Tag Archives: africa

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar

Note: Yet again, so-called “developing” country communities are left holding the bag for the attempts of the so-called “industrialized” countries to have “clean” “renewable” energy that is neither.  It may not be fossil fuel, but it is devastating none the less.

–The GJEP Team

By  • Dec 26, 2013

Linus Orok (left) and Patrick Chi of Ekong Anaku village, Nigeria

This is the second of a series of interviews about resistance to the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations in West and Central Africa.

Members of communities affected by these monoculture plantations and civil society organizations from Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia met in Calabar, Nigeria from 2–5 November 2013. They shared testimonies and analysis of the consequences of the rapid and brutal expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations by multinational companies in different communities and countries.

Also read about community organizer Nasako Besingi’s experience of being beaten, arrested and sued for supporting villagers in Cameroon defending their lands from US hedge fund Herakles Capital.

The people of Ekong Anaku Village had a difficult decision to make. Their village in southeastern Nigeria lies in one of the countries’ few remaining tropical rainforests. Conservation groups and the federal government wanted it conserved as a reserve. The villagers were keen for the extra protection against illegal logging, but they were worried about losing access to the hunting, foods and medicines the forest provides them and to lands that future generations would need for farming.

So in 1992 they made a deal with the government. They agreed to allow the conversion of a 10,000 ha section of their traditional forest into a reserve. In exchange, the government promised to provide programmes for agroforestry and rural development and credit for small farms and businesses.

“The government’s promises were only ever on the drawing board,” says Linus Orok, a village leader from Ekong Anaku village. “And this was only a small piece of the betrayal we encountered.”

Ten years after convincing Ekong Anaku village to hand over its forest for conservation, the governor of Cross River State gifted the same lands to a company owned by Nigeria’s president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“They never consulted us, not even the local chiefs,” says Orok.

Obasanjo’s company, Obasanjo Farms, planned to convert the 10,000 ha of forest into a large scale oil palm plantation. It lacked the capacity, however, and soon turned to outside investors.

In 2011, having acquired the lands for free and invested very little of his own money, Obasanjo turned around and sold the lands to Wilmar International, which controls 45 percent of global production of palm oil. The locals say that Obasanjo’s company was paid millions of dollars under the deal.

With the support of the Rainforest Resource Development Centre (RRDC), the Ekong Anaku villagers have been fighting to get their lands back ever since.

“The land was never Obasanjo’s to sell,” says Orok. “If you buy something stolen, then you cannot say it is yours.”

Wilmar, however, has already established a large oil palm nursery and has cleared some lands for planting.

Patrick Chi, another resident of Ekong Anaku, says the villagers are open to developing some form of partnership with Wilmar on the existing plantation lands, but it has to be based on an understanding that the lands belong to the community.

“We want it to be our plantation,” says Chi.

Wilmar oil palm nursery, Cross River State, Nigeria

Orok explains that the villagers have three basic demands: the existing plantation must be operated as a partnership; there can be no expansion beyond the areas that have already been cleared for planting; and, the government must identify and provide the village with an alternative area of land of equal size where they can farm.

“We need land now,” says Chi. “Our village is starving.”

So far, Wilmar’s kept quiet about the controversy. TheRRDC brought a complaint forward to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, of which Wilmar is a member, but neither the company nor the RSPO have acted to address thespecific complaints made about the illegal acquisition of the Ekong Anaku community’s traditional lands.

Even if the communities do succeed in getting some form of partnership with Wilmar, there’s no guarantee that they will benefit from it. A newly released documentary film looks into Wilmar’s operations in Uganda, where it runs a plantation and outgrower scheme in partnership with the local communities of Kalangala Island. In the film, community members describe how the little they have gained from the arrangement in no way compensates for the loss of food crops and forests and the environmental destruction caused by Wilmar’s operations.

In early December, Wilmar announced a new company policy, pledging – among other things – to “respect and recognize the long-term customary and individual rights of indigenous and local communities, and commit to ensuring legal compliance as well as international best practices in free, prior and informed consent are implemented”. The “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy” also states that no new land development will occur until research and consultation over the conversion of “high carbon stock forests” is finalized.

The company has committed itself to “resolve all complaints and conflicts through an open, transparent and consultative process.” This corner of southeastern Nigeria would be an ideal place to see if Wilmar’s statement is anything more than a public relations exercise.

Regardless, the Ekong Anaku villagers know that their claims to the lands are on solid legal ground, and if they are unable to advance their demands through dialogue with Wilmar, they say they won’t hesitate to go to court.

This past year another company, owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Group, showed up looking for lands in a separate part of their territory for a pineapple plantation.

“Workers came to do a survey in October 2013 and our chief sent them away,” says Chi. “We told Dangote we don’t need them.”

The Ekong Anaku village welcomes international support for its land struggle with Wilmar. Patrick Chi can be contacted atmukotso@yahoo.com and Linus Orok can be contacted by phone at +234 703 448 9776

For more information about the case, please contact

Odey Oyama, Executive Director, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC)

email: odeyoyama@hotmail.com

Information about the documentary film, No Food No Land No Life is available here: http://nolandnofoodnolife.com/

This article originally appeared at


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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Oil, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Pastoralism and the Discrimination of Sustainable Livelihoods

By  • Nov 25, 2013 Source: Intercontinental Cry

A Pastoralist with her daughter in the Dollo Ado region of Ethiopia. Image by Flickr user @Giro555SHO (CC BY-ND 2.0).

A Pastoralist with her daughter in the Dollo Ado region of Ethiopia. Image by Flickr user@Giro555SHO (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The traditional way of life that centers around livestock herding for food, clothing, materials, and trade, known as pastoralism, has been developed over many centuries as a sustainable livelihood in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions. The pastoral lifestyle was found to be the best way to sustain society in these often harsh areas. 

As noted in the African Union’s Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa: “Pastoralism is found in all regions of Africa and in some regions, is the dominant livelihoods system… pastoral areas occupy about 40 percent of Africa’s land mass , albeit with significant variations between countries.” The policy framework also highlights that approximately 268 million pastoralists live all over the African continent, making the lifestyle a central part of Africa’s culture, history and heritage.

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

COP19 – the cathedral and the bazaar

By Trevor Davies, 14 November 2013, Source: Thought Leader

The people in suits want to talk and nothing will stop them from listening to the sound of their own voices. COP19, the global climate-change meeting, might seem far away in Warsaw, Poland, this week but like a massive weather system migrating the globe its impact will be felt in Africa for sure.

Africa knows how to throw a party and South Africa — the 13th largest polluter on the planet — added big time to its carbon emissions, thanks to its hosting of the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference popularly known as COP17 in Durban. A primary focus of the conference was to secure a global climate agreement as the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008-2012) was about to end.

This didn’t happen. After two weeks of negotiations a deal was reached only on the last day, Sunday December 11, after a 60-hour marathon negotiation session. The Durban conference agreed to establish a legally binding deal comprising all countries by 2015, which was to take effect in 2020.

The president of the Durban conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, declared it a success, but scientists and environmental groups warned then that the deal was not sufficient to avoid global warming beyond 2 °C as more urgent action is needed.

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Filed under Africa, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Politics, Pollution, UNFCCC

The G8 and land grabs in Africa

March 11, 2013. Source: GRAIN

Competition with cheap imports means that the margins are thin for small farmers and traders lik Adrienne Gnande. Photo: Fulgence Zamble

Competition with cheap imports means that the margins are thin for small farmers and traders lik Adrienne Gnande. Photo: Fulgence Zamble

Adrienne Gnandé sells rice in the bustling Gouro market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial centre. The rice she’s selling comes from the west of the country, where she herself is a farmer. “This is ‘made in Côte d’Ivoire’, cheaper and better tasting,” she tells people walking past her stall.1

Competition with cheap imports means that the margins are thin for Ivorian rice farmers and small traders like Gnandé. Côte d’Ivoire was self-sufficient in rice in the mid 1970s, but under pressure from international donors, the national rice company was privatised, public support for production was dismantled and the market was opened up to imports. Within two decades, two thirds of the rice consumed in the country came from Asia.

These imports generated immense profits for the handful of international grain traders and powerful local businessmen who dominate the market. Yet they’ve been deadly for local production. Only the hard work and ingenuity of the country’s farmers and small traders have kept local rice production alive. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Green Economy, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Water

New Report: African Agricultural Growth Corridors: Who benefits, who loses?

by EcoNexus.  Find the report by clicking here.

The concept of ‘African Agricultural Growth Corridors’ is designed to facilitate the conversion of millions of hectares of land to industrial agriculture, to be served by building infrastructure (roads, railways, irrigation, storage, processing and ports) and led by private companies. It refers to regions of Africa whose agricultural potential ‘has not been realized’ and whose population remains ‘almost entirely reliant on subsistence agriculture’.  Areas identified for corridors currently consist of regions in Mozambique and Tanzania with good water supplies, to focus mainly on agriculture, but also including forestry and mining for coal and valuable minerals.

It is urgent to raise awareness of this major reordering of land, water, food and people over millions of hectares. The New Vision concept of which the corridors are part was born at the World Economic Forum and public private partnerships are crucial to it. Companies leading the New Vision represent the whole supply chain from seed to plate, ie from Monsanto via Yara and Cargill to WalMart.

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Q&A with Patrick Bond: COP18, another ‘Conference of Polluters’

Note: Most people who are paying attention have pretty meager hopes for success in Doha.  In the interview below, Patrick Bond explains why Doha will certainly be one of many failures in the history of the UNFCCC ‘Conference of Polluters’.  From corporate influence to bribery and bullying by the US and World Bank, the odds are stacked against anyone hoping for real climate solutions this time around.  As Bond-a longtime friend and colleague of GJEP-alludes to in the interview, real solutions are going to come from the ability of social movements to overcome corporate tyranny.

-The GJEP Team

By Busani Bafana, November 27, 2012.  Source: Inter Press Service

Professor Patrick Bond

There is no political will among rich nations to find funding for developing countries experiencing the brunt of changes in global weather patterns, and the current climate change conference will fail to do so, according to Professor Patrick Bond, a leading thinker and analyst on climate change issues.

“The elites continue to discredit themselves at every opportunity. The only solution is to turn away from these destructive conferences and avoid giving the elites any legitimacy, and instead, to analyse and build the world climate justice movement and its alternatives,” Bond, a political economist and also the director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, told IPS.

As the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began in Doha, Qatar on Monday Nov. 26, Bond described past COPs as “conferences of polluters”. He believes COP18 will be no different.

“Qatar is an entirely appropriate host country for the next failed climate conference. On grounds of gender, race, class and social equity, environment, civil society voice and democracy, it’s a feudal zone, and the Arab world’s best mass media, Doha-based Al Jazeera, can’t tell the truth at home,” said the professor and author of the book, “Politics of Climate Justice”.
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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, UNFCCC, World Bank

Op-ed: Gates Foundation should step away from funding genetically modified crops in Africa

By Ashley Fent and Phil Bereano, 4 November 2012.  Source: Seattle Times

Guest columnists Ashley Fent and Phil Bereano write that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s funding to develop genetically modified crops is problematic because it does not provide practical solutions for people who run small farms in Africa.

As California voters consider Prop. 37 to require businesses to label genetically modified food, people should consider that the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding research to develop genetically modified crops around the world instead of more natural products.

In June, the foundation granted $9.8 million to British scientists at the John Innes Centre to investigate whether a symbiosis of cereal crops and bacteria could be genetically modified to fix atmospheric nitrogen.

This Gates grant does not support locally defined priorities, it does not fit within the holistic approach urged by many development experts, and it does not investigate the long-term effectiveness and risks of genetic modification. The choice of a high-risk, high-tech project over more modest but effective agricultural techniques is problematic, offering no practical solutions for the present and near-future concerns of the people who run small farms.

Affiliated researchers have acknowledged that the research is exploratory and uncertain, but have also claimed that such crops would be environmentally sustainable and more affordable for small farms in sub-Saharan Africa, reducing the use of costly nitrogen fertilizer.

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Commodification of Life, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Pollution

New oil palm land grabs exposed: Asian palm oil companies run into trouble in Africa

1 November 2012–Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Sinar Mas, ran into trouble recently when communities in Liberia complained[1] about a 33,000 hectare operation being developed on their lands by its indirectly-owned subsidiary, Golden Veroleum in Butaw District, Sinoe County. Alfred Brownell, the lawyer from Green Advocates representing the Kru tribes impacted by the project who is attending the 10th Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT10) being held in Singapore this week noted:

Golden Veroleum is in clear violation of the RSPO’s New Planting Procedure as it has not advertised its plans to clear and plant oil palms and carry out and publicise a High Conservation Value Assessment in advance of expanding its operations. Under the RSPO procedure, the company should now cease clearance until due process is followed. The villagers are concerned that their lands are being taken without their fully informed or free consent.

This is the second palm oil development involving a prominent RSPO member to run into controversy in Liberia. Last year, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s largest palm oil consortium, Sime Darby, was criticised for expanding its operations without respecting local peoples’ rights. The company was in the early stages of developing a 220,000 ha. operation but was halted in its tracks by complaints,[2] which, to its credit, the company has responded to by entering into dialogue with the communities.[3]

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Greenwashing, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests