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NAPE promotes rural women's empowerment as one of its long term transformation goals. NAPE strives to create a society where every woman feels empowered, where every woman is independent, inspired and self-fulfilled. At NAPE we believe that women can make a change that we all desire. HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!

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NAPE and allies have been supporting rural farmers in Bugala who lost their land to the Oil Palm plantation owned by Bidico to get justice since 2010. About 100 famers were evicted from their land to pave way for oil palm growing in Bugala, Kalangala district. Since 2014, the farmers have been battling with the company to be reinstated on their land. NAPE invited the UN Social and Environment Compliance Unit to investigate Bidico’s actions in Bugala.

 The UN Social and Environment Compliance Unit have finalized the investigation and released a report implicating Bidco following a complaint filed by Bugala farmers Association.

 In the report, the investigators found that the United Nations’ admission, due diligence, and screening processes for private sectors are flawed in general and were not fully complied with in the case of Bidco.

 The report found:

  • While UNDP’s vetting of Bidco identified several controversies, including allegations of land-grabbing, poor labor standards, deforestation and tax impropriety, “UNDP did not characterize these risks accurately – or clearly follow up in a satisfactory way.”
  • UN staff provided “very brief answers” in response to social and environmental controversies flagged in the vetting process and characterized them as “moderate,” when they should have been identified as “significant” concerns requiring a “full assessment.”
  • While UNDP policy underscores that the “growing of crops, including palm oil or other large monocultures” may be considered high risk, and for such sectors “an extra careful approach is required,” UN staff did not take such an approach.
  • UNDP staff were erroneously “reassured about Bidco because of Bidco’s membership in the UN Global Compact.” According to a UN Global Compact representative, "The UN Global Compact is not a performance or assessment tool. It does not provide a seal of approval, nor does it make judgments on performance."
  • UN staff involved in developing relationships with private sector companies such as Bidco should not make “recommendations and decisions relating to membership” in U.N. projects, as was the case with Bidco’s application.
  • Some interviewees, who are not named in the report, misled UN investigators by suggesting that the activities of Bidco Africa are not directly related to the activities of Bidco Uganda and OPUL, Bidco’s oil palm plantation. Investigators found that Bidco Africa has “at least financial links to Bidco Uganda and the Kalangala oil palm project.” According to several websites, including the OPUL website, OPUL is a subsidiary of Bidco Africa, and a recent International Fund for Agricultural Development report states that “Kalangala is the first phase of a longer-term PPP between the government and Bidco Oil Refineries Ltd. of Kenya (now known as Bidco Africa).”

 The U.N. report goes on to suggest that the world body’s vetting procedures be revamped to prevent controversial companies like Bidco from joining U.N. initiatives without more stringent checks. For example, in one policy that assesses private sector partners, only three “exclusionary criteria” are listed: two relating to the manufacture of armaments and one relating to marketing of breast milk substitutes contrary to World Health Organization guidelines. “It omits the human and labor rights-related criteria from exclusionary criteria,” the report says.

The report acknowledged the farmers’ complaint that the United Nations, by accepting Bidco as a private sector partner, is providing an endorsement that could “serve to facilitate future harmful activities by Bidco in Uganda and/or impact Ugandan communities.”

 The report also highlights the investigators’ interviews with farmers during their visit to Uganda, where they found that Bidco’s assertion that there is only one land grievance is disputed by at least 29 families claiming to have been “wrongly displaced.”

 The investigators met with several Ugandan women who claim to have been resettled from land now used by Bidco. The women say that they were either not compensated or not informed of their options and did not feel able to negotiate or reject the offer made; they are now living in a shantytown, where growing food is not possible, and they have no means of making money to pay for their needs; and they are living without the fathers of their children because there is no way for these men to make a living in the shantytown.

 To determine whether the United Nations should continue to associate with Bidco, the report recommends that UN staff “provide documentation consistent with UNDP’s full Policy on Due Diligence and Partnerships with the Private Sector, the complete Risk Assessment Tool, and Guidance, to ensure that due diligence with respect to Bidco’s membership in BCtA is adequate and outcomes of the due diligence support Bidco’s continued membership in BCtA.”

 For further information related to the case, including relevant annexes and the public comments matrix with SECU's responses, you may visit the case file on the SECU Case Registry here:

 

The was Story Compiled by Joan AKIIZA

NAPE Legal Officer

High court Masindi district in Western Uganda has indefinitely postponed the hearing of the Rwamutonga case where more than 250 families were brutally evicted to pave way for the construction of oil waste treatment plant.

