Chapter 5 : East Africa

East African trees and the Green Resource Curse

By Adrian Nel and Khadija Sharife

East African forests are now under attack by governments and corporations, mostly based in the North, aiming to protect them from local inhabitants. The relevance of forests as a means of ‘sinking’ carbon was recognised by the Kyoto Protocol’s Articles 6 and 12, related to project activities and emissions trading. Article 6 articulates that Annex 1 (or developed/industrialised nations accounting for more than 80 per cent of historical emissions), may transfer to, or acquire from, any other Annex 1 country, carbon credits – the result of projects aimed at reducing man-made emissions or enhancing carbon sinks.[1] Included in Article 6 are two key provisions stipulating that any claimed emissions reductions be ‘additional’ to emissions that would have otherwise occurred.[2]

Meanwhile, Article 12 concerns the role of non-Annex 1 nations (developing countries) by defining the role of CDM initiatives, enabling – in theory – developing nations to move forward sustainably through technology transfer (for example, solar and wind power) from developed nations.[3] CDM in return facilitates compliance for continued CO2 emissions on the part of developed nations through purchasing carbon credits generated via the lack of fossil-fuel use in developing nations. Afforestation (A) and reforestation (R) projects were adopted by the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2003.[4] But what is the reality of CDM projects, particularly pertaining to forest plantations?

This chapter examines the incursion of private interests, and in particular forestry multinationals, into the East African forestry landscape. Examining the involvement of Green Resources Ltd, Africa’s largest forestation company, we track the motivations driving registrations for A/R CDM projects and examine some of the asymmetries of interaction that characterize this element of the broader carbon forestry sector. A/R CDM projects ostensibly seek to provide investment for ‘forests’, yet investment for wood, as the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) concedes, is ‘driven by demand for wood products’[5] – and CDM initiatives, appear to be no different. The obvious implication of this distortion is vulgarly evident in tree plantations as ‘forests’, where ‘alien pine or eucalyptus trees planted in biodiverse grassland are nothing more than industrial timber plantations with no biodiversity value.’ (Timberwatch Coalition 2011, 13).

Expanding upon the issues made visible through the lens of Green Resources LTD we broaden our view to include a series of case studies of A/R CDM projects in various stages of implementation (some are operational and a number are still in the ‘pipeline’) across East Africa. They flaunt additionality criteria and  lack  Free and Prior Informed Consent from local, forest dependent communities. These projects in many cases  simply amount to little more than green washing or ‘box ticking’ through techno-centric project evaluations, and lead to outright evictions of local communities . The preponderance of plantation interests in A/R CDM projects effectively supports corporate financial accumulation whilst marginalizing and obscuring the voices of local communities, and the cases below highlight some of the negative biodiversity impacts, concerns over water use and damage to land and biodiversity

Afforestation/Reforestation CDMs


When it comes to CDM projects, Green Resources Ltd, Africa’s largest forestation company, appears at first blush to endorse a sustainability missionAfter  the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 2005, the company (then known as Fjordglott) increased its capitalisation from US$98,000 to US$1.4 million, later extending invitations to private investors, such as Norwegian corporation TRG, to acquire shares.[6] These days, Green Resources’ activities include plantations, carbon offsets, forest products and renewable energy. The company’s wood production in Africa is pegged at 14,000 ha of forest plantations of a total 610,000 ha under process for future development.[7] The company, primarily operating in East Africa, with 3500 employees holds 12,000 ha in Uganda as well as significant areas in Tanzania (34,000 ha of land, with a further 120,000 ha in the process of acquisition), Mozambique (172,000 ha) and Sudan (179,000 ha).[8] It also owns East Africa’s largest sawmill, Sao Hill, and remains one of the continent’s largest producers of transmission poles required for electricity, amongst other products such as wood for housing.[9]

The company’s current major shareholder structure[10] includes major investors such as Phaunos Timber Fund, New Africa, Steinerud, as well as Macama , Storebrand ASA , Verbene Investment Ltd. , TRG , and Preben Invest AS. Unlike the company’s competitors, Green Resources has the advantage of already having significant experience in land acquisition, which is described as a ‘significant entry barrier’ by the company. Competitors include the Global Forest Solidarity Fund[11], a private initiative active in Mozambique, funded to the tune of US$100 million from investors such as Harvard University, having planted 5,000 ha in the past decade. Other competitors include New Forest, financed by UK capital, operating in Uganda and Mozambique, planting 1,500 ha in 2007; Actis/CDC, controlling 7,000 ha of teak plantations in Tanzania, as well as logging rights in Sudan; Raiply, East Africa’s largest forest industry company, owning 12,000 ha in Tanzania, with operations in Kenya; and Rift Valley Holdings, self-described as ‘one of the largest investors in agriculture and forestry in sub- Saharan Africa.’

