News

    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.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora