KAMPALA/BRUSSELS/LONDON , 19 February 2015– Farmers in Uganda evicted by oil palm plantations are today filing a lawsuit against a joint venture co-owned by oil palm giant Wilmar International[1]. They are claiming restitution for their grabbed land and fair compensation for damages, three years after their land was taken for plantation development.

Friends of the Earth International is backing the communities’ land grab case, filed after three years of dialogue with the government and the company which has failed to bring them justice.

John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs said, “When I lost that land, I did not only lose my livelihood, I also lost my pension and a secured income for my children and grandchildren. I did all I could to get the land back – I even went to the office of the President of Uganda. Now I am looking to the court to provide us with justice.”

Frank Muramui, director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)/Friends of the Earth Uganda said: “Wilmar and the other palm oil companies are aware of the fact that communities have been displaced but have to date not been able to resolve the problems. This project was sold to the residents of Kalangala with promises of employment and a brighter future. But they were not fairly compensated for the loss of their livelihoods, and now without access to land face a daily struggle to get by.”

The landgrab occurred on the islands of Kalangala – situated in Lake Victoria, Uganda –  in 2011, leaving at least one hundred small-scale farmers landless . Displaced smallholders received little compensation, if any. [2]

The flagship oil palm project received initial seed money from the World Bank, which subsequently pulled out. Several governments also provide funding via the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Wilmar International receives money from several European banks and financiers. Friends of the Earth groups in Europe and the US have regularly brought the case to the attention of Wilmar International [3] and their European and US financiers [4].

Despite voluntary environmental and social governance commitments from Wilmar International and its financiers, peoples’ rights continue to be violated by their palm oil projects.

Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty programme coordinator Kirtana Chandrasekaran said, “The experience of communities in Kalangala echoes that of communities all over the world. Their rights to food, housing and a clean environment are being violated by corporations pursuing profits from large plantations.”

“This case is further proof that we need all Governments to support the legal framework under discussion at the UN to make transnational corporations accountable for human rights injustices [5].”

John Muyiisa and the other plaintiffs are now waiting for a hearing date in court in Masaka . If the judge sustains their complaint, over 100 farmers will receive compensation and the restitution of their land.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1] The project is carried out by Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL). OPUL is a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda, which holds 90% of its shares. Bidco Uganda is a joint venture formed between Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares of the joint venture and is providing technical expertise for the project. For background information on the project please see

[2] Additional financing for the project came from the Ugandan government and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). IFAD provides loans and grants to approximately 119 national governments. The UK was the largest contributor to the most recent replenishment of IFAD.

The court case comes after various attempts by NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda to resolve the land conflict by bringing all stakeholders together and initiating a commission to investigate the problems and provide recommendations. http://www.foeeurope.org/wilmar_clean_up_act_10022014 and http://foeeurope.org/no-news-bad-news-land-grabs-palm-oil-uganda on visit Uganda January 2015

[3] Against the tide: tackling palm oil in Indonesia: http://www.foeeurope.org/wilmar-rowing-against-tide-090514

[4] European banks fuel land grabs in Uganda http://www.foeeurope.org/euro-banks-fuel-land-grabs-uganda-210513

[5] The Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9, which Established a New UN Working Group to Develop a Treaty to Prevent & Address Corporate Human Rights Violations http://www.treatymovement.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe
Tel + 32 2 893 10 20, anne.vanschaik@foeeurope.org