As Mutuma Marangu, chairman of a Green Resources subsidiary explained[12], a tree that takes 70 years to grow in Norway, takes just 17 years in Tanzania. Given the location of East Africa, and the rising need from emerging nations such as China for wood, Marangu believes that with major forests coming online, Chinese, Japanese and other major users of wood in the near- and far-East will move toward East Africa as opposed to Brazil, Argentina and Chile – their traditional mainstay suppliers for lumber.

‘There is a shorter shipping voyage from China to East Africa than from China to Brazil,’ he stated. ‘There is ample opportunity here. We have the least penetration of forestry and forest cover in the world, the greatest possibility for growing trees. We are leading by example.’ During his recent interview with Canada’s Business News Network (BNN), Marangu said that each year wood is required for 300,000 homes in three different East African countries, with population growth at ‘one million people, per year’ in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.[13]

‘In terms of power and demand, there is an extreme need for both (wood) production and (carbon) offsets. At present, there is not much multinational or foreign investment in the sector,’ he said. Currently, ‘high cost’ producers such as the US (producing over 600 million cubic metres of wood per year) and Russia (which produces over 400 million cubic metres yearly) amongst others like Uruguay, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, account for 80 per cent of supply.[14]The company notes that Russia’s new log wood export tariffs (€50 per cubic metre) exceeds Tanzania’s stumpage costs (the residual costs after subtracting various allowable costs such as transport). Meanwhile, emerging nations such as South Africa are increasing local consumption of wood products. Marangu’s assessments of China and India are indeed correct: from 2002 to 2006, the latter’s imports doubled as did China’s during the past five years.

Plantations are seen as a profitable means of mitigating climate change under the umbrella of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. Africa has been the smallest recipient of climate funds even though the continent emits just three pre cent of all greenhouse gases (GHG) worldwide.

Despite studies by Stanford University’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, which reveal that between one-third and two-thirds of CDM projects ‘do not represent real carbon reductions’[15] CDM projects account for 20 per cent of the total carbon market[16], valued at US$17.5 billion out of a total US$94 billion (in 2009). The European Union carbon market comprises 77 per cent of this (US$72 billion), but the market itself is pegged to explode by 300 per cent if the US would ever come online on Kyoto.[17]

Green Resources has declared that existing projects will generate over 60 million tonnes of carbon ‘capture’[18] during the next decade, with total forestation carbon capture expected to peak at 2 million tonnes per annum for existing projects under development (in 2009). Additional projects are estimated to generate 9 million tonnes (by 2020 when ‘net growth in biomass is the highest’). The Norwegian government, eager to offset emissions[19] has already acquired carbon credits from Green Resources.[20]

 BOX 3 : Fake eco-certification and the timber racket

According to the WWF[21], ‘as many as a fifth of the CERs in a global primary CDM market estimated to be worth around €6.5bn last year had originated from ‘non-additional’ projects that should not have been approved as they would have gone ahead even if they had not received extra income by selling carbon credits.’

The primary problem, highlighted by Kristy Clough, climate change officer at the WWF, was that, ‘verifiers are paid by the project operators, so there is a vested interest to approve as many projects as possible. We would like to see the scheme changed so that the CDM Executive Board randomly appoints the verifiers to the projects.’[22]

The precedent for greenwashing via entities like SGS has already been meticulously documented in other critical environmental initiatives such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). More than half of the world’s tropical forests have been devoured through market-driven consumption. But preventing global deforestation is not as easy as it sounds: the global supply chain from origin to disposal is rarely accounted for by self-regulated multinationals, from logging corporations to retailers.

Yet the tide appears to be turning. Pressurised by consumer demand, companies such as Lidl, a leading German food retailer, have begun using ‘green’ certified wood fibre to manufacture products.

The movement that appears to have catalysed the paradigm shift, specifically targeting the vast ecological footprints of ‘first world’ consumers, is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993. Trained to interpret reality not as humans or even citizens but consumers, global populations have responded to the call through the only political tool accessible: their wallets. The brand, adorning myriad products from toilet paper to books, is now worth US$20 billion – a massive increase from the US$5 billion estimated just three years ago.[23] FSC signifies a voluntary market-driven vehicle designed to introduce and implement a new value system structured around sustainability. There is even a day to commemorate the event – FSC Friday on 24 September.

The system, present in over 50 countries, operates through services ranging from standards to trademarks and accreditation.[24] Purchasing products branded ‘green’ by the movement, we’re informed, constitutes a conscience choice to be ‘part of the solution’. Given that as much as 80 per cent of timber is illegally harvested in many developing nations, FSC’s unique forest certification standard is not only backed by major ‘green’ muscle such as Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) but oftentimes it is perceived as the only acceptable system by organisations such as the American Green Building Council.

FSC is self-described as a membership organisation, comprised of concerned individuals and organisations. Members constitute the general assembly (GA), allegedly the decision-making body whose policies and standards are unanimously adopted by the FSC board of directors. The GA is divided into three chambers: environmental, social and economic, with representative directors reflecting equal status of all chambers.[25] According to the FSC, ‘all policies and standards go through at least two rounds of public consultations.

In these consultations everybody interested in the fate of the world’s forests can comment.

‘Buying FSC certified products is the only way to be certain that the interests of the forests, the species that live in them, and the people that rely on them to make a living are being considered,’ stated Colin Butfield, head of the WWF-UK campaign.[26] As far off as Romania and Bulgaria, timber-producing countries are acutely aware that first-world ‘consumers’ are increasingly active. To date, 120,052,350 ha have been certified (4.3 per cent of global forested land), an increase of 11 per cent since October 2009.[27] Romania, for instance, now seeks to certify 40 per cent of forested land by 2011, with Bulgaria hitting slightly lower at 30 per cent.[28] ‘If a European client is demanding an FSC certificate, timber companies are very motivated to get certified,’ said Neli Dontcheva, head of Bulgaria’s Forestry Certification Information Centre.[29]

In former Francafrique territories, French corporations exploited more than five times the legal concessions. According to one senior official at the Cameroonian Centre for Environment and Development based in Yaoundé, ‘the police shy away from investigating the matter…because those who are profiting illegally from logging allegedly include senior police officials.’ As one French national involved in the logging industry revealed to IPS, ‘We’re asked for bribes amounting to millions of CFA francs, and we often pay these out.’ France remained a key importer of illegally logged timber from Liberia during the reign of former president and warlord Charles Taylor. Taylor himself would admit that timber, logged by Dutch arms dealer Guys Kouvenhoven, generated ‘more than half the gross national product’, through Kouvenhoven’s Oriental Timber Company (OTC).

In 2001, for instance, OTC (accounting for 41 of 60 timber-loaded vessels departing from Liberia), exported timber to foreign buyers including France and China, two primary objectors to timber sanctions. Since 1996, in fact, half of all timber logged from Central Africa has been exported to Asia, namely China and Taiwan, making inroads into traditionally European strongholds through ‘political non-interference’.[30] Taylor conceded during his trial that millions in ‘covert’ sums had been deposited into bank accounts from Taiwan. Beneath the emerging ‘Asian’ face of resource-hungry investors, lies the same old market driven logic, structured around comparative advantage, ‘legality’ in property rights, and the notion of the market as the most ‘efficient allocator’ of resources.

The company SGS states, ‘SGS Qualifor is the world’s leading and most recognised forest certification program. Since 1994, wood processing enterprises and wood product producers have achieved the SGS Qualifor certification in 60 countries around the world.’[31] SGS, a Geneva-based auditing firm specialising in inspection and certification, supplies the forestry industry with both training as well as a chain-of-custody certification system including, ‘audit of the transport and transformation of wood–based products from the forests, through processing, to final product at consumer outlets’.[32] But who watches the watchers?               SGS was already a 90 year old business by the time the IMF and World Bank came knocking in the early 1980s via the pre-shipment inspection (PSI) industry. By the early 1990s, one quarter of SGS’s revenues, reported at US$1.2 billion, was generated from PSI and the company maintained a presence in 140 countries, with just 40,000 staff. SGS would later be retained by the Bank, this time in an official capacity, as the Bank’s ‘global auditor’ to conduct ‘spot audits’ in Kenya and other countries to sniff out corruption.[33] By 1997, SGS admitted to paying ‘substantial commission’ – conservatively estimated at US$15 million – to Pakistan’s President Benazir Bhutto and her husband. Pakistani officials believe that, cumulatively, Bhutto made off with US$1.5 billion in total from a variety of sources. SGS payments were remitted in true SGS-style through shell entities incorporated in secret jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. Two years later, SGS was banned from operating in Ethiopia for similar reasons. Of course, SGS was interlocked with, and even represented by systemically powerful interests and persons such as James Woolsey, a former CIA Director who listed SGS as a client.[34] Following the boom and bust of SGS’s PSI industry, SGS shifted to certification targeting private industries rather than countries. More crucially, it also began focusing on eco-certification.

Despite mass deforestation through illegal logging and commercial and monoculture development taking place across the continent, Africa hosts a minute presence with just 2.9 per cent of forest cover certified by the FSC. Countries experiencing mass deforestation such as Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, chiefly through supplying timber to China and France, have certified just 2.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent of land. South Africa, with 17.8 per cent (1,567,811 ha) of forest certified, accounts for one-fifth of the continent’s overall FSC certification.

Within South Africa 80 per cent (2005) of FSC-certified forests constitute industrial timber plantations (ITPs) initially developed by the apartheid regime as a means of independently sourcing wood products.[35] The initiative began with state-led plantations between 1920 and1960. The government established a tax incentive system, such as the general export incentive scheme, later voided by the ANC liberation government in 1994.[36] During that time expansion accounted for 45,000 ha annually (1990s), five times that of indigenous forests. By 1996, the Natal Agricultural Union reported an 82 per cent reduction in stream flow over a 20 year period in areas where grasslands were ‘developed’ by commercial plantations.

The ANC government further emphasised the importance of plantations to growth, gender income and employment. ‘Forestry makes a significant contribution to the economy,’ revealed Lindiwe Hendricks when Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. ‘In 2006 this contribution amounted to approximately R14 billion and 170,000 people were employed in the sector, which includes about 30,000 small scale growers, most of whom are women. With forestry being a rural activity, this sector has enormous potential to contribute to the economy and to job creation.’ The two giants dominating the industry are Mondi and SAPPI. Mondi, formed by Anglo-American in 1967, manages over 450,000 ha with 35,000 employees in more than 30 countries. SAPPI, a global paper and pulp company incorporated in 1936, holds 465,000 ha in SA, with a further 75,000 ha in Swaziland (2007). By 2007, the company manufactured five million tonnes of paper and three million tons of pulp.

Water intensive plantations, covering 1.2 per cent of land, far outweigh natural forest cover (0.3 per cent). Mpumulanga holds 42 per cent of plantations, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal, which accounts for 38 per cent, and the Eastern Cape, which accounts for 11 per cent.          Damages are not limited to communities living in close proximity to the plantationsIn 2010, Mondi was named one of the top three polluters in south Durban, thanks to the company’s paper mill.  “This is not normal air,’ said Zodumo Mbuli, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Environmental Affairs in 2003.[37] Meanwhile, in 2010, SAPPI came under fire in Durban for polluting a critical conduit between sea and land, the Thukela River, with highly toxic chemicals.

According to Timberwatch, a South African civil society organisation, ‘The first FSC ‘forest’ certification in South Africa was awarded in 1997. According to the timber industry, SA now has a far higher percentage (80 per cent) of its plantation area certified than most countries, but this is misleading. If the areas under illegal plantations and unmanaged feral trees were taken into account, it would be under 40 per cent.’[38] The consequences, claims the organisation’s report ‘Life As Commerce’, have been to grant respectability to historical and current destructive aspects of the timber industry, including:  Community displacement, land dispossession, social disruption, destruction of biodiversity resources and the natural landscape, impacts on water resources, drying out of wetlands and aquifers, pollution of rivers, streams and wetlands with pesticides, oils and fertilizers, the contamination and compaction of soil within plantation areas, and accelerated soil loss on site and increased downstream erosion. The report cites the example of Hans Merensky Holdings (HMH) in two provinces – Kwa-Zulu Natal (Singisi Forest Products) and Limpopo (Northern Timbers). Both are certified by SGS Qualifor (2003 and 2000).                               Nonetheless, FSC certification – and auditors like SGS – are blind to these externalised realities.

Market-driven eco-certificationoftentimes has the opposite effect.As a net exporter of forestry products, South Africa’s procurement of new markets and securing of existing markets were critical. The forestry industry saw certification as a marketing tool and accepted it fairly easily.

The real question is whether  certification delivers a solution for the environment, communities and consumers, or a green-washed veneer enabling corporate criminals and governments to engage in business as usual.




Tanzanian trees

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was established under the umbrella of the UNFCCC. Tanzania ratified the agreement in 2002.[39] The UNFCCC’s approval is vital as is the approval of the host country via the Designated National Authority (DNA),         In order to ‘speed up’ and simplify the process for small-scale CDM initiatives, the government of Tanzania has implemented ‘faster registration, only four weeks after submission, exemption from registration fee’, as well as entities that are, ‘validated, verified and certified by the same designated operational entities’ (DOE). DOE’s are responsible for checking that CDM projects conform to proper regulations. To achieve DNA approval, ‘project idea notes’ (PIN) – identifying the ‘additional’ nature of the project without which it would not qualify for CDM status – and project design documents (PDD) are required, while DNA involvement from the project start date is preferred. Projects earmarked for rural areas are also preferred and technology transfer remains one of four key conditions pending approval by the DNA. Green Resources’s Idete Forest Project (IFP) is one such CDM initiative. ‘The objective of Idete is to grow trees for carbon storage and to harvest forestry products for sawn timber, utility poles and renewable energy,’ according to Green Resources. Green Resources AR and the Idete and Makungu Village Government in the Mufindi District of Tanzania Idete Forest Project (IFP) proposed the CDM project to sequester 3, 059, 200 tCO2-e in an industrial plantation model that is also designed to ‘contribute to meeting the growing demand for quality wood products from well managed plantation forests, while contributing to sustainable environment management, community development and poverty alleviation in Tanzania’ (Green Resources 2011).

A study by the South African NGO Timberwatch took issue with the way that Green Resources framed the project, finding that Green Resources Ltd failed to describe its “Reforestation at the Idete Forest project in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania accurately, given that land being converted to tree plantations at Idete is original grassland in a healthy condition, and therefore characterising the project as ‘reforestation’ is a falsity. This distortion is taken further in calling the tree plantation a ‘forest’ when alien pine or eucalyptus trees are planted in bio-diverse grassland. The result is nothing more than industrial timber plantations with no biodiversity value (Timberwatch Coalition 2011, 13).”




Fig 5.1 National parks and reserves in Tanzania



Following a lack of substantive Free and Prior Informed Consent, this Tanzanian case highlights some of the biodiversity concerns and problematic definitional understandings that are possible within A/R CDM projects and shows how many amount to little more than green washing.         According to Dr Blessing Karumbidza of the Institute of Economic Research and Innovation (EIRI) it is Norway – one of the world’s leading oil producing nations – rather than Tanzania that stands to benefit.

‘The Idete project was allegedly underwritten by Norway’s Ministry of Finance. The Norwegian Prime Minister, who was present at the time of the launch, articulated the importance of carbon credits as a means of offsetting Norway’s emissions. Tanzania was at the heart of the deal,’ says KarumbidzaThe ironyis that wood plantations are not forests but monocultures and thus should not receive FSC certification.

‘Green Resources claimed that the acquired Idete land was degraded through fire, but unlike wood plantations where fire can destroy wood products, grasslands fires serve a very natural and quick process of maintaining the ecosystem by removing dead herbaceous materials, recycling nutrients and other important factors,’ he says.

Species are primarily composed of potentially invasive eucalyptus (59 per cent), and pine (40 per cent). The forest, situated in the Mufindi district, Iringa region, is located at an altitude of between 1,100m and 1,550m. The rainy season extends from November through May.[40] By 2008, 1,600 ha of a 8,000 ha plantable area (from a total of 11,600 ha of Idete land acquired by Green Resources) had been developed, generating a potential 172,471 temporary certified emission reductions (tCER) per annum.[41] The company estimates that total production over 20 years will generate almost 2.6 million tCER from Idete alone. In 2009, Green Resources revealed that potential tCERs of over 6 million by 2020, sold at US$6 per estimated emissions reduction would generate US$36 million in revenue for the crediting period (under CDM rules, the accumulated carbon can be sold every five years).[42]




Fig 5.2 The Iringa region


The economic challenges facing carbon offset projects in Tanzania have been described by Green Resources as projects beset by a ‘high level of risk, low and uncertain CER price, and high cost of project development and implementation’. Institutional and social obstacles include limited government understanding of the carbon certification process and difficulties innate in government procedures and bureaucracies for approval, as well as similarly limited understanding on the part of communities.[43] The company further added in their presentation, ‘Overview of Plantation/Certification Development in Tanzania’, that stakeholders and communities had very high expectations of perceived benefits. Moreover, the company declared that private investors were placed in a disadvantageous position.

‘While there are large amounts of funding available for forestry and carbon activities, very little of this benefits private companies,’ Green Resources revealed. ‘We estimate that private companies receive less than two per cent of the public funding available for forestation and carbon. In order to increase all the activity aimed at combating climate change, in particular in Africa, funding agencies should provide much increased grants to the private sector.’[44] While the company stated that project costs per hectare ranged from US$400-US$600[45] land is leased for a 99-year period from the Tanzanian government at just 2.3 Norwegian krone per hectare– (less than US$0.36), generating just under US$4200 for Idete’s lease[46]. ‘What Green Resources is doing is exporting the problem of pollution generated abroad to Africa. Tanzanians are receiving little in the process. This will become more evident in ten or 15 years when groundwater is depleted by wood plