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World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs – NGOs

 
Reforestation in Kenya

UN’s REDD scheme promises carbon offsetting will empower local communities in the developing world while conserving forests – but critics say the scheme is fuelling genocidal evictions of indigenous people from their lands. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs – NGOs” was written by Nafeez Ahmed, for theguardian.com on Thursday 3rd July 2014 06.00 UTC

Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations.

Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that smallholder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.

The concentration of ownership of the world’s farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing.”

Less known factors, however, include ‘conservation’ and ‘carbon offsetting.’

In west Kenya, as the UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) reported, over a thousand homes had been torched by the government’s Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to forcibly evict the 15,000 strong Sengwer indigenous peoples from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills.

Since 2007, successive Kenyan governments have threatened Sengwer communities in the Embobut forest with eviction. A deadline for residents to leave the forest expired in early January, prompting the most recent spate of violence. The pretext for the eviction is that the indigenous Sengwer – labelled wrongly as ‘squatters‘ – are responsible for the accelerating degradation of the forest.

Elsewhere in Kenya’s Mount Elgon forest, however, the KFS’ track record reveals a more complicated story. In 2010, the indigenous Ogiek were issued a deadline to relocate in the name of forest conservation and reforestation. In February this year, Survival International reported that, like the Sengwer, the Ogiek continued to be violently evicted from their homes in violation of court orders, with reports of government officials and their supporters seizing their land.

While deforestation is undoubtedly linked to the activities of poor communities, the Kenyan government’s approach illustrates favouritism toward parochial vested interests. In addition to the indigenous communities, the forests are also inhabited by many thousands of tea-planters, loggers, and squatters.

According to an internal report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2000, reviewing the Kenyan government’s internationally-funded conservation programme, “the forests of Mt Elgon are not being sustainably managed.” The report highlighted “unsustainable harvesting of both indigenous and plantation forest on Mt Elgon,” routine flouting of “regulations and procedures for sound management”, “the rate of forest plantation harvesting” far exceeding “the rate of replanting”, lack of supervision of controls on “forest harvesting operations authorised by the Forest Department,” and consequently “extensive loss of forest resources.”

The IUCN review also alluded to the role of the Kenyan government’s relationship with RaiPly Ltd, a Kenyan company involved in manufacture of wood products: “It is not known why or how RaiPly presumably received a license to harvest indigenous species, thus circumventing the ban on harvesting in indigenous forests.”

Official Kenyan parliamentary records from May 1999 show that Kenyan political representatives have been concerned about these issues for some time. One question put to Kenya’s then assistant minister for natural resources, Peter Lengees, by a Kenyan MP pointed out that “trees are being cut in Mt. Elgon forest,” threatening the region’s rivers “from both sides.” Local government officials, the MP accused, “have shared up the area between these two rivers” which are now “drying up.”

Lengees denied any knowledge of this, prompting a further question from late politician George Kapten, who said that “lorries from Raiply” had been ferrying high-value teak timber from Mount Elgon forest. “And I wish to add that the highest authority in this country has shares in RaiPly”, he added. Lengees repeated his denial but admitted that RaiPly was “licensed to cut trees from some forests in Kenya.”

 

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