Nelly Bassily | September 7, 2009
The trade in carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, is a growing business. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has identified carbon offsetting as an efficient way to guide investments towards greenhouse gas reduction. Companies that release large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can “offset” these emissions by investing in initiatives such as tree planting that store carbon, ensuring that it is not released into the atmosphere. Individual consumers can also purchase carbon credits to offset carbon emissions created, for example, through their personal air travel.
In the case of our story from Uganda, the Dutch organization Face Foundation operates as an initiative to create carbon offsets by planting trees. Another Dutch company, GreenSeat, purchases the offsets and resells them, mostly to Western companies, including airlines. Face Foundation provided a financial incentive for the Ugandan government to reforest land in the Mount Elgon area where the Benets lived and farmed.
In past issues of FRW, we have looked at other instances of land grabbing. A common theme is land being assigned a value by an investor – whether a biofuel company or a foreign government interested in growing food for its own people – and this financial value being given precedence over the rights of people living on the land.
-“Land grabbing in Africa: An overview” (FRW#69, June 2009)
-“Sudan: Madi community fights land grab attempts” (FRW#69, June 2009)
-“Malawi: Villagers lose land to sugar plantation” (FRW#70, June 2009)
-“Kenya: Local resistance to land grab captures government, investor attention” (FRW#70, June 2009)
-“Republic of Congo: Land deals on hold” (FRW#71, June 2009)
-“Uganda: Urban farmers fight eviction” (FRW#72, June 2009)
-“Ghana: European biofuel company meets resistance after clearing forests” (FRW#73, July 2009)
The following questions may serve as a starting point for investigating cases of outside investment in farmland in your area:
-Who are the investors (company, government, or other) who have leased or bought land (or are interested in leasing or buying land)?
-Did the national government consult local, small-scale farmers about the negotiations? If yes, then what was the process? If not, what was the outcome?
-What sort of agriculture (for example, small-scale or commercial) is being practiced on the land in question and what sort of crops are being grown? What type of agriculture do the investors wish to practice?
-Who will control the land? Who will profit?
-Will the local community benefit from the land investment? What guarantees do they have that the investors will deliver any benefits they promise?
-If rural people have been or will be displaced by the land grab, where will they go? How will they meet their food needs?
-Are there alternatives to permitting the sale or lease of local land that would benefit rural communities?
For regular daily updates on cases of farmland grabbing, go to this website: http://farmlandgrab.org/.