Friends of the Earth International released a new report earlier this week, titled Land, Life and Justice, revealing the environmental degradation and human rights violations that are the result of land grabbing occurring in Uganda. The report focuses on the impact land grabs are having on communities in the forested islands of Kalangala, where a corporation called BIDCO is leveling forests used by subsistence farmers and converting it into massive plantations for palm oil, a dirty and destructive biofuel.
Land, Life and Justice showcases the stories and perspectives of those affected by land grabbing in Kalangala. According to many, BIDCO purposefully deceived land owners into unknowingly selling their properties for extremely small amounts of money, as aided by corrupt government officials. Other Ugandans who live on public lands have had their access to vital resources like agricultural land and water stripped away without notice or compensation.
Land grabbing negatively impacts communities in many ways. In Kalangala, where subsistence farming on public and private land provides many families’ only source of food, the restriction and destruction of this land makes feeding and sustaining the community impossible. Further, the repurposing of these lands destroys the soil's fertility, degrading the possibility for future use by the community.
BIDCO is leveling the ancient forests and degrading the fertile soils of the islands of Kalangala in order to produce commodity crops to be sold on the global market. The project has received backing from the Ugandan government and financing from the World Bank private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. The massive plantations that BIDCO is establishing on the seized land will satisfy growing demand in industrialized nations, including the United States, for palm oil which is used in everything from mass produced food items like Skittles, Oreos,and Hot Pockets, to personal care products from companies like Neutrogena, Clinique, and Herbal Essences, to engine fuel such as biodiesel.
Friends of the Earth International concludes the report with recommendations for the government of Uganda as well as international leaders. The report calls on the Ugandan government to respect its own constitution in regards to land tenure, to research the impacts of land grabbing throughout Uganda, and to allow communities a voice in the appropriation of land and therefore their livelihood. Internationally, Friends of the Earth International asks governments to honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights obligations and to implement policies that will stop the overconsumption that creates the demand leading to land grabbing practices.