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Sweden postpones carbon payment to Uganda tree farm where locals have been evicted

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A planned disbursement of SEK 10 million by the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) for emissions reductions produced by the Kachung plantation in Uganda, owned by the Norwegian company Green Resources, has been delayed due to on-going concerns about the project. Development Today has learned that the Swedes were about to give a green light last week but put on the brakes.

The delay coincides with the publication of the Berkley-based Oakland Institute’s third critical report on the Kachung plantation. Entitled “Evicted for Carbon Trading,” the report was released last Thursday (August 29), and presents evidence that farmers have over the years been evicted by Green Resources and its Ugandan subsidiaries to make room for the plantation. It also raises questions about the validity of certification received by the project from three international bodies, including the Forest Stewardship Council and CDM.

Ola Westberg at the Swedish Energy Agency tells Development Today that the payment delay is not related to Oakland’s report, which the agency rejects out of hand.

“As far as we can see the report contains no new information and the conclusions arrived at by Oakland do not match those of the independent audit that we have implemented,” the agency writes in a statement released one day after the Oakland report was published.

Rather, the delay is related to the Swedish Energy Agency’s own assessment of the project, Westberg says.

The Swedish agency had planned for a transfer last week of certified emissions credits produced by the Kachung plantation in Uganda and approved by the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – equivalent to 192,000 tonnes of CO2.

“The plan was to go through with the transfer last week,” says Ola Westberg at the Swedish Energy Agency to Development Today. Once the credits are transferred, the agency has 30 days to pay SEK 10 million to Green Resources, which owns the plantation. Westberg says the agency is “still reviewing the progress report from Green Resources. [The transfer] could happen any day, but probably not this week … There will be no transfer of certified emissions credits until the agency is satisfied.”

PAYMENT SCHEDULE

The plantation, located in Northern Uganda, is surrounded by 17 villages. Though the land being used by Green Resources to plant pine trees is formally owned by the government, thousands of people have used the area for farming and cattle grazing. While the company plans to earn SEK 35 million by selling carbon credits to the Swedish state, the treatment of people in the area has been at the heart of the controversy that has dogged this project for almost a decade.

Back in 2011, the Swedish Energy Agency signed a SEK 35 million agreement with Green Resources for the purchase of 365,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions from the company’s pine plantation in Kachung, Northern Uganda. The payments would be made over a 20-year period, with the first disbursement of SEK 1.2 million taking place in 2013.

According to the agreement’s payment schedule, a second disbursement for emissions reductions achieved during the five-year period (2013-2017) was to be made last year.

But the cooperation was frozen in 2015 when media reports and the energy agency’s own site visits revealed that the situation of affected people was worse than Green Resources had led the agency to believe. The agency stated in a press release at the time that “villagers were deprived of vital resources and experienced threats and violence, and there is a lack of clarity regarding ownership in the reserve.”

Following the freeze in 2016, Green Resources presented a road map detailing how it would improve its dealings with communities affected by the plantation. This included a ten-point action plan on areas like food security, water availability, cattle grazing and roads. The Swedish agency welcomed the move, but warned that future carbon payments were “conditional on the implementation of concrete actions to improve the situation.”

The agency stated: “We believe we can do more for local people by taking responsibility and making demands on Green Resources … than by pulling out of the project.”

AUDITS

Since then, the Swedes have called for two independent audits – one published in March 2017 and the other in November 2018, both carried out by the South African consultancy EOH– to assess Green Resources’ progress on the ten points in the action plan. The first audit was largely positive, but found that “no significant actions” had been taken to boost agricultural land productivity, diversify income-generating activities and improve food security. It also referred to several ongoing court cases related to land ownership disputes, urging the company to find a solution “as soon as possible.”

Development Today has obtained a copy of the second EOH audit. It points to numerous shortcomings: “Food security, ineffective communication … complaints from communities associated with corruption, land-rights issues, as well as community access to forest resources” are areas of significant concern. Green Resources is deemed by the consultants to be “partially compliant or non-compliant” on a range of key interventions. “Most … lack specific measurable key performance indicators,” making it difficult to assess compliance. In spite of a commitment to undertake road maintenance after the rainy season, “no firm plans for this are in evidence as yet.” The consultants found “no water quality monitoring data for the current year [or] … a planning schedule for natural water point rehabilitation interventions.” Moreover, the EOH report states, “the provision of health centre support and provision of drug supplies to these facilities has seemingly not been undertaken for the 2018 period.”

Westberg says Green Resources has made improvements in several areas since the 2018 audit, but that the Swedish Energy Agency is still assessing the progress.

OAKLAND INSTITUTE REPORT

The Oakland Institute’s latest report on Kachung criticises the EOH audit from 2017, which stated that “no person had been displaced or evicted” and that the company did not acquire “Kachung land forcefully.” Oakland’s report includes facsimiles of eviction notices signed by Green Resources’ Ugandan subsidiaries. “The eviction notices and letters released with this report make it clear that [EOH]’s claims are false,” Oakland writes.

The authors also take to task the most recent certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, which took place in May 2019. Oakland questions FSC’s claim that that there are no “current unresolved disputes over tenure and use rights,” and there are “effective dispute and grievance procedures that is accepted in the community.”

Commenting on the eviction notices, Westberg does not dispute that evictions took place. The plantation is on national forest reserve land where people are not permitted to live, he says: “Compare it with the situation in Sweden and Norway. What would happen if someone settled in our national forest reserve?  That would also be against the law. There are laws there as well as up here in Scandinavia. That is how I made sense of it.”

The Swedish agency states that it invited Oakland Institute to have dialogue and to participate in the investigation of the project on-site in Uganda, but Oakland has declined.

Asked why they did not participate in SEA’s investigation, Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of Oakland Institute, says to Development Today: “It is very obvious that what the people of Kachung need is not another audit. What they need is true action from the Swedish Energy Agency to stop facilitating this land grab by Green Resources and effectively address the issues and problems communities face as a result of the project.”

Green Resources has funding from two Nordic development finance institutions, Norfund and Finnfund.

Rasi Rajala, Communications Director at Finnfund, says he appreciates Oakland Institute’s concern for smallholder farmers in Uganda. “We encourage them to visit the Green Resources plantation and discuss more closely with the local team there. As for their latest report, it does not appear to contain any substantial new information,” he says.

Like the Swedish Energy Agency and Finnfund, Norfund finds there to be “limited new information” in the Oakland report. “We have no reason to doubt that the audits conducted by FSC and other auditors have been of a high standard,” Inger Nygaard, Communications Manager at Norfund, says.

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land, livelihood and investment

Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation

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African leaders at the FOCA meeting in 2018

Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA |  The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.

Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.

Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.

Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.

Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.

Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.

The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,

Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.

Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.

“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.

A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.

  • –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
  • –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
  • –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.

Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

****

XINHUA

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land, livelihood and investment

Trauma and wounds caused by evictions in Kiryandongo still fresh three years down the road…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kiryandongo-Uganda -Anna Maria Mukabariyanga a mother of four is one of the people that have tested the wrath of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It’s one of the multinational companies that have evicted over 35000 people to pave way for different projects

Mukabariyanga a resident of ranch 23 was attacked by security operatives of Kiryandongo Sugar, beaten, and thrown out of her house on the fateful night that left many homeless.

She was pregnant and in the process, she had a miscarriage.

“I was 8 months pregnant when the armed operatives attacked us, beat me up on the back. My husband was away and had no one to come to my rescue. I was thrown down by one of the evictors who continued beating me,” Says Anna Maria Mukabariyaga.

“In five days, I started bleeding but could not go to the hospital because I did not have money and later on I lost my lost child. However, I was later taken to Kiryandongo Hospital by neighbors in the area I had moved to”. She adds.

Such violent repression is the tale of villagers in Kiryandongo who were never consulted or given information privy to the eviction.

“I heard notices over the radio that, people should prepare to have their land valued for compensation but that did not trickle down to us in form of meetings”. Said 78-year old Bakaikara Edward, a resident of Kakoba village, Kitwala Sub County in Kiryandongo district.

Bakaikara says, the advert ran for two months and later evictions started.

“I was born and raised on this land by the late Kamiri Kajula. My siblings and I have been staying here since childhood. They cultivated and lived on 400 hectares as a family”. He narrates.

“I had also developed the land as a farmer, but all crops were destroyed, I have nothing to feed the family on.” He added.

“Our hearts are broken. Our children are not going to school and we do not have food. We are very angry and hungry too,” Another resident only identified as Joyce chorused in as Mr. Bakaikara told his story.

Before the agribusiness companies came in, Badudu and the other small farmers of Kiryandongo planted beans, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts, cassava, and mangoes, and reared pigs, goats, and cows.

Much of their former land is now occupied by sugarcane, coffee, soya, and maize which are all solely exported for profits.

Joseph Walekula one of the community leaders in Kiryandongo says, many people have been turned into beggars and reduced to working on land that they used to own.

“When Kiryandongo sugar company limited came in, people lost their land, no due compensation was done. Many people joined refugee camps where they live up to now, others ran away, and we don’t know where they are.” Says Mr. Walekula.

This is all happening under the watch of government bodies and security agencies like Police that have instead turned against the communities in defense of the investors.

Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by the Rai dynasty operating agribusiness and timber activities in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, which was listed in the Panama Papers database

It arrived in 2017, owns about 2400 hectares of sugarcane plantation project in Kiryandongo, and one of the three multinational projects that have continuously evicted people in the area.

Others are the; Great Season SMC Limited, a Dubai-based company reportedly owned by Sudanese businessmen building a coffee plantation on 1,165 hectares, and Agilis Partners, a company owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors establishing a large-scale grains farm on around 3,850 hectares.

 

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land, livelihood and investment

CONFIRMED! Abducted lawyers found at Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police Force at Kireka…

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By witnessradio.org Team

23rd/12/2020; Kampala – Uganda – It is confirmed that the five lawyers that were abducted by unidentified armed men are being held at the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police based at Kireka, a Kampala suburb. The development happened after lawyers, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) were granted access to speak to them today. UHRC is a constitutional body in Uganda mandated to protect, promote, and uphold human rights in Uganda.

The five include Kampala-based renowned lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, members of the Witness Radio legal team Anthony Odur, and Esomu Simon Peter Obure.

Others include Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa, a National Unity Platform (NUP) human rights Officer.

Members of our legal team  were given chance to speak to the human rights commission and disclosed the brutal arrests during their abduction

According to Esomu and Odur, they were beaten inside a van that was used to abduct them and they had bruises on their body. While Nicholas Opiyo was in a jovial mood at the time of speaking to lawyers and UHRC teams.

Elly Womanya, the SIU commandant confirmed that the victim lawyers were given medication at their arrival, however, did not name which agency abducted the lawyers.

At the time of writing this article, all the victim lawyers had no idea about the cause of their arrest, had not recorded statements and no charges were preferred against them.

However, via its social media channels, police accuse Opiyo and the four of money laundering.

The five lawyers yesterday at 2:45 PM Uganda time were abducted from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.

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