By Chris Lang
A recent report gives a critical view of the Clean Development Mechanism in Africa. The report, “The CDM in Africa: Can’t Deliver the Money”, draws together a dozen researchers under the guidance of Patrick Bond of the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa.
One of the chapters in the report, co-authored by Adrian Nel and Kadija Sharife, looks at a Norwegian company called Green Resources AS and its plantation operations in Tanzania.
Green Resources was founded by Norwegian forestry analyst Mads Asprem in 1995. According to the company website, it employed 5,300 people at the end of 2010 and has invested US$100 million in its operations in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Southern Sudan.
The company claims to be “Africa’s leading forestation company”, and has a total area of 22,000 hectares of plantations. The company “holds more than 300,000 ha of land for future planting and conservation”. Three of Green Resources’ plantations of eucalyptus and pine trees in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council system as well managed.
The company has also applied for CDM certification for its three plantations. Two were not approved because the plantations were established before 2000. These are now registered under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and are selling carbon credits on the voluntary market. The third plantation is still waiting for CDM approval.
Jorn Stave of NorWatch wrote about the early history of the company’s operations in Tanzania in a 2000 report titled “Tree Trouble“, produced by Friends of the Earth International, World Rainforest Movement and FERN. His report questions whether Green Resources’ plantations are additional and critiques the concept of carbon trading. It also notes that workers on the plantations are paid below below the Tanzanian Government’s minimum wage. Those that were being paid, that is. He found that some workers had not been paid for 8 months and others complained of irregular and unpredictable payments.
In February 2011, TimberWatch produced a report based on field trips to Tanzania in January and May 2010. The report, titled “CDM Carbon Sink Tree Plantations: A case study in Tanzania”, reported the following impacts (among others):
“[L]and being lost by displaced communities, poor working conditions, the destruction of biodiversity on which communities rely for food, fuel and medicines; reduced water availability, as well as many other direct and indirect effects that impact negatively on the livelihoods of the affected communities.”
Blessing Karumbidza, co-author of the TimberWatch report, describes the Green Resources project as “Land-grabbing, a form of neo-colonialism supported by the Norwegian authorities”. He told the Norwegian news publication BT that, “This area has been grassland as long as people in the area can remember. Now we have a plantation that is not forest, but a monoculture without biodiversity.”
Tonje Refseth of the Department of International Environment and Development (Noragric) wrote her 2010 Masters Thesis on Green Resources’ plantations in Tanzania. She found that some villages in the Green Resources project areas have lost more than 33% of their land – the limit under the 1999 Village Land Act. One village, Uchindile, lost 60% of its land to Green Resources.
Villagers have in effect lost the land. The company has acquired renewable land leases for 99 years. In return villagers receive employment and community projects (such as schools). But workers told Refseth that salaries were not adequate. She found that the majority were being paid less than the minimum wage set by the Government.
The company has promised to give 10% from the sale of carbon credits to villagers. Refseth explains that the money will not be given as cash, but will be used for community projects. “I find this a bit troubling,” Refseth writes, “because this money will be used to fulfil promises that were made a long time ago and should have been fulfilled already.”
She adds that,
“[N]o transparent plan is made on how much each village can expect to receive and what it should be spent on including the costs. This has created confusion and some conflicts as the villagers were told about this a couple of years ago without seeing anything of it.”
In 2011, the Daily News reported that four of the villages received their first share of the money from the sale of carbon credits.
Green Resources shrugs off TimberWatch’s criticism. “This is not a serious organisation,” Mads Asprem, the company’s Managing Director, told BT. “TimberWatch is opposed to plantations. These are people who are against development and who want Africans to continue to live in straw huts.”
Asprem argues that Green Resources’ plantation projects should be eligible for REDD financing. In a 2010 article in Development Today, he argues that “REDD can only be successful with reforestation.”
“[T]here is a need for large-scale plantations to provide the wood and charcoal to supply Africa’s subsistence demand requirements, and to supply the charcoal market if REDD is to be successful. Reforestation has huge benefits at the inception of projects because it creates plenty of new employment.”
But as Anders Haug Larsen of Friends of the Earth Norway points out, “There is a fundamental problem that Norway can increase its greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits from projects like this.” Or as Blessing Karumbidza puts it, “It is Norway – one of the world’s leading oil producing nations – rather than Tanzania that stands to benefit.”