Oil Palm Uganda lawsuit (re land grabs in Uganda)

On 19 February 2015, three Ugandan farmers from Lake Victoria’s Bugula Island, Kalagala District, backed by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and Friends of the Earth, brought a lawsuit on behalf of their community against Oil Palm Uganda before the courts of Masaka, Uganda, over alleged land grabs.  Oil Palm Uganda is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda -- a joint venture of Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in Oil Palm Uganda and is providing technical expertise.

The plaintiffs allege that their land was taken for the development of an oil palm plantation.  They are seeking restitution for their land as well as compensation loss of income.  The plaintiffs claim that they are left with no source of income following the taking of their land.  The plaintiffs are waiting for a hearing date.

The land grab claims against Oil Palm Uganda are associated with the “Vegetable Oil Development Project” initiated by the Government of Uganda with the oversight and financing of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  Oil Palm Uganda was invited to participate in the project as a private-sector partner.

- Kalangala residents decry land grabbing on islands, Henry Lubulwa, Daily Monitor (Uganda), 6 May 2015
- Ugandan farmers take on palm oil giants over land grab claims, Alon Mwesigwa, Guardian (UK), 3 Mar 2015
- UN, banks and oil palm giants feast on the stolen land of Uganda's dispossessed, Anne van Schaik & Oliver Tickell, Ecologist (UK), 19 Feb 2015

Wilmar International:
- Wilmar affirms commitment to open, transparent & responsible practices, 1 Dec 2013

Friends of the Earth:
- Ugandan oil palm project taken to court over land-grab claims, 19 Feb 2015

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Article
6 May 2015

Kalangala residents decry land grabbing on islands

Author: Henry Lubulwa, Daily Monitor (Uganda)

A section of Kalangala District residents have accused the district officials of grabbing their land and allocate it to Oil Palm Uganda Limited to establish oil palm plantations...Kalangala District Natural Resources Officer...denied the allegations of illegally sending people off their land to pave way for the oil palm plantations. He said many people were not legal occupants on the public land. “We tried to negotiate with them, relocate them to other places to settle but they refused”...With the help of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Nape) and Friends of the Earth Uganda, Kalangala community launched a legal challenge against all the parties involved in the said land grabbing...According to Nape Programme Officer, David Kureeba...“Oil palm was not the best product for the island, especially when there is a water resource whose eco-system is at the shores of the lake. Apart from destroying the eco-system, many people cannot benefit from the remaining natural resources since the land was taken away from them and now have nothing to do,”...

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Article
19 February 2015

Ugandan oil palm project taken to court over land-grab claims

Author: Friends of the Earth Europe

Farmers in Uganda evicted by oil palm plantations are today presenting a lawsuit [in Uganda] against a joint venture co-owned by the oil palm giant Wilmar International. They are claiming restitution for their grabbed land and fair compensation for damages, three years after their land was taken for plantation development. Friends of the Earth International is backing the communities' land grab case, filed after…dialogue with the government and the company which has failed to bring them justice…The land grab occurred…in 2011, leaving at least one hundred small-scale farmers landless. Displaced smallholders received little compensation, if any…[The] plaintiffs are now waiting for a hearing date in court...If the judge sustains their complaint, over 100 farmers will receive compensation and the restitution of their land. [Also refers to Bidco Oil Refineries, Bidco Uganda, Josovina Commodities, Oil Palm Uganda]

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Article
18 February 2015

UN, banks and oil palm giants feast on the stolen land of Uganda's dispossessed

Author: Anne van Schaik & Oliver Tickell, Ecologist (UK)

A small community in Uganda is…challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest…to establish a vast plantation…[T]hree…[farmers] are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against...Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income… Wilmar…holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project…[which] is backed by the Ugandan government…and…the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)…[M]any European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South...[Also refers to BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, ING, Rabobank] 

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Article
1 December 2013

Wilmar affirms commitment to open, transparent & responsible practices

Author: Wilmar International

Wilmar...is aware of criticisms made by Friends of the Earth...regarding some of its operations in Africa…Prior to project commencement [in Uganda], there was extensive consultation with the affected communities, including public hearings. The project was initiated with support from the communities and local and district leadership…To the best of our knowledge, there was no compulsory acquisition of land, and all the land was acquired on a willing-buyer-willing-seller basis…There were no evictions of people on the land acquired for the project. Where it was not possible for the occupants to leave the land in question…no oil palm development took place…The project has provided an important source of development and income for the communities…Since project initiation, Kalangala has moved from bottom of the list in terms of economic development (71 out of 76) to among the top 10 districts in Uganda…

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