A company called Vision 2050 Forestry claims to be the “leading forestry company in West Africa”. According to the company, between September 2008 and February 2010 more than 300,000 people signed up to Vision 2050 Forestry’s Carbon Credit Project. The company claims that 150 million trees were planted and “five million people are expected to benefit from the project within the five years period as direct beneficiaries”.
Vision 2050 Forestry was set up by Frank Kofi Frempong, a forester who had previously worked in Kenya. The company paints a rosy picture of its Carbon Credit Project (and inexplicably uses a photograph of mountain forests in Montenegro on its website).
But researcher Ishmael Hashmiu has looked in detail at results for farmers on the ground in Ghana. In a chapter in the 2015 book “Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa”, edited by Melissa Leach and Ian Scoones, Hashmiu explains that farmers in the project,
committed their lands to carbon forestry (for at least 20 years) and took full responsibility for maintaining Cedrela trees on their farms, expecting carbon credits and agri-environmental benefits in return. The project’s contractual agreement allowed the farmer to grow and harvest food crops for as long as possible. The trees and carbon stored belonged to Vision 2050 Forestry and the financiers of the project. Landowners were supposed to receive carbon revenue and land royalties (10 per cent of carbon revenue) for allowing the trees and carbon on their lands.
Finance for the Carbon Credit Project
The project unsuccessfully attempted to raise funding from voluntary carbon markets and the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund. The project was part-financed by logging and selling teak trees.
More finance was raised by a UK registered company, Environmental Development Consultants, and its subsidiary Environment and Rural Development Ghana Ltd.
Ed Bossman Yeboah was one of the founders of Environmental Development Consultants and CEO of Environment and Rural Development Ghana Ltd. He told Hashmiu that these companies raised US$750,000 for the Carbon Credit Project.
This was not enough to finance the project. Hashmiu writes that “Due to the financing challenges … the project collapsed, leaving farmers disappointed”. In 2012, Environment and Rural Development Ghana planned to take over the project this time as a plantation project, rather than persuading farmers to plant trees.
But in 2013, Ed Bossman Yeboah was sentenced to two years in jail in the UK, for fraudulently claiming £120,000 in VAT repayments for solar panels supposedly exported to Ghana.
Vision 2050 Forestry today
In July 2015, Vision 2050 Forestry put out a “Project Update”, which tells us precisely nothing about the current status of the project. Instead, the two-pager consists of a series of statements along these lines:
Agricultural crop yields are dwindling. Once robust perennial streams are now drying up. The implication of this phenomenon on the current food security situation of the country is critical. Against this background Vision 2050 Forestry conceived the “Revolution of Afforestation, Reforestation and Sustainable AgroForestry Projects” that to date has been successfully rolled out in over 850 rural communities, benefitting 300,000 farmers and their families.
An inequitable contract
Vision 2050 Forestry used the slogan “plant trees for cash” in order to emphasise that the project is supposed to alleviate poverty and provide jobs for farmers. But a look at the contract that farmers signed with Vision 2050 Forestry reveals that not only was the income from the project limited, farmers had to make several payments to remain part of the project. We’ll look at the income first, followed by the payments.
Under the contract that farmers signed with Vision 2050 Forestry, the company will harvest mature trees and pay farmers 100 cedis (about US$23) per tree:
Hashmiu points out that the payment of 100 cedis is not based on any attempt to calculate the value of the carbon stored in the trees. Instead, it is based on approximately one-quarter of the market value of a 20-year-old Cedrela tree. The rest of the money will cover implementation and transaction costs. Frempong, the project developer, told Hashmui that,
This method, although not free of flaws, is the best we can have, particularly in the absence of sufficient data on historic emissions levels and project related costs. The risk involved is that thsi method is based on the assumption that potential carbon revenue for Cedrela will be more lucrative than its timber revenue, which may not necessarily be the case due to fluctuations in carbon value. The carbon revenue agreed upon may, however, be reviewed with the consent of farmers if the project finally gets to the voluntary carbon market.
Farmers have to pay 20 cedis for the documentation and contract agreement book.
Each farmer is given a PIN code which has to be renewed each year at a cost of 50 cedis:
There’s a “farm gate contribution” of 20 cedis per annum:
Then there are “pre and post planting costs” amounting to 20 cedis per annum:
To benefit from educational programmes for their children, farmers have to pay 5 cedis to buy into the scheme and 25 cedis per annum to renew the contract:
And farmers have to contribute 10% of their income towards a “social fund”:
Frempong, the project developer, told Hashmiu that he was arrested by the Bureau of National Investigations in Ghana facing accusations that he had not paid carbon funds to farmers under the project. But there is no mention of carbon in the contract, despite the fact that the name of the project is “Carbon Credit Project”. The extract from the contract above limits income to “timber, vegetables, animals, cereals and all other food crops”.
The company also lent money to farmers, who used land and trees as collateral. Here’s an extract from the contract that farmers signed, about these loans:
Any farmers who cannot keep up the repayments stand to lose their land and trees to Vision 2050 Forestry.