Fiona Nankya

In the Kalangala islands on Lake Victoria, Uganda, communities are being forced off their lands by a powerful alliance of corporations, international organisations and government power, all set on using the land for destructive oil palm production. Many of the citizens who comprise these communities have lost their livelihoods, and feel powerless to challenge the land-grabs. Friends of the Earth Europe is today launching a campaign to take legal action against the land-grabbing, and restore these citizens’ rights to their land.

Frank Murazumi, Director of NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda, said: “An estimated 3,600 hectares of ancient and bio-diverse forest have been destroyed. In addition to the severe environmental and climate impacts of the palm oil project, the deforestation in Kalangala has dispossessed a large number of islanders who depend on the forest for their food, medicine, and livelihoods. This is why it is urgent that the citizens forced off their lands receive legal backing in their fight to reclaim their lands and seek compensation for their lost crops”

The project is a joint venture between Wilmar International, the Ugandan government, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Kenyan oilseeds company Bidco. Wilmar has a particularly damning track record of environmental and social destruction through land grabbing, and its involvement in the project in Kalangala seems no different.

The project is committed to planting a total of 40,000 hectares of oil palm in Uganda. 10,000 hectares is earmarked for development in Kalangala, with another 10,000 in Buvuma, another island in Lake Victoria. There are also plans to develop an additional 20,000 hectares on the mainland. In Buvuma similar destructive impacts are taking place, with people being not adequately compensated for the loss of their lands, and it is very unclear whether the project will leave people unable to grow food on their land on the islands.

Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Forests have been torn down, people’s livelihoods disregarded and devastated for the short-term profit of the climate-destructive oil palm industry. Your contribution will mean that the communities directly affected in Kalangala are given a real chance to launch a legal challenge against those responsible for taking their land, regain their traditional use of this land, and receive meaningful compensation.”

The drive to ensure that citizens around the world have real rights to stand up to the human rights is gathering momentum around the world. In June, the UN Human Rights Council set in motion plans to move towards a legal framework to make transnational corporations accountable for human rights injustices.

Yet a final agreement is a long way off. The citizens of Kalangala do not have time to wait: they need to take urgent action to get their land back and receive meaningful compensation for the loss of their crops, and they need your help. To support the legal costs of fighting for the livelihoods, health and human rights of those forced off their lands, please help fund the campaign.

Image: Fiona Nankya is 28 years old and has to provide for herself. She lives in the small village of Kasenyi, Uganda. She lost land to the plantation and now has just over one acre left. On this she grows cassava and banana. © Jason Taylor