Shannon introduced us to GINKs in her last post. These “Green Inclination, No Kids” people are those who want to keep the environmental footprint of their lives down, so instead of consuming less, buying locally and travelling less, they have decided not to have any kids.

Today, I would like to introduce to another, somewhat related, neologism: GINUs.  This wonderfully Dahl-esque sounding word I propose to mean the following: “Green Inclinations, No Ugandans”.  Now why on Earth would I want to make up such a term?  Some people may take love of the environment a bit far, but none of them want to get rid of Ugandans…do they?

Well, probably not. At least deliberately.  But turning a blind eye – that may be another matter. It seems that someone involved with the UK-based New Forests Company (NFC) has some serious explaining to do, according to this article in the Guardian.  

New Forests Company is partly owned by HSBC and is a “sustainable and socially responsible forestry company” and has licenses to grow trees in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda in order to earn carbon credits and eventually to sell the timber. 

According to its website:

“NFC provides long-term foreign private sector investment in carbon sink forestry on unutilized and/or degraded land in the developing world in the context of the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of global warming.”

To this end, NFC has recently planted trees in the Mubende and Kiboga districts of Uganda.  However, the scandal is that, according to Oxfam, more than 20,000 Ugandans were evicted from their homes and farms without compensation to make way for these plantations.  No this is not completely cut and dried; land tenure in Uganda seems to be a somewhat fragile thing:

“Land tenure in Uganda is frequently disputed, with the government handing out parcels and then trying to take it back. In this case, the land was originally a government forest reserve and some of the people evicted claim they were given deeds by the Idi Amin government because their families fought for Britain in the Second World War. Others say they had bought the land legally.

Their land claims were being considered by the Ugandan courts when, they allege, the army and police forced them out in several waves of violent evictions which took place up to last year.”

The anecdotal evidence seems pretty convincing however.  Francis Longoli, a small farmer from the Kiboga district, lost everything when the Ugandan government gave him and his family three months notice to leave their farm last year.  The family has gone from being prosperous to being destitute:

“I remember my land, three acres of coffee, many trees – mangoes and avocados. I had five acres of bananas, 10 beehives, two beautiful permanent houses. My land gave me everything. People used to call me ‘omataka’ – someone who owns land. Now that is no more. I am one of the poorest now…I no longer own any land. It’s impossible to feed my children – they have suffered so much. Some days all they eat is porridge from maize flour. When people can’t eat well their bodies become weak – there have been lots of cases of malaria and diarrhoea. Some days we don’t eat anything at all…”

Along similar lines:

“Christine, a farmer in her mid-40s, who lived in Kiboga district before the evictions, says: “All our plantations were cut down – we lost the banana and cassava. We lost everything we had. They won’t let us back in to look for the things we left behind.”

NFC denies having any knowledge of the forced evictions and maintains that all evictions were voluntary without violence or destruction of property.  And anyway, NFC says that they played no part in the evictions – it was entirely in the hands of the Government.  Besides, according to NFC, evictions “go on in Uganda every day”.  This lack of knowledge seems to me hard to believe.  NFC has presence on the ground in Kiboga – the village school is now the company’s local headquarters.  Where does NFC think that the schoolchildren have gone?  Have their agents and employees on the ground not seen or heard of any whisperings that 20,000 people had been forcibly removed?  Did they not consider that “voluntary” evictions can be secured in many ways, without actual active voluntariness on behalf of those being moved on?

Oxfam also doesn’t think much of NFC’s protestations:

“Land grabs are going under the radars of existing safeguards intended to protect vulnerable people. The New Forests Company describes itself as ethical and says it follows international standards, yet more than 20,000 people were evicted without meaningful consultation or compensation to make way for their plantations,” says Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.

“It’s not acceptable for companies to blame governments for shortfalls in their operations. Investors, no matter how noble they purport to be, cannot sweep aside the needs and rights of poor communities who depend on the land they profit from,” she says.”

However, according to NFC’s statement in response, it thought that the resettlements were legal and voluntary.  Also, NFC has been audited by both the Forest Stewardship Council and the International Finance Corporation and they were satisfied that the process was a successful example of “encouraging illegal encroachers to voluntarily leave central forestry reserves”.  I wonder if either of those companies went to Uganda themselves.  I wonder if the Ugandan courts had an opportunity to decide for themselves if the encroachers were there illegally? I also wonder who benefits from classifying the farmers as “illegal”?  Could it perhaps be the Ugandan Government which gets to sell licenses to NFC who gets to plant trees in order to sell carbon credits? Hmmmmm.

The ever-entertaining James Delingpole gives this terrible situation the serve it deserves over at his blog on the Telegraph as well.  It makes you stop and think, what is being done in the name of saving the planet that we don’t know of?  After all, the point of these forests are to provide carbon credits so we can drive down the road guilt free, thinking that we are helping to “save” the planet.  Are there other people in this world (particularly in the third world) bearing the burden for our demand that we “save” the planet.  After all, it’s much easier to make someone else give up their lifestyle, and farm, and livelihood in order that we can keep ours. The ironic tragedy (or is that tragic irony) is that it would be much better for the planet if we gave up our lifestyle and let Ugandan farmers keep their avocado trees, their mango trees, their beehives and their banana plantations.  Green Inclination, No Ugandans. 

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...