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Our #BAD11 contribution – How could a UK forest company be keeping people hungry in Uganda?

16 October 2011

LCID member Serena O’Sullivan writes for us on World Food Day

Today, October 16th 2011, is World Food Day. And it coincides with Blog Action Day (or #BAD11 for tweeters) – 24 hours of social action by bloggers around the world, who write on a different subject every year, this year being FOOD. A happy coincidence!

The Labour Campaign for International Development and its supporters blogged on water last year for Blog Action Day and today we’re blogging about the impact of a UK forest company on hunger in Uganda, and it’s not the simplest story.

A couple of weeks ago, Oxfam International launched a damning report regarding the ‘land grabs’ happening across the developing world, and presented a detailed case study on one incident in Uganda. ‘Land grabs’ are the result of land becoming a very valuable and scarce resource for companies, so they are simply reaching into developing countries and taking land to serve their purposes, with a complete disregard for legislation, and the human rights of those living and working on that land. Results are horrifying – with people unable to grow their own food from the land and hunger and food aid dependency swiftly following.

Oxfam has found that the UK-based New Forests Company (NFC) may have been grabbing land in Uganda – making up to 22,500 homeless and taking land which was used for school buildings and for crucial agriculture. The land was keeping these people sheltered, educated and fed.

Since the report was launched, there have been serious developments. Oxfam say in the past week, members of the evicted community have reported feeling intimidated and harassed after questioning by workers from NFC. They want people to take action by emailing NFC’s Chairman Robert Devereux, and demand his immediate attention to the issue.

And what role must the coalition government take in ensuring these atrocities stop? Oxfam recommends home country governments to:

  • require companies investing overseas to fully disclose their activities
  • ensure that standards and safeguards are implemented to protect small-scale food producers and local populations, including through development finance organisations like the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation.
  • remove measures in national legislation that support reckless large-scale land acquisitions, including biofuels mandates, and avoid introducing new ones.

As LCID members – what do you think we could do to support government reform and to make sure UK registered companies are held accountable for their actions abroad?

Should we lobby the coalition for tighter regulations of UK companies? Should we highlight to the coalition and Labour of the atrocities taking place? In the meantime, do read Oxfam’s report, and take action on their site.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Becka Garrison permalink
    18 October 2011 07:43

    This is the most uninformed piece I’ve read in weeks, related to the Oxfam piece. I suggest the author do a bit more homework before publishing such ridiculous inaccuracies. What’s critical to note is that the land on which NFC is planting trees is gazetted Central Forest Reserves (same protection level as a game park). Ugandan law stipulates that this land can only be used for forestry. It is, in fact, illegal to live, cultivate or graze cattle on this land. The people illegally occupying the land were well aware of it’s classification as Central Forest Reserve and were consulted for over a year before being given three months notice to find accommodation off of government protected property. NFC has been the actor most conscious of and adherent to the laws of Uganda. Laws I would suggest you research before attempting to comment on the issue.

  2. Gerard permalink
    18 October 2011 17:33

    Becka, this piece by the Guardian (http://bit.ly/ruBhJd) suggests these people had a right to the land. Is it possible that laws were changed specifically to allow for their eviction?

    IMHO people are suffering and it clearly needs investigation (http://oxf.am/4Hk).

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