Green Resources is a Norwegian company with 41,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. While Green Resources claims to be carrying out “sustainable development”, the reality is anything but sustainable for local communities.
The Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle, visited Green Resources’ plantations in the Kachung region of Uganda at the end of 2016.
Josephine Ateng lost her farmland to Green Resources’ plantations. Today, she has to buy all her food. She has virtually no income. She told Yle that,
“We used to grow rice where the forest is. Now we’ve been driven away. We have nowhere to grow our crops.”
Another villager, Moses Olungu said,
“When they started to plant trees in the area, we had houses there. Those homes were destroyed.”
In 2012, the Finnish state-owned development finance company Finnfund gave Green Resources an investment loan of €10 million. On its website, Finnfund claims that the company has “good relations with local communities”.
Finnfund quotes Mads Asprem, CEO of Green Resources, as saying that, “Maintaining good relations with local communities is vital.”
The problems Green Resources plantations have caused for local communities have been reported several times in the past. Each time a new report is published, Asprem just shrugs his shoulders. His response is always the same. He criticises the reports and denies that there are any serious problems.
This time, Finnfund has saved him the trouble of replying. Finnfund is not interested in investigating the problems that the company has created. Instead, Finnfund’s response states that,
The main objective of the project is to benefit the local people, in addition, it seeks to curb both climate change and accelerating deforestation in Uganda.
In 2014, the Oakland Institute used the term “carbon violence” to describe Green Resources’ operations.
Villagers told the Oakland Institute that they were evicted from the land before Green Resources started their plantations. Government employees, army, military and police carried out the evictions.
More recent evictions have taken place as Green Resources has expanded its operations. Villagers told the Oakland Institute that company employees destroyed their homes to make way for plantations.
One villager said that company staff arrived without notice and,
“just started to plant trees on top of our crops … we were evicted without discussion.”
In 2015, Camilla Ziedorn, a journalist with Sweden’s TV4 Kalla Fakta programme, visited Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda. After her programme was broadcast, the Swedish Energy Agency, which is the sole buyer of carbon credits from the Kachung plantations, froze future payments to Green Resources.
Here’s how Ziedorn describes what she found in Uganda:
“I’ve just been there and met with members of the community. Soldiers and police officers chase them off the land. Those who protest are arrested. They’ve been robbed of their resources. Many can’t afford to send their kids to school, many barely have enough food. They say they’ve lost their entire future and their chances of a decent life… The villagers have sued Green Resources over how they’re treated.”
When the Swedish Energy Agency visited the plantations in October 2015, they also found that there were serious problems. A report on the Agency’s website states that,
Among the locals, there were several people who told me that they find it difficult to support themselves and that they need access to more fertile agricultural land for their livelihood. Conditions had become worse for the local population since their access to the plantations was limited.
Both locals’ stories and Green Resources’ own documents also showed that there were conflicts in the contact between the forest company’s field staff and locals.
“We have become beggars”
In 2016, Nicky Milne reported for Thomson Reuters Foundation on the impacts of Green Resources’ plantations. She reported that,
Thousands of rural people have lost their rights to the land they have farmed for years.
Olga Akello has lived in the area that is now industrial tree plantations for more than 30 years. She told Milne that,
“When we first arrived here, life was comfortable. We were farming and harvesting enough food, but those things are no more,” said , who has lived in the Bukaleba forest for over 30 years.
“They took away our farmland and we have become beggars.”
Yle’s report notes that Green Resources has provided employment. The company has built two child care units, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. It has provided HIV/AIDS testing, and improved wood stoves that use less wood and create less smoke.
Maxwell Oninje tells Yle that he used to work for Green Resources. Now he grows trees using seedlings from the company. But his cows have died, as a result of the pesticides that Green Resources sprays on the plantations:
“They usually use chemicals to spray the weeds. If you take animals there, they eat the plants and then they die.”
Villagers want compensation for what they’ve lost to the company. Josephine Ateng told Yle that,
“I want a piece of land to replace that which our community lost.”
Yle reports that villagers are taking legal action:
The villagers have joined forces, with 300 of them pursuing legal action over the past decade, demanding compensation for the loss of land use. Their lawyers say they would be satisfied with a settlement of less than half a million euros. However Twoonto [a lawyer defending the villagers] is uncertain of a ruling from the corruption-plagued local legal system, and is calling on those funding the project to pay some compensation.