Justice Albert Rugadya Atwoki, High Court resident judge Masindi was expected to give a ruling on an application on January 19, 2017 but he informed court that he would make a ruling on notice.

According to Bashir Twesigye, Executive Director Civic Response on Environment and Development, the judge’s move to make his ruling on notice shows that the judge is not comfortable with the case hence the hesitation to make a decisive ruling.

“Hon. Justice Rugadya should not have any excuse ruling on the case because he has had six months to study the case. The judge making a ruling on notice means that he will make a decision when he feels ready” he argued.

Since the first ruling was done last year, this second ruling would give the evictees a mileage and has been pending for long.

The families were evicted in August 2014 from the two pieces of land; one titled in the names of Robert Bansigaraho and another in Joshua Tibagwa. The affected families have since been living in Kakopo Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) with no stable source of livelihood.

Nelson Atich, Bugambe sub county Councilor and representative of the evictees told Community Green Radio, that they were shocked by the judge’s decision to make the ruling on notice. “We are now thinking of petitioning the Principal Judge over this matter,” he stated.

“When we went to court on 19th, January, 2017, we were surprised when the clerk to the judge told us that the judge will give us the ruling on notice. We are in a dilemma, but we think we are not getting justice from courts of law,” Atich said.

He further added that the evicted families have been living in a camp for close to three years now under inhuman conditions yet the case has not been given priority.

According to sources privy to court, the ruling was meant to be given on December 8, 2016 but was postponed to January 19, 2017.

Last year, the then resident judge Masindi Justice Simon Byabakama, who has since moved to the country’s Electoral Commission as its head ruled that 53 families out of the 250 families affected were illegally evicted on land owned by Robert Bansigaraho since the eviction court order was issued in error.

“The eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama last year.

Justice Byabakama in his ruling also ordered Bansingaraho to compensate the evictees for the unlawful eviction. Following the immense pressure from NAPE and other civil society organizations, Bansigaraho accepted mediation by Justice Centers Uganda and handed over the piece of land to the 53 families.

In their application, the evictees, through their lawyers Iam Musinguzi of Musinguzi and Co. Advocates and Jonathan Okiria, an advocate with Justice Centers Uganda in Hoima are seeking a declaration that the families  were unlawfully evicted by Tibagwa Joshua and should be awarded compensation.

In November 2016, Betty Amongi, Minister of lands visited Rwamutonga camp and appointed a probe committee to investigate and establish the rightful owners of the disputed land.

According to Isaac Kawooya, Hoima Resident District Commissioner, the committee finalized its investigations and has submitted a report to the minister. Kawooya says the judiciary should objectively look at the matter in folds to determine whether all evictees are genuine occupants.

Meanwhile over 17 children have died and close to 100 others are suffering from severe malnutrition at Kigyayo camp in Kiziranfumbi sub-county, Hoima District following a forceful land eviction two years back.

On 28th February 2015, about 5000 people were evicted from 1860 hectare piece of land in Kiziranfumbi after it was leased to an investor Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane plantation. Namara Scovia, a 7 year old girl is the latest child to succumb to severe malnutrition while at the camp.

Kigyayo camp is located approximately 40 km away from Hoima town and about 7 km away from Kiziranfumbi sub-county headquarters. The 4 acre piece of land where the group is currently residing belongs to Church of Uganda.

According to Buryahika Stephen, head of Kigyayo Internally Displaced People’s camp, Namara is not the only child who has lost her life due to malnutrition. Many others between the ages of one to seven years have died due to malnutrition and lack of proper feeding.

“At the camp, we depend on charity! We are now living like homeless people because everyone wants to get rich from this oil,” Buryahiko narrates, adding that the discovery has brought more harm than good.

He further adds that sadly, the 68 others including the elderly people will suffer the same fate if no urgent attention is rendered to them.

Benon Tusingwire, Executive Director Navigators of Development Association, a local community based organization notes that the camp has only two clinics which appear to be slack since the community members cannot afford UGX 30,000 to acquire treatment for their children.

According to Buryahika, the land in question is claimed by Kimera Herbert; a local tycoon (now deceased) who is using a different land title to evict them.

“Kimera claimed he owned this land but it is not true. He used a land title for some 10 ha piece of land to evict,” Buryahika revealed in a recent interface meeting when NAPE and Community Green Radio staff visited the camp.

On 4th July 2014, the High Court of Uganda issued an interim order restraining the respondent (Kimera Herbert) from “erasing, demolishing or destroying the existing gardens and structures of the applicant but is at liberty to carry out his activities on the undeveloped part of the suit land.”

The land dispute in Kiziranfumbi started in 2012 when the late Kimera threatened to evict the residents branding them as ‘squatters.’’ Further investigations reveal that the community upon receiving the eviction threats filed a court case at the Masindi Magistrate court to halt any evictions.

According to Nkunzi Tanazio, 31 and father to late Namara, the land under dispute is a communal land and has been his home for the last 16 years. According to Buryahika, the community in their file demands UGX 108bn as compensation from the investor.

In a recent report launched by Transparency International, oil based investment and its associated benefits have inspired an unprecedented amount of land grabbing in the region with powerful rich elite and District land board officials fraudulently acquiring land titles over communal lands.

Such loopholes leave bad precedents in the judicial sectors, especially when the big fish use temples of justice and police to unleash terror against innocent Ugandans.

Records in the office the Resident District Commissioner, Hoima so far indicate over 1000 households have been affected by illegal land evictions either directly or indirectly between the year 2012 and 2016.RDC Kawooya says only 30% of these victims have accessed court for justice, while others either have no access or are intimidated by their tormentors.

Story compiled by Robert Katemburura Turyomurugyendo,

Editor NAPE Community Green Radio, Hoima District

The Bunyoro Region, for a long time was known for growing indigenous food that kept families food secure. The food included different varieties of millet, beans, simsim and maize that were drought resistant. On the contrary today, many farmers are crying foul after unpredictable weather patterns that have left them with little to feed on.

It’s for this reason that the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE initiated a campaign on seed sovereignty and food security through revival of indigenous seeds that are accommodative to current climate changes.

Mr.Asuman Irumba, one of farmers in Hoima says many people have run away from traditional farming and this has not only ushered in poor yields but also inadequate food in families.

Irumba also says with the help of NAPE they are steadily bringing back these indigenous seeds through consultative dialogues with old men and women who have both knowledge and skills to revamp these seeds.

“We are slowly by slowly getting back our seeds,” Irumba said

Mr. Karugaba   Isimbwa, one of the founders of Bunyoro community Historical museum associates for development says, there is need to revert to our indigenous foods if the region is to survive current climate conditions.

He noted that seeds such as millet were so resistant to hash conditions unlike today calling up on stakeholders including the kingdom to sensitize and mobilize the local communities to embrace growing of local varieties.

“To day I get surprised to see a farmer gets nothing because of climate change,” Karugaba wondered

Mrs. Scola Byaruhanga , 75 years from Kabale village in Kiziranfumbi sub county Hoima District says during harvesting season it was a must for the house wife to keep the seeds for the next season and she could make sure these seeds are preserved well in order to reach the next planting season.

“Today I don’t know what is happening, with seed banks,” Ms Byaruhanga asked

Ms Lucy Ahura of Kabale Small Holders Farmers group in Kiziranfumbi sub county Hoima District noted that it was a culture in Bunyoro every woman to have a garden of cassava locally known as Nozzimu and Mukalasa at home as remedy to food insecurity.

This was jointly done with their husbands adding that it was the Traditional role of the house head to clear the bush for the woman and this kept the home with food all the time.

“You see now days men have run way from their duties that’s why things are like this” Ms Ahura said

Ms Asha Afambe local farmer in Kabale village in Kiziranfumbi sub county in Hoima says for the case of local beans locally known as Enkuku, it was must for the every family to have them year in year out because it provided sauce to every family in difficult situations.

Mr Denis Tabaro, Natukunda officer in charge of community ecological governance at National association of Professional Environmentalist [NAPE] says there is need to conserve these indigenous seeds which are drought resistant and for seed restoration.

“People of Bunyoro need these seeds for food security and as NAPE we are here to help these communities,” Tabaro said

Mr Tabaro further explains that with support from   European Union and GAIA foundation he optimistic that Bunyoro communities can revive these seeds.

“I think with these efforts am sure our seeds in Bunyoro can come back” Tabaro noted

With revival and promotion of indigenous seeds in the region communities can regain their glory of being food and seed secure and this can also go a long way in improving household income that has been identified as one of the factors that fuel domestic violence in the area.

According to Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Forum [ESAFF], Uganda study report 2015, it is estimated that Uganda has over 400,000 internationally certified organic farmers, growing cotton, coffee, sesame, as well as fruits such as pineapples, bananas, mangoes, jack-fruit, apple, passion fruits and avocado.

The products are exported to Europe, USA and Asia, among other countries.

By 2013, Uganda had around 350,000 hectares of land under organic farming covering more than 2% of agricultural land
.

 

The story was writen  by Peter Akugizibuwe, a  is assistant News Editor at NAPE Community Green Radio, Hoima District