems of the Lake Victoria basin area and also putting in danger the climate catastrophe.

 In another part of the open letter to the financiers of the project explain that the project has already caused the large-scale displacement of local communities and poses grave risks to protected environments, water sources, and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania, including the Lake Victoria basin, which millions of people rely upon for drinking water and food production

According to the organizations, the same company has not yet compensated over 5,000 people in Uganda whose land was acquired to develop the pipeline project between 2018 and 2019.

“These people were stopped from cultivating on their land and setting up new developments. This has left people impoverished. The impacts of this increased poverty are being felt by women, parents, children, the elderly and others who were mainly using the land to grow income-generating (cash) and perennial crops,” reads the part of the letter.

According to calculations based on the specific fuel density of the EACOP blend, the emissions from the burning of this fuel would be at least 34.3 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) per year. These emissions will dwarf the current annual emissions of its two host countries combined, and will in fact be roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of Denmark.

In addition to significantly contributing to the climate crisis, the project poses serious environmental and social risks to protected wildlife areas, water sources, and communities throughout Uganda and Tanzania.

Extraction at the oil fields in Albertine Graben will jeopardize the Murchison Falls National Park, which is important for tourism as Uganda’s second most visited national park. In addition, the mangroves at the coast of Tanzania which the pipeline puts at risk support approximately 150,000 people, in addition to the ecological services they provide. The 300 permanent jobs the pipeline is expected to create will not compensate for the loss of jobs in agriculture, tourism, and mangroves.

Nearly a third of the planned pipeline (460 kilometers) will be constructed in the basin of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria where more than 30 million people depend on Lake Victoria for water and food production. The pipeline also crosses several rivers and streams that flow into the lake, including the Kagera River.  Possible spills from the pipeline due to bad maintenance, accidents, third-party interference or natural disasters, risk freshwater pollution and degradation in this area – a likelihood that is even greater since the area around Lake Victoria is an active seismic area.

As a result of these risks, the project is facing significant local community and civil society resistance. 

In November 2020 in Uganda, over 877 petitioners – including 810 directly affected people – signed a petition to Total and the other EACOP project developers. They called on the oil companies to prioritize environmental conservation and community livelihoods over the EACOP project.

The CSOs, therefore, call on all banks and all financial institutions with a business relationship to Total and CNOOC to publicly commit not to participate in financing the EACOP project or associated oil projects, engage with the governments of Uganda and Tanzania and other financiers to promote an energy future for East Africa that, does not rely on oil or other fossil fuels, but rather on clean energy alternatives; and to demand that Total acts immediately to compensate people already affected by the pipeline for the impacts to their land.

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land, livelihood and investment

A government project is pushing hundreds of families off the land without re-settlement

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By witnessradio.org Team.

Lyantonde – Uganda – without any informed consultations or community engagements, the government of Uganda is constructing a world-class pre-export quarantine facility for animals on a piece of land which has been feedings hundreds of native families for more than three decades.

Once the project takes off, a source of food, employment, education, and a provider of finances to meet basic needs for hundreds of families will be no more.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the facility will act as a quarantine ground for animals before export for a specified period of time for veterinary observation, sampling, testing, and vaccination among others.

The project which targets land measuring approximately 98.2 Hectares, shall facilitate the export of animals and meat in bulk from Burundi, Rwanda, and DR Congo, and other neighboring East and Central African countries.

But, Grace Batine, 57 years and a mother of 12 children who has been deriving a livelihood from the targeted land says, the project is shattering the future of her family as it will deprive them of the right to food and other basic rights.

“I settled on the land in 1994, which has been a source of everything. When the government decided to develop it, why do they fear to consult us and whose responsibility is it to protect and care about our wellbeing? Do they want the European governments to care for us if they can’t,” a poor Batine questioned.

Benon Musinguzi, a resident of Makukulu Village, says they only want the government to compensate if not, resettle them because they have nowhere to go.

“We respect the government’s move to construct the facility but it would not be fair if they evict us from our only livelihood. We think if they have no money for the compensation they should allocate to us part of the land for us to continue thriving. We admit this is not our land but for more than 30 years we have been on this land,” adds Musinguzi a father of 8.

In an interview with the land desk officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Bruce Turyatunga, claimed the move to evict residents is ready and the government shall not even compensate a single coin to them since they illegally occupied the land.

“This is a government land that was surveyed and we have a title on it, how do you compensate someone on your land, we are even consulting from the Attorney General and Administrator-General to see how these people can compensate us for using our land for all that time,” Mr. Turyatunga added.

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