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The African Development Bank and the Tree Plantations Industry

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“Plantations are not forests”, members of communities from Zambezia province, in Mozambique.

In June 2019, the report “Towards Large-Scale Commercial Investment in African Forestry,”
(1) made a call to development-funding agencies, mainly from Europe, and the World Bank,
to provide aid money to a new Fund for financing 100,000 hectares of (new) industrial tree
plantations, to support the potential development of 500,000 hectares, in Eastern and
Southern Africa. This money, according to the report, would be crucial for private investors to
generate profits from the plantations. The new Fund would be headquartered in the tax
haven of Mauritius.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and WWF Kenya produced this report with funding
from the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds. The purpose of the report is to assist the
AfDB “in evaluating and designing alternative private funding models for commercial forestry
in Africa with a view to ultimately establishing, or aiding the establishment of, a specialized
investment vehicle for commercial forestry plantations.” The report declares that the
development agencies from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United
Kingdom and The Netherlands are interested.
Essentially, the report is a praise to industrial monoculture plantations. It repeats, without
providing any evidence, most of the deceiving arguments that plantations companies use in
their propagandas to cover up the impacts of this devastating industry. The report’s focus is
on outlining the possible financial instruments that would attract companies to this region and
make their investments most profitable.
The report identifies “readily available projects with the potential to establish almost 500,000
ha of new forest (sic) on about 1 million ha of landscape, not including areas that existing
companies and developers are already planning to use for own expansion. It also excludes
early stage or speculative projects.” (italics added) In particular, the report identifies “viable
plantation land” in ten countries: Angola, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Malawi,
South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The report further affirms that “Africa may be positioned to have the most profitable
afforestation potential worldwide.” And, then, it goes into explaining the possible investment
schemes that can make profit-oriented business and afforestation objectives (from climate or
voluntary targets) to be aligned and, thus, generate more profits for shareholders.
None of the pages in the report mention, however, not even indirectly, the overwhelming
amount of information that evidences the many negative impacts that industrial plantations
cause to communities and their environments. The report’s authors chose to ignore
plantations companies’ destruction of forests and savannahs; erosion of soils; contamination
and dry-up of water sources; overall violence inflicted on communities which include
restriction of movement, criminalization when resistance emerges, abuse, harassment and
sexual violence in particular to women and girls; destruction of livelihoods and food
sovereignty; destruction of cultural, spiritual and social fabrics within and among
neighbouring communities; few precarious and hazardous jobs; unfulfilled “social” projects or
promises made to communities; destruction of ways of living; rise in HIV/AIDS; and the list
goes on.

In front of this, on September 21, 2020, the International Day of Struggle against
Monoculture Plantations, 121 organisations from 47 countries and 730 members from
different rural communities in Mozambique that are facing industrial tree plantations,
disseminated an open letter to demand the immediate abandonment of any and every
afforestation programme based on large-scale monoculture plantations. (2)
The report, nonetheless, brags about having used a “sector-wide consultation exercise.”
For the authors, the sector includes “industry participants ranging from investors, industrial
players, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) through to forestry fund managers
(…) To further enrich and triangulate inputs to the study, the team also participated in three
forestry industry events and consulted with a broad range of personal contacts in the sector.”
The report also mentions consultations made to Development Finance Institutions and
agencies as well as oil and other industrial companies. It is clear however how communities
living in or around the almost 500,000 hectares of land identified to be transformed into
industrial monocultures, are not considered part of the sector. Nor were considered the many
communities and groups that have been resisting for decades the plantations in the countries
the report use as examples: Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Brazil. (3)
The report further sustains that the NGO Conservation International confirmed “that it sees
potential in associating large global businesses with the forestry sector.” It further mentions
WWF and The Nature Conservancy – namely, the same category of NGOs mainly concerned
on promoting programs and policies that are aligned with corporate interests as an easy way
to keep their funding, projects and investments.
The purely financial focus of this report, with an eye on how to make most profits, should not
come as a surprise though. It was prepared by a company called Acacia Sustainable
Business Advisors (4), which was set up by Martin Poulsen, a development banker active in
rising private Equity Funds particularly in Africa. Equity Funds try to offer big returns by
spreading investments across companies from different sectors. (5) One co-author of the
report was Mads Asprem, the ex-director of Green Resources, a Norwegian industrial tree
plantation and carbon offsets company. Green Resources’ tree plantations in Mozambique,
Tanzania, and Uganda have resulted in land grabs, evictions, loss of livelihoods and
increased hunger for local communities. (6)

The report also shows the possible responses that investors could have to potential
“barriers”. One “structural barrier” identified is called “stakeholder relations,” a very vague
concept that seems to be related to possible conflicts with communities living in or around
the plantation projects. The term “conflicts” however is not mentioned once in the whole
report. The recommended response to this “barrier” is to “Use AfDB or other MDB
[Multilateral Development Bank] “honest broker” profile to convene stakeholders.” So it
seems that the strategy is to use development banks to make communities believe that the
project has the intention of improving (developing) people’s lives. Another “structural barrier”
identified in the report is “land tenure challenges,” to which the recommended response is to
“Follow FSC and other best practices.” This, of course, is recommended despite the vast
amount of information that shows how, in practice, FSC certifies as “sustainable” industrial
tree plantations that destroy peoples’ livelihoods.
When the climate and development agendas blend for profit
It is relevant to underline how the report makes use of the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDG) and the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the African region to
promote the further expansion of industrial plantations. It goes as far as to conclude that
“Channelling financial resources to such efforts [afforestation in the framework of the SDGs]
is within the mandate of international development organizations and special climate funds.”
The report also states that “preliminary interviews yielded information that some oil
companies are already forming alliances with sustainable forestry investment companies.”
This despite the fact that oil and gas companies are a fundamental driver of climate change,
which would undermine any possible positive outcome for the climate. Besides, these
‘alliances’ also give these companies an easy way out of any responsibility for their business
operations. This is clearly exemplified with the announcement of oil giant companies, such as
Italian ENI and Anglo-Dutch Shell, to invest in mega tree plantation projects to supposedly
“compensate” their mega levels of pollution they provoke. These two companies are
responsible for environmental disasters and crimes as a result of their fossil fuel activities in
many places across the globe. (7)
The African Development Bank is complicit in this strategy. While the Bank finances this
report encouraging the expansion of industrial plantations in Africa as a climate solution, it
finances in Mozambique a new gas extraction mega-project in the Cabo Delgado province,
undertaken by a consortium of companies including ENI.
This report is one more proof of how investments from profit-seeking corporations are put in
front of the social well being of people in the name of development and now also of
addressing climate change. There is no “unused” or “degraded” land available at the scale
proposed, which means countless people in Africa will be directly and indirectly affected if
this expansion plan materialise.
Another relevant omission of the report is how it bluntly assumes that the current scarcity of
investment in large-scale tree plantations in this African region is due to the few investment
opportunities available. However, the communities and groups on the ground organizing
almost on a daily basis to oppose the seizing of their lands and lives by these plantations
companies, have clear that their resistance has been successful to halt the expansion of
these plantations in many places. And as the open letter launched on September 21st said,

communities around the world “will certainly resist this new and insane expansion plan
proposed in the AfDB and WWF-Kenya.”

(1) AfDB, CIF, WWF, Acacia Sustainable, Towards large-scale investment in African forestry, 2019,
http://redd-monitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/towards_largescale_
commercial_investment_in_african_forestry.pdf
(2) Open Letter about investments in monoculture tree plantations in the Global South, especially in
Africa, and in solidarity with communities resisting the occupation of their territories, 2020,
https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/carta-con-firmas-en-inglés_upd201008.pdf
(3) See more information on resistance struggles against plantations here: https://wrm.org.uy/browseby-
subject/international-movement-building/local-struggles-against-plantations/
(4) Acacia Sustainable Business Advisors, https://www.acaciasba.com/about
(5) Groww, Equity Mutual Funds, https://groww.in/p/equity-funds/
(6) REDD-Monitor, How WWF and the African Development Bank are promoting lang grabs in Africa,
2020, https://redd-monitor.org/2020/09/22/international-day-of-struggle-against-monoculture-treeplantations-
how-wwf-and-the-african-development-bank-are-promoting-land-grabs-in-africa/ ; The
Expansion of Tree Plantations on Peasant Territories in the Nacala Territories: Green Resources in
Mozambique, 2018, https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/recommended/the-expansion-oftree-
plantations-on-peasant-territories-in-the-nacala-corridor-green-resources-in-mozambique/ ; WRM
bulletin, Green Resources Mozambique: More False Promises! 2018, https://wrm.org.uy/articles-fromthe-
wrm-bulletin/section1/green-resources-mozambique-more-false-promises/ ; WRM bulletin, Carbon
Colonialism: Failure of Green Resources’ Carbon Offset Project in Uganda, 2018,
https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section1/carbon-colonialism-failure-of-greenresources-
carbon-offset-project-in-uganda/ ; WRM bulletin, Tanzania: Community resistance against
monoculture tree plantations, 2018,
https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section1/tanzania-community-resistance-againstmonoculture-
tree-plantations/ ; and WRM bulletin, The farce of “Smart forestry”: The cases of Green
Resources in Mozambique and Suzano in Brazil, 2015, https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrmbulletin/
section1/the-farce-of-smart-forestry-the-cases-of-green-resources-in-mozambique-andsuzano-
in-brazil/
(7) REDD-Monitor, NGOs oppose the oil industry’s Natural Climate Solutions and demand that ENI
and Shell keep fossil fuels in the ground, 2019, https://wrm.org.uy/other-relevant-information/ngosoppose-
the-oil-industrys-natural-climate-solutions-and-demand-that-eni-and-shell-keep-fossil-fuels-in the-
ground /
WRM Bulletin

