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Nine (9) years and still counting: Buvuma residents still await compensation for land grabbed by the Oil palm project.



By Witness Radio Team.

When the oil palm growing project was introduced in the Nairambi sub-county, Buvuma district, in 2015, it was greeted with an abundance of praise, leading many community members to wholeheartedly embrace it.

“We were promised numerous benefits with the project. Our leaders were preached with success stories of how oil palm projects had transformed communities where it had been grown before. In a short period, they urged us not to let the spirits of poverty linger with us, insisting that we must embrace the project in our district to attain wealth.” Residents from Kakyanga shared their sentiments with Witness Radio about the project.

The pattern observed in many other countries where oil palm tree growers used tricks to grab people’s land is replicated in the Buvuma district. Private companies and government officials promised communities new schools, good roads, functional health centers, and helping needy families, etc. as a persuasion tool to win their hearts on top of fair and adequate compensation pledges.

9 years later, individual families realized that they were deceived into signing documents to surrender their land to grow oil palm trees. Agreements were written in English (not translated to their dialect), and signed copies were hidden from residents.

“We consented to the government’s proposal to utilize our land for the project, lured by the promises of substantial benefits. The survey of the project land promptly commenced, leading to the expropriation of our property. Despite the passage of several years, the pledged benefits from the project remain unfulfilled,” residents interviewed by Witness Radio narrated their concerns.

But, the on-the-ground realities are diverse and the project has been labeled as a curse by the Project Affected Persons (PAPs). Unfortunately, it has resulted in tragic consequences, including loss of life, homelessness, increased poverty, and heightened hunger among communities that thrived well before the project commenced.

According to the residents, their land measuring over 388 hectares in Kakyanga, Kiziiru, Bukiindi, and Bukalabati villages, is occupied by oil palm trees owned by the National Oil Palm Project since 2019.

Nakato Khadija, a 45-year-old, now finds herself harvesting spear grass to make a living. “Whenever I reflect on the impact this project has had on me and my family, a sense of despair sets in. It’s disheartening that someone who once owned 19 acres of land now possesses nothing in life.” She revealed this to the Witness Radio research team.

By 5 pm evening, on Friday,19th 2024 when Witness Radio interviewed her, the sole caretaker of a family of 15 was still harvesting spear grass with an old sickle in a garden that is 12 kilometers away from where she rents in Tojjo village.

“This is the only job I can do now, it is where I get what to feed the family. Every bunch of spear grass [locally called enjole] costs 500 Ugx shillings (about 0.13 United States Dollars). So, you have to cut as many as you can to get some good money. Imagine if all the bushes are done, how shall we survive.” Nakato questioned?

Nakato is not alone, she is one of the more than 600 people whose land was taken for Oil palm growing from 4 villages in Buwanga parish, Nairambi Sub-county in Buvuma district without compensation or resettlement.

According to residents who shared their experiences with Witness Radio, they were deceived into initially handing over their land to the investor, with the promise of receiving compensation later. However, to their dismay, years have passed, and they are still waiting in vain for the promised compensation

“We haven’t received compensation for our land that was taken 9 years ago, and a significant number of people are enduring immense suffering. They relinquished their land for the oil palm project and are now thrust into overwhelming poverty,” another resident emphasized.

“We were instructed to surrender our land to the investor with the promise that the project would lead to the development of our community and create employment opportunities. Our leaders, along with Epayi Gerald, who facilitated the land acquisition on behalf of the investor, convinced us to part with our land before receiving compensation.” Residents further highlighted.

In 2017, representatives from the government and the National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) conducted a land survey to assess and value their properties for compensation. Around 2019, they (government and NOPP) returned with disclosure forms that indicated amounts below the community’s expectations. Despite the inaccurate valuation of their land and property, the promised compensation, according to the affected residents, remains unpaid.

Mr. Kyeswa Alex, another resident grappling with the impact of the project, disclosed that the community was barred from utilizing their land in 2018, intensifying hunger in their area since many of them were farmers, who used their land for agricultural production.

Community members report that eight individuals have lost their lives due to lack of food, compelling many residents to turn to illegal fishing as a desperate means of survival.

Mrs. Nakato revealed to Witness Radio that two of her family members including her husband and son were arrested, by the army, all accused of illegal fishing. She attributed all this chaos to the arrival of the Buvuma oil palm project, which disrupted their lives. Currently, she is renting in Tojjo village, grappling with the challenges of her daily life.

“To secure a living for our family, my husband had turned to fishing. However, he was apprehended by the army three years ago, and accused of illegal fishing. Subsequently, our son, who stepped in to shoulder the responsibilities, was also arrested six months ago on the same charge of illegal fishing,” a teary Nakato revealed.

One of the Buvuma Counsellors, affirms that residents have been waiting for the government’s compensation for over 9 years but in vain.

“People are facing dire circumstances, with some even losing their lives. The lack of available land for cultivation has left many without enough food to eat. The dreams of young girls and boys are being shattered as their parents struggle to afford school fees. Meanwhile, the prices of land are on the rise, and we fear that the government may compensate based on outdated valuations from four years ago. It is essential that they receive fair compensation because the project was intended to benefit them, not push them into poverty,” the leader emphasized.

He added, “We have pleaded with the government on numerous occasions to compensate our people, but they keep assuring us that payment will happen soon. However, this promised time never arrives, and people continue to suffer in anguish.”

The Buvuma oil palm project is part of the five oil palm hubs set up by the National oil palm project. The others are, Kalangala; Mayuge (Mayuge, Bugiri, and Namayingo); Greater Masaka (Kyotera, Kalungu, and Masaka); and Greater Mukono (Mukono and Buikwe.

In 2018, the Government of Uganda (GoU) received a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to finance a ten-year National Oil Palm Project (NOPP). The project with a total financing of US$ 216.2 million is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) as the Lead Project Agency, in partnership with other agencies, the private sector, and farmer Organizations.

Oil palm Buvuma Limited is mandated to develop seedlings and ensure production, while BIDCO takes center in refining, farmer associations are key partners in the Farmer organization, and MAAIF is key in monitoring and scaling the project as well as ensuring there is land acquisition.

But Mr. Sserunjoji William, the district’s Senior Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (Deputy CAO), who also acts as the National oil palm project focal person, told Witness Radio that the government is in the process of finalizing the valuation assessments to kickstart the compensation.

“Indeed, we have not compensated the community members, and I acknowledge the concerns raised. However, the government requires time to assess land ownership meticulously to ensure accurate compensation for the rightful individuals. We are currently in the process of conducting these assessments, and soon, this year the community members will receive their compensation.” Mr. Sserunjoji added.

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Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to hear an Appeal filed by CSOs which seeks to reinstate a petition against the construction of the EACOP project tomorrow.



By Witness Radio team.

In a stirring development for environmental and human rights advocacy in East Africa, the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is set to hear an appeal that four East African civil society organizations (CSOs) filed to re-instate the petition challenging the construction of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

The organizations spearheading this appeal include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) from Uganda, the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) also from Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ) based in Kenya, and the Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL) from Tanzania.

This appeal comes in response to a ruling handed down in November 2023 by the Court of First Instance at the EACJ, which dismissed the case on ground that it was filed out of time.

The pipeline, spanning 1443 kilometers from Uganda to Tanzania, has been met with fierce opposition from many groups and environmental activists all over the world, who argue that it violates key East African and international treaties, as well as laws safeguarding human rights, environmental conservation, biodiversity, and the protection of Lake Victoria.

According to activists, the EACOP project is traversing through sensitive ecosystems, including protected areas and internationally significant wetlands, posing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems that local communities depend on for their sustenance posing grave environmental risks.

Furthermore, the project also termed as a curse by the majority of the would-be beneficiaries due to displacement of thousands of individuals from their ancestral lands, and human rights violations/abuses.

Despite the setback of the initial dismissal, the four organizations pressed forward their pursuit of justice.

In their appeal, groups contend that the Court of First Instance erred in its ruling, and want the Appellate Division to reinstate their case.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of AFIEGO, expressed that they remain resolute in their pursuit of justice through the East African Court of Justice and other courts.

He further mentions that millions of East Africans have high hopes in the regional court to protect their socio-economic and environmental rights and help them continue advancing their aspirations for climate change mitigation and clean energy.

Mr. Kamugisha added that they maintained hope that the court would prioritize the rights of East Africans over the profit-seeking endeavors of large corporations, even if it came at the expense of people.

According to the Executive Director of Natural Justice, Ms. Farida Aliwa, the EACOP and related projects have already led to serious human rights abuses, including evictions, assaults and environmental destruction

“In the interests of justice, we believe that this case needs to be heard at the East African Court of Justice, as a positive outcome will be good for the East African people and planet. The Court has the power to affirm that the governments, investors, and companies violate both national and international laws and that the EACOP project must be stopped. We trust that the East African Court of Justice will see this, and decide to hear the merits of this case.” She revealed.

The case will be heard tomorrow 9:00 East Africa Standard Time at the Court of Appeal of the East African Court of Justice.

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PFZW scraps funding from Total and others for failure to transition into a cleaner energy mix.



By Witness Radio team.

In a significant move towards aligning its investments with environmental goals, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) has announced its decision to disinvest from fossil fuel giants such as Shell and Total.

This decision comes after two years of intensive engagement with fossil fuel companies, during which PFZW sought to encourage the development of climate transition plans in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

PFZW is the pension fund for the care and welfare sector based in the Netherlands. PFZW invests the contributions paid by employers and employees to achieve a high, stable, and responsible return over the long term at an acceptable level of risk. The fund invests globally in the investment categories of variable-yield securities and fixed-income securities. The pension fund had a total of € 217 billion of assets under management at the end of 2022.

According to PFZW, 310 oil and gas companies failed to demonstrate a clear transition to a cleaner energy mix.

Some of the big oil and gas companies that PFZW parted ways with are Total, Shell, and BP among others. These major corporations have frequently faced criticism for investing in fossil fuel projects.

For example, Total, among other projects putting the World climate at risk, is advocating for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga projects in western Uganda. Despite, environmental experts warning of potential environmental damage, Total has persisted in heavily funding these projects.

PFZW’s disinvestment strategy is part of its broader commitment to sustainability and responsible investing. The PFZW fund has sold its stakes in 310 oil and gas companies, totaling 2.8 billion euros, for failure to demonstrate a clear transition to cleaner energy sources.

During this period, dialogue with oil and gas companies was significantly intensified to encourage them to produce verifiable transition plans that support the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Joanne Kellermann, chair of the board of PFZW said that “the intensive shareholder dialogue over the past two years with the oil and gas sector on climate has made it clear to us that most fossil fuel companies are not prepared to adapt their business models to ‘Paris’. While the largest companies in this sector do invest in sustainable forms of energy, the switch from fossil to low carbon is not nearly fast enough. Incidentally, this reflects the slow pace we see globally in the transition to renewable energy.”

According to PFZW, seven listed oil and gas companies with a compelling climate transition strategy will remain part of the portfolio. This contributes to the goal of investing more in companies that play a positive role in the global energy transition.

Despite parting ways with numerous fossil fuel companies, PFZW will continue to invest in seven oil and gas companies that have demonstrated a commitment to transitioning towards renewable energy sources. These companies, including Cosan S.A., Galp Energia, and Neste Oyj, are regarded as frontrunners in the energy sector due to their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies.

“The seven companies we will continue to invest in are the only ones that show a switch is possible. At the same time, it is disappointing that there are only seven. We encourage the biggest players in the oil and gas sector to also accelerate the switch to a cleaner energy mix.” She revealed.

Furthermore, to significantly increase its investments in companies focused on improving the climate and energy transition, allocating two billion euros over the next two years to companies with measurable impacts on climate and the energy transition reflecting PFZW’s dedication to achieving a climate-neutral investment portfolio by 2050, with interim goals such as a 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2030 for equities, liquid credit, and real estate.

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Museveni grants avocado growing investor 5 square miles of refugee camp land



President Museveni has granted investors permission to use part of the land, where Kyaaka One and Kyaaka Two refugee camps sit, for avocado growing.

Museveni, in his letter dated January 30, 2024, directed the minister of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, Hon. Hillary Onek, to secure 10 square miles of land (2,600 hectares) off the two refugee camps of Kyaaka one and Kyaaka two.

The president says half of the land will go to avocado-growing investors, while the other half will be used to develop an industrial part in the area.

“One purpose is for an Investor to use 5 Square Miles and develop a plantation of Avocadoes, with value addition facilities for the Avocadoes being part of the package. Avocado oil is important for use in the manufacturing of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The other square miles will be used to develop an industrial Park for that area,” the letter reads in part.

Museveni says the industrial park and avocado plantation will create approximately 200,000 jobs for Ugandans.

“An industrial Park in that area would create a lot of jobs, and so would a big plantation of avocadoes, apart from the other benefits for the Country. Namanve Industrial Park will create 200,000 jobs when it is fully developed,” the letter adds.

Museveni also noted that he had been informed that part of the land was invaded by land grabbers and promised to visit the area in April 2024, directing that the 10 square miles be secured from the available land.

“I intend to come and meet those people who invaded a well known Government land in April 2024. In the meantime, I want the 10 Square Miles from the surviving Refugee Camp of Kyaaka. That is the size of 11 Square Miles“, he said.

He says the industrial Parks would give Uganda the tax money to support both the citizens and the Refugees.

Original Source: Chimp reports  Via

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