Svar till Green Resources om plantage i Uganda

I början på april publicerade Afrikagrupperna två blogginlägg (Mangoträden står kvar som bevis, Klimaträttvisa – vem betalar priset för klimatförändringar) från Karin Edstedt som på plats i Uganda undersökt förhållandena kring det norska skogsbolaget Green Resources skogsplantage, samt påverkan från Svenska Energimyndigheten som har köpt utsläppsrätter därifrån. Green Resources återkom med ett svar på dessa inlägg.

Brevet nedan utvecklar Karin Edstedts och Afrikagruppernas syn på de saker som Green Resources tar upp i sitt genmäle.

Svar till Green Resources 31 maj 2018:

It came to my attention that you provided an extensive response to my blog posts written for
Afrikagrupperna. Since the space available for me to explain my study in the blog posts was
limited, I take the opportunity to further explain my study here. By doing so, I am convinced
that the critique raised by Green Resources will be answered.

The blog posts written for Afrikagrupperna are based on a field study about Kachung Forest
Project that I conducted in order to complete my dissertation. The study was carried out
within the framework of the Minor Field Study Scholarship Programme and the Travel
Scholarship funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Since I
am a member of Afrikagrupperna, and due to the fact that Afrikagrupperna previously have
written about activities carried out by Green Resources, I was asked by Afrikagrupperna to
share my findings from the study in a series of blog posts. The word “klimaträttvisa” used in
the title refers to the concept of ‘climate justice’ in English, not ‘climate law’.

The blog posts are based on a field study where I spent ten weeks, from January to March
2017 in Dokolo District, Uganda, to study the socio-economic co-benefits of the Kachung
Forest Project. The project actors (Green Resources and the Swedish Energy Agency) claimed
that the Kachung Forest Project contributes to community development and poverty
alleviation. In Uganda, employment, agricultural subsistence, production and wellbeing are
determined by access to land, as 80 % of the population derives their livelihoods directly from
subsistence agriculture. Since the project has altered the use rights of land and resources for
the surrounding local communities, I had an academic interest in finding out if the co-benefits
from the project could achieve community development and poverty alleviation.

A qualitative case study was conducted in six villages bordering the Kachung Forest Project
where Busoga Forest Company carries out its activities. To increase the credibility of the
study, the study sampled six villages bordering the Kachung Forest Project to collect data
across a geographical spread. I conducted 40 semi-structured interviews with various
respondents in the area. Thirty-one of the interviews were conducted with community
members living in villages bordering the Kachung Forest Project. To enable deeper
discussions about the Kachung Forest Project, I strived to interview older people who were
the head of the household whom had lived in the area for a long time and experienced the
transition of use rights within the Central Forest Reserve. The additional nine interviews of
the study were conducted with local chiefs in communities, a staff member at a health center
constructed by Green Resources, officials from Busoga Forest Company and officials from
the National Forest Authority in Lira.

The claim made by Green Resources stating that the author failed to discuss the work with the
Busoga Forest Company team is not true since I conducted an interview with Busoga Forest
Company officials in Lira. The main theme covered in the interview was the co-benefits
implemented by the company and their impact for local communities surrounding the
Kachung Forest Project. When meeting with the Busoga Forest Company team, I also had the
opportunity to ask follow up questions in regards to my findings from interviews with
community members. During interviews with officials from the National Forest Authority,
land deals in Uganda, the Act from 2003 and the implementation process of Kachung Forest
Project was discussed. This procedure allowed me to gain the perspective of both the Busoga
Forest Company team and the National Forest Authority officials on co- benefits and the
implementation of the project. When writing the dissertation about the project, I therefore
included the perspective of a range of actors involved in the Kachung Forest Project.

The overall argument made in the response by Green Resources was that due to the Ugandan
”National Forestry and Tree planting Act” communities would be restricted from using the
Central Forest Reserves in Uganda, regardless of the presence of corporate actors with
commercial interests, such as Green Resources. I do not claim that this is false and in the blog
posts I write that it was not legal for community members to carry out their activities in the
forest reserve before the implementation of Kachung Forest Project. However, I would like to
stress the fact that as a part of a larger liberalization of the economy, there was a national
policy shift towards liberalization of forest legislation in Uganda in the early 2000s. The shift
made authorities of the Ugandan Central Government act to enable private international
investments in land management, for example through the ‘National Forestry and Tree
Planting Act”. One could ask if the legislation was in fact made in favour of international
corporate actors with commercial interests? In the case of Kachung Forest Project, the Act
was a pre-condition for Green Resources to lease the land and carry out its activities. The Act
forbids people to reside within the forests, which meant that communities residing within the
Central Forest Reserves in Uganda where evicted to make room for projects with commercial
interests. The interviews that I conducted with community members confirm that households
were evicted from the Central Forest Reserve where Busoga Forest Company operates today.

Turning to the specific points of criticism raised in the response by Green Resources, most
claims stand in stark contrast to the experiences of community members that I interviewed.
None of the community members that I interviewed mentioned the specific food security
project that Busoga Forest Company claims to have implemented in the communities.
Therefore, I did not incorporate this claimed co-benefit into my findings. On the contrary, a
lack of food due to insufficient amount of land to cultivate crops or infertile land was the
main problem that community members faced after the establishment of the Kachung Forest
Project.

When interviewing officials from the Busoga Forest Company, they informed me that the
company provides seasonal employment for people and claimed that this had brought
economic development to the households. Yet, to support this claim, one would need to show
that these employment opportunities could contribute more to people’s livelihoods than other
livelihood strategies prior to the project. This is something that I have not seen evaluated by
Green Resources or reflected in the realities of the respondents. Interviewees that I spoke to
stated that the income they could previously generate from cultivating and selling farm
products were higher than the salary at the plantation.

Further, none of the interviewees mentioned the roads that surround the plantation as
beneficial to them. As you might have seen, the communities in the area do not have everyday
access to vehicles. I also visited one of the health centers that Busoga Forest Company
has constructed. The center was empty and when interviewing a staff-member I was told that
the centers are not provided with medicine and can therefore not admit patients.

To conclude, interviewees in six different villages around the project have experienced that
the establishment of the Kachung Forest Project brought serious implications for food security
and poverty rates in the households. I conclude that co-benefits from the project have not been
able to compensate for the losses of capital experienced by households, since they have
reached a limited amount of households and have had a modest effect on increasing capitals.

Overall, based on extensive fieldwork, this study concludes that the Kachung Forest Project
has not been able to bring poverty alleviation through facilitation of socio-economic
development to villages surrounding the project. On the contrary, due to the altered assets and
access to assets, the project has generally brought negative livelihood outcomes for
community members.

I wish to continue to exchange views of the Kachung Forest Project and engage constructively
in debates with actors who affect the project, in order to improve livelihoods for the affected
communities in Dokolo District.
Thank you,

Karin Edstedt

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