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Livelihood

Trauma and Land Loss: New Study Focuses on Mental Health of Evicted Indigenous People

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Kenyan security forces evict Ogiek people from the Mau Forest Complex in the  Rift Valley Region.

NAIROBI – At the foot of Kenya’s Mount Elgon on the border of Kenya and Uganda, the little-known indigenous community of Ogiek is living scattered in recently-built thatched huts and timber houses that belie not only their poverty but also the impermanence that followed their eviction by the government a year ago from their native lands on the mountain.

From a life in the forest, this community of just over 50,000 people can no longer access their land to hunt small game, gather wild fruits and medicinal herbs or practice beekeeping, as their forefathers did.

They have instead been forced to eke out a living through subsistence farming and keeping livestock – a lifestyle borrowed from agrarian communities. As such, they are unable to afford school fees and sometimes even sufficient food for their children.

The Ogiek community has been fighting a longstanding battle with the Kenyan government which claims that the evictions were necessary to conserve indigenous forests.

However, Daniel Kobei, the executive director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP), blames the evictions on the destruction of the forest by multinational companies and uncontrolled encroachment in the Mau Forest Complex. The OPDP is a Kenya-based NGO that promotes the recognition and identity of the Ogiek indigenous community and its culture.

As recently as July 2020, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) personnel, with protection from the country’s security forces, have been driving the eviction process in defiance of a 2017 ruling of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights which recognised the Ogiek peoples’ right to their ancestral land, by evicting the community.

The community now finds itself thrust into an unfamiliar environment with their way of life grievously disrupted, making it difficult for them to cope – financially and emotionally.

Little Attention to Mental Strain of Evictions

Ogiek community members ponder on what to do next following their eviction from the Mau Forest Complex by Kenyan security forces.

While some local Kenyan and international groups have protested the evictions, the stress and mental health effects of the displacement have received little attention.

“When we talk about environmental changes, we often ignore the mental aspect that comes with it,” noted Billy Rwothungeyo of the Minority Rights Group International (MRG) told Health Policy Watch.

MRG is a human rights organisation that works to secure the rights of marginalized and indigenous communities around the world. It works in 150 countries, with its Africa office based in Kampala. It has a presence in Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Congo, Gambia, Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Egypt.

New Global Research Initiative Examines Mental Health Stress of Indigenous Communities

The Ogiek people are part of a new research initiative that will look into the mental strain faced by indigenous communities around the world facing evictions.

Indigenous communities in East Africa, Finland, Northern Thailand and India will participate in the global research project that looks at the emotional effects of environmental changes experienced by the world’s indigenous groups.

Dubbed Land Body Ecologies Research Group, the research will involve the Ogiek, the Batwa in Uganda, the Sámi in Finland, and the Pgak’yau in Northern Thailand. Communities living in the buffer zones of the Bannerghatta National Park in India will also take part.

The two-year research project, due to start in October, will involve human rights activists, mental health researchers, scientists and artists in a bid to understand solastalgia, a phenomenon defined as the emotional or existential suffering caused by environmental change. It is also commonly described as “the feeling of homesickness while still at home.”

Funded by the  Wellcome Trust Hub Award, the initiative will be led by Invisible Flock, an award-winning interactive arts studio based in London and MRG. The final project will take the form of an art exhibition in London.

“The space will be used to showcase results from the project, which will be open to the public, academics, media and other stakeholders,” explains Rwothungeyo.

“With around half of the world’s languages having no written form, art can act as a vehicle to bring forward alternative modes of expression not limited to human speech,” according to Victoria Pratt, artist and creative director of Invisible Flock in a press release

Pratt said that their approach is to tell multiple global stories at once, with the hope that through this process, solutions, answers, and meanings would be collectively conjured in the act of listening and retelling.

Indigenous Communities Continue to Lose Land.

A hut belonging to one of the Ogiek community members still smouldering following evictions carried out by the Kenyan security forces.

Indigenous communities all over the world have lost and continue to lose their ancestral lands due to encroachment from other communities and state-sanctioned evictions under the guise of forest conservation. This has brought with it environmental changes, which indigenous communities have had to live with, but whose mental and psychological toll is still not well understood, hence this new research effort.

To make matters worse, the minority groups say the global call to turn 30% of the world’s surface into protected areas by 2030 will displace hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples and traditional landowners.

Through the solastalgia research, the team aims to understand the lived experiences of land trauma on marginalised and indigenous communities.

Added to the food insecurities caused by environmental changes, indigenous communities also suffer increased incidence of diseases such as malaria, malnutrition, stomach disorders and respiratory diseases.

Involve Indigenous Communities More

“This research is supposed to inform such stakeholders as government and civil society to come up with more targeted measures to help marginalized communities, who are often overlooked in public policy,” added Rwothungeyo, maintaining that the study will also shed light on how these communities are being left behind and why governments should involve them more.

The OPDP’s Kobei said that even though the core objective of the research is to understand the mental predicament of indigenous communities brought on by environmental changes, they were hopeful that a learning center for the Ogiek culture will be established, following this study.

“If you talk to a 70-year-old Ogiek about the forest they have lost, he will talk in a very emotional manner,” said Kobei. “He will tell you of the kind of honey we used to harvest in the forest that is no more, the kind of hunting we used to undertake in the forest that is no more, the kind of herbs and clean water we used to get in the forest that are no more.”

Image Credits: Ogiek Peoples Development Program.

Original Source: Healthpolicy-watch.news

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Livelihood

How politically connected individuals abuse their powers to grab land for poor communities; a case of a Ugandan presidential aide

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Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo, (standing in the middle) in a meeting that was blocked by residents.

By witnessradio.org Team

As the demand for land for land based investments soars, the middleman’s role in the unlawful land transactions between investors and government agencies remains crucial in the broader scheme. The middleman business has become a lucrative venture in Uganda; more people are being recruited into it. For a public servant with access to vital information from land registries, the business is a goldmine. Middlemen are grabbing land for investors.

From the stage of land grabbing to investing, middlemen resort to the use of violence orchestrated by both police and other security agencies; at this point, high levels of impunity are exhibited, land rights defenders and land owners who demand for justice are then arrested for non-existent offences.

Witness Radio – Uganda records show that a reasonable percentage of grabbed land from poor communities in the country have for instance remained undeveloped.

In Mubende District, Central Uganda, residents accuse Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo a Senior Presidential Advisor for using her position to fraudulently acquire their land using police and officials from the Ministry of Lands. Ironically, Kabayo advises the President of Uganda on Pan-Africanism, and doubles as the Executive Secretary of the Pan African Women Organization’s PAWO Eastern Africa chapter, where she oversees the organization’s day-to-day activities.

Mubende District according to Witness Radio – Uganda figures, is ranked as one of the districts with the highest incidents of forced and illegal evictions and has registered with more than five cases since the year 2021 started.

Mubende District is bordered by Kyankwanzi District to the north, Kiboga District, Kassanda to the northeast and Mityana District to the east. Gomba district and Sembabule District lie to the south, whereas Kyegegwa District to the southwest and Kibaale District to the northwest.

Mrs. Kabayo with her political influence is allegedly using survey and boundary opening tactics to grab 625 Ha of land for thousands of inhabitants, which she has never lived on or owned.

According to locals, this is not the first time for the presidential advisor to engage into land grabbing, in 2017 while accompanied by the police in Mubende, she forcefully surveyed and grabbed 20 square miles and now wants to expand.

It is anticipated if Kabayo succeeds with the land grab, more than 5000 people on five villages comprising Kattambogo A, Kattambogo B, Rwobushumi, Rwonkubi and Nyaruteete, in Kigando-Buwekula Sub County in Mubende district, will lose their livelihood.

A letter dated 29th March, 2021, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Docus Okalanyi which Witness Radio – Uganda obtained a copy, okayed the move by the president’s advisor to open boundaries on land located at block 379 and all adjacent blocks which include: 378, 380 and 381 a process which the residents opposed.

Without any prior notice to the residents, Kabayo accompanied by the officers from Ministry of Lands, State House officials, and security personnel for the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police had planned to conduct a rally at Nyarutete, one of the 5 villages, but was blocked by the angry residents.

Mr. Ruzhoga Laurent, 53, a resident of the village from birth, said, they have been facing threats of forced evictions for the last three years by Kaboyo. He asserted that his family would not leave the land for an imposter. Ruzhoga added that he would only leave as a corpse.

Jordan Byakatonda, an area land committee, chairperson said, the land targeted is public land with people on living on it.

He said, any person who wishes to get a leasehold on public land must first show his or her interest in the land before picking application Form 8 from the District Land Office or Area Land Committee, fill it, and attach 4 passport photos. He stated that the area land committee’s mandate involves receiving applications and issuing notices for public hearings concerning land ownership using Form 10, Byakatonda observed that Kaboyo had not engaged the committee during the process.

Information Sources from Mubende district preferring anonymity for security reasons accused some government officials of manipulating the stated legal procedures and guidelines. “Everything is coming from the center (ministry) instead of starting from an area where the land is located”, said the source.

“The first time we saw her, she was grabbing land and now she has come back to take ours. When she was asked by the land probe committee headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire why she had surveyed the land forcibly, she replied that she never surveyed any land and did not know those people,” another villager who preferred anonymity said.

According to guidelines of Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Planning Act, 2010 and Land Act, Cap 227, state that;

Any applicant for a leasehold on the public land must have in his/her possession fully completed form 4,10,19 23, a set of 3 authentic deed plans, 3 passport photographs, receipts of payment and a forwarding letter requesting for a freehold title signed by the District Land officer of the respective district where the land is located.

Step 2

The applicant presents the full set of original documents in duplicate and a photocopy of the same to the department of land administration for checking.

The photocopy is stamped received and returned to the applicant. The applicant checks with the department of land administration after 10 working days to confirm their approval or rejection.

Step 3

Once approved the documents are forwarded to the department of the land registration for issuance of a freehold land title. The applicant checks after 20 working days.

Step 4

The applicant presents the photocopy given to him/her by the department of land administration stamped, received and identification documents on collecting the freehold Title. The applicant signs for the title and the photocopy is stamped returned on completion.

Documents required include; Deed plans, set of passport photographs, general receipts of payment and a requesting letter. Fees paid at the ministry. Registration fees-10,000#, Assurance of the title- 20,000#, issuance of the title-20,000#.

The preliminary steps that involve the Area Land Committee were not complied with by Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo as she acquired land that accommodates thousands of people.

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Livelihood

Witness Radio welcomes the World Bank’s intervention into Kawaala drainage channel project affected persons…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – Witness Radio Uganda has welcomed the World Bank’s decision to intervene into its funded project which is dispossessing poor urban dweller at Kawaala Zone II, Lubaga division, Kampala district.

On March 4th, 2021, the World Bank Team held its first ever virtual meeting with other stakeholders including the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) over a forceful implementation Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP 2) project.

On top of running to court to stop an illegal eviction, the residents through Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers raised a complaint to the World Bank to restrain its grantee (KCCA) from imposing a project they (residents) never participated in from the start.

In 2015, KCCA acquired USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) was earmarked to construct Lubigi Primary Channel.

Without following business and human rights standards, KCCA started using tricks aimed dispossessing the poor urban community at Kawaala including; hiding under section 72(1) cap 281 of the Public Health Act, and issued a notice to dwellers to pull down what it termed illegal structures erected on their land or otherwise, KCCA would do so at the cost of residents, just to cause a property loss to them.

In a meeting chaired by Martin Onyach-Olaa, a Task Team Leader, Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank, faulted KCCA for failing to engage community including taking the contractor to the ground without their notice.

“The project affected community have valid grievances, which must be attended to in the interest of Kawaala project” Said Onyach-Olaa

The representatives from the affected community accused KCCA of intimidation, undertaking a forceful survey, sidelining and usurping powers of elected local leaders, extortion and undermining business and human rights standards before and during the implementation of the World Bank project.

“I was threatened and forced to participate in KCCA valuation exercise of my properties and I never understood what was done. I was even lured to sign on certain documents that were in a language they never explained and no copy was left with me. I am opposed to the KCCA’s working and I will not allow them to come back on my property: Said Segue Abbas.

He added that when he sought wise counsel from his lawyers, he just realized that he had been duped.

Among other recommendations, KCCA was advised to embark on an inclusive exercise to identity project affected persons, properties to be affected by the project and ensure that surveys and property valuation exercises are undertaken in accordance within the law.

About the Grievance Redress Committee the KCCA claims they elected, the World Bank saw it important that the Grievance Redress Committee be put in place with a complaint book and functional internal appeal mechanism.

It was further emphasized that no Kawaala resident will be forcefully lose his/her under a project being funded by the World Bank.

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