Monoculture forestry projects for carbon sequestration are being implemented in two Norwegian firms UGANDA constitute a paradigm of rationality and the consequences of such projects.
The Norwegian company Tree Farms established in Uganda in 1996 and is an afforestation project in progress. On the other hand, the Norwegian Afforestation Group got the authorities’ agreement to start a project in November 1999. The first – which operates in the area Bukaleba Reserve – has already begun execution, which involves planting between 80,000 and 100,000 hectares of pine and eucalyptus. This scheme is very similar to that adopted by the Dutch FACE Foundation in the Ecuadorian Andes and so are its consequences.
A recent investigation by the Norwegian NGO NorWatch shows that both projects – and especially that of Tree Farms – have been made possible by the very cheap price at which land was leased to the company and the corruption at the level of policy- making in Uganda. What’s more, the Tree Farms project has already led to the expulsion of some 8,000 people living in 13 villages – most of them farmers and fishermen – the land now occupied by the company. Local farmers even have to pay for agricultural use of their land under the system taungya and exploits the company by not paying for the weeding and care of trees that they do. Also Uganda’s sovereignty is threatened, and that for 50 years the country has no chance to allocate the land to other uses and, in addition, Uganda may not include those carbon sinks in its own accounting of greenhouse gases.
The very Tree Farms has announced the completion of a project to plant pines and eucalyptus trees of rapid growth in an area of ??150 square kilometers in the grassy plains of neighboring Tanzania. Given the dismal performance of this company in Uganda, it is feared that this model will bring the same disastrous consequences for people – especially the rural poor – and the environment. At a meeting on climate change held recently in Bonn, the delegate of Tanzania emphasized the need to take into account not only of forestry itself, but also the welfare of local communities. How to reconcile this vision with forestry projects for carbon sinks imposed without consultation with the communities?
Given the current economic crisis facing many African countries – especially in the tropics – their governments may be displayed inclined to accept any treatment which might mean an exchange earnings, beyond the social and environmental impacts negative can bring. The carbon sink plantations may well be one of them. While the benefits for industrialized countries are obvious – a cheap way of sequestering the carbon that they emit – is equally clear that will be the local communities and the environment will suffer the consequences without obtaining any benefit. What Africa needed from the industrialized countries is certainly not this kind of “help.” Call this the “Clean Development Mechanism” is – to say the least – an insult to African people, as these carbon business have nothing to do with development of any kind.