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Ugandan farmers in court over land grab

March 2015

More than 100 Ugandan farmers evicted to make way for palm oil plantations have filed a lawsuit claiming damages and the return of their land.

The smallholders received little, if any, compensation when their land was grabbed on the Islands of Kalangala in Lake Victoria in 2011.

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.”

Frank Muramui, director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists/Friends of the Earth Uganda, complained: “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 they face a daily struggle.”

The project has been carried out by Oil Palm Uganda, a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda, a venture formed by the agribusiness multinational Wilmar International and the investment group Josovina Commodities, both from Singapore, and the Kenyan company Bidco Oil Refineries. The backers include the Ugandan government and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development, to which the UK is a large contributor.

Samuel Lowe, a land campaigner with Friends of the Earth, which is supporting the plaintiffs, said: “This case clearly shows we cannot expect companies and financiers to regulate themselves.

“We need binding regulations in Europe so financiers can no longer provide their services to companies engaged in land grabbing.

“Further, UK taxpayer money should not be funnelled into projects that damage the very people and communities the government claims to be supporting.

“Our government must carry out stricter monitoring of where the money is going.”

Friends of the Earth | Africa | Land Rights


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