Report: Palm Oil Project Hurts Land, Residents in Uganda

The environmental group Friends of the Earth-Uganda released a report Monday describing human rights violations and environmental destruction in pursuit of biofuels by a foreign joint venture. The report follows the planting of almost 10,000 hectares of palm oil plantations by BIDCO - an East African oilseed company - with World Bank and Ugandan government support.

The plantations are on islands that had been covered completely with forests, off the coast of Lake Victoria in Kalangala. The hectares that have been planted so far take up about one-quarter of the islands’ land area.

The report says many farmers in the area were contracted initially to grow palm oil plants, but were forced to sell their land because of debts, low income from palm oil, and no food crops. Other farmers were chased off their land.

Unfulfilled promises

Frank Muramuzi, executive director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, said BIDCO Uganda promised area residents jobs and electricity.

“Most of the jobs are done by non-residents, the communities living in that area. They get people from Nairobi, they get people from Sudan, they get people from some other places," said Muramuzi. "So you find that those people who had been owning that land, who had been living on that land, they do not get the jobs. The other thing, you are telling people that they are going to get electricity, cheap electricity, and every household will be electrified. But when you go there, they do not have electricity.”

He said the company violated a condition of the government’s Environmental Impact Assessment that requires a 200-meter buffer zone between the shores of the lake and the project, with disastrous results.

“You are spraying the agro-chemicals, and they are going into the lake, and a result the fish are dying. These people have been for a long time living on fish - they have been fishermen and fisherwomen. These people no longer catch fish, and the fish that is there is contaminated,” said Muramuzi.

The Ugandan government initiated its palm oil project in Kalangala district in 2002 with investors through a joint venture between the Wilmar Group of Malaysia, BIDCO Oil Refineries of Kenya, and another company. The joint venture resulted in the formation of BIDCO Uganda Limited and Oil Palm Uganda Limited.

Ugandan government defends deal

The $150-million project is the single largest foreign direct investment in Uganda. The Ugandan government says the project is expected to make the East African country fully self-sufficient in edible oils, saving $100 million in oil imports annually.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opoloti said he thinks BIDCO has been successful in employing local Ugandans, and that his government insisted on local job creation as a condition of investment.

“The number of people in the islands is quite great, and it would be unreasonable to expect BIDCO to employ all the people in the islands, but I know a great number of people have been employed,” he said.

Opoloti said local residents will be getting electricity soon through a country-wide rural electrification program.

Environmental concerns

Regarding environmental issues, he said the project underwent a full environmental assessment before it began.

“The environmental department of government is closely monitoring the operations of BIDCO. If there is any sort of digression, government is certainly going to deal with it, and it is taking it absolutely seriously,” said Opoloti.

At a meeting with investors on March 1, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pledged an additional 8,000 hectares to enhance the project.

BIDCO managing director Kodey Rao was unavailable for comment. At the March 1 meeting, he said small-scale farmers would earn about $1,400 per acre per year from the cultivation of palm oil trees.

The report was released just before the convening of a World Bank conference on land and poverty. The project is receiving some funding from the World Bank.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs