Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Carbon Credit trading: the case of Uganda

There is a growing phenomenon sweeping the poor countries: land grabbing.  The World Bank estimates that in 2009 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased in the poor countries. Africa is the epicentre of land grabbing. 70% of land has been transferred to foreign agribusiness firms.

The land grab phenomenon is being done in the name of modernizing agriculture and expanding the economies of African countries. Behind it all are UN agencies, including the World Bank Group (IDA, IFC, MIGA, and World Bank), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). These have teamed up with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), a brainchild of the World Bank, in what is called African Business and Agro-Industries Development Initiative. NEPAD is committed to high-tech agro-industries and agribusiness in Africa through its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

The United Nations Agency for International Development (USAID), Organisation for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) and many development agencies or business firms from European countries, Japan, China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Egypt, Middle East and elsewhere are also involved in buying up Africa.

Firms buying up Africa want to make money by growing food for export to their countries of origin. They also want to make money from agrofuels and carbon trading businesses. They are establishing green, sterile, silent deserts of oil palm, pine and eucalyptus plantations behind the smokescreen of removing, from the atmosphere, excess carbon dioxide gas.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas responsible for much global warming. In many cases natural forests are being cut only to be replaced with Pine or Eucalyptus so that carbon credits can be accessed in the world’s fast-growing commodity market –the carbon market. They are doing this under two UN schemes:

  • Clean development mechanism (CDM)
  • Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)

The CDM scheme was set up under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address climate change. REDD was a collaborative venture between three UN agencies  -FAO, United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to pay countries to keep rainforest untouched. UNFCCC, which was initially not keen to accommodate REDD, actually did under pressure from other UN agencies. 

There is no space to give detailed explanation on how the two schemes work. However, Uganda has strategized to access carbon funds from the two schemes.

In 2006, a Uganda Carbon Bureau, the only full service carbon firm, was registered. Among other things, it supplies carbon credits, provides information on climate change and carbon markets and has close relationship with Uganda’s main donors, and international NGOs involved in climate change dynamics and carbon finance. 

Other Carbon firms in Uganda include the UK-based New Forests Company, BIDCO (U) LtD, Busoga Forestry Co. LtD, Forests Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emission Foundation (FACE), the Dutch firm Green Seat, the Norwegian firm Tree Farms and the Dutch firm Green Seat, and Norwegian Afforestation Group. All these firms are actively involved in land grabbing under CDM. They are promoting tree-planting, which will enable them to claim carbon credits in exchange for planting trees. Vast areas of forest and grasslands are being substituted by monoculture plantations.

In Kalangala District well over 30, 000 ha of public forest land has been grabbed for oil palm plantations by BIDCO (U) LtD with government, IFAD and World Bank Support. The firm wants 100,000 ha for oil palm, which is a grass but is promoted as a tree. Tree Farms and Norwegian Afforestation Group, through Busoga Forestry Co LtD,  have grabbed 80,000- 100,000 ha of Bukaleeba Forest and replaced it with monocultures of pine and eucalyptus. Tree Farms displaced 8000 people in 13 villages. FACE, in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), planted 25,000 hectares of trees inside Mount Elgon National Park. In exchange for financing the planting of the trees, FACE received the rights to the carbon sequestered by those trees – estimated at 2.11 tons of CO2 over 100 years.  In Kiboga District Luwunga Forest Reserve was leased to New Forests Company in 2008 and 20,000 hectares of forestland. 20,000 people were evicted from the forest to an uncertain future.

Uganda has no REDD project but a National REDD programme exists. REDD can only apply to Mabira rainforest. To qualify for REDD money Mabira must be cleared first. Government has proposes to give away 7100 ha of Mabira to Mehta Group to grow sugarcane.  Is it a Uganda REDD strategy? Can REDD protect Mabira?  Who gains, who loses from carbon trade?

Firms gain. People lose: human rights violations, evictions, climate change, green deserts, land grabs, corruption, food, water, energy and environmental insecurity!

Nile Basin Discourse

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