Denial of rights and livelihoods
High rates of poverty = poor health and low life expectancy
The scale of impact associated with Green Resources’ arrival in Uganda is significant. Prior investigation into this company has been limited, with the exception of the Norwegian organization, the Future in our Hands (Framtiden i våre hender), some journalistic reports in the Ugandan media and a few academic studies,[i] making it difficult to obtain an accurate account of the number of people directly affected, though estimates vary between 8,000 to 40,000 people.[ii]There are 14 villages directly adjacent to the company license area at Kachung Central Forest. Meanwhile at Bukaleba Central Forest, there are four villages that remain located within the license area, and at least 12 adjacent to the land licensed to the company.[iii]
Affected villages are traditionally dependent on shifting cultivation and small-scale subsistence farming and fishing for their livelihoods. The form of subsistence agriculture that farmers practice relies mostly on human labor (non mechanized), and cultivated crops include beans, pigeon peas, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potato, millet, maize, sorghum, and rice. A small number of farmers are also engaged in some cash crop production, including sim sim (sesame), sunflower, cotton, tobacco, shea butter (in Kachung), and sugar cane (in Bukaleba). Rates of poverty are high and are associated with poor health outcomes and low life expectancy. There are also high levels of illiteracy and poor access to services, including safe water and sanitation, and limited health and educational services.
Justifying carbon violence
The privatization of forest reserves and their governance via carbon forestry mechanisms has provided a legal framework to justify the carbon violence. Green Resources’ license provides a legal mandate for the company to enforce evictions. As a result of government and later company evictions [read more about evictions: A History of Violent Evictions], people with historical access and use rights have been criminalized as “trespassers” and “encroachers.” Local villagers described this as leading to feelings of “isolation” and “fear.”[iv] A number of villagers also described themselves as “non-citizens” on the basis of their loss of rights and access to service provisions other Ugandans might expect.[v]
For villagers living within the area now licensed to Green Resources at Bukaleba, this is particularly acute. In many respects
the four villages inside Bukaleba literally don’t exist; with neither Green Resources nor the government recognizing responsibility for service provision and other support. Many local villagers previously generated an income through the collection of forest products from the Central Forest Reserve. In losing access rights, some local people have also lost their income, access to forest products (including medicines and firewood) as well as access to watering holes for their animals. One man, like so many others, concluded that such circumstances have made life “very dangerous,” and lamented that if the current conditions prevail “(our) life will be gone.”[vi]
Falling through the cracks
While Green Resources does provide some medical supplies to a health clinic in one village, and government community development officers describe doing “what they can” to assist villagers within the license area, on the whole, families from these villages fall through the ever-widening cracks, with poor or no vital service provisions (such as health, education, and transport), and in one village, high levels of crime and violence remain largely unchecked by police.
Company representatives expressed little tolerance for the plight of villagers. One company employee articulated:
“These are poor people. So, we are trying to encourage them, once they have finished their season of planting, to go back to where they came from, as much as possible. We will try everything possible to make sure they don’t come back.”[vii]
The company justifies phasing out the taungya system on the basis that such activities may cause leakage, or result in the company breaching carbon market certification requirements. However, it appears Green Resources applies its own rules inconsistently, creating ambiguity about the drivers of boundary enforcement. One herder found grazing cattle in mature trees in the license area, for example, explained that the company had granted his employer, a local elected representative, permission to graze in the license area.
i Benjaminsen, T. and Bryceson, I. ‘Conservation, Green/blue Grabbing and Accumulation by Dispossession in Tanzania.’ Journal of Peasant Studies 39.2 (2012): 335-355.
ii Norwegian group Framtiden has quoted 8,000 people as affected by the company, meanwhile an independent journalist interviewed in November 2013 in Jinja, Uganda, stated the figure was around 40,000 people. Barberg, A. “Tree Planting Project threatens Food Security.” Framtiden, 2012. http://www. framtiden.no/english/other/tree-planting-project-threatens-food-security.html (accessed april 11, 2014); Green Resources. Green Resources Company Report. 2012.
iii UNFCCC/CCNUCC. Project Design Document Form For Afforestation and Reforestation Project Activities. Op. Cit.
iv Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, June 20, 2012; Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, August 10, 2013.
v Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, June 20, 2012; Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, July 27, 2013.
vi Focus group discussion, Dokolo district, august 10, 2013.
vii Green Resources staffer, interview, Jinja, June 30, 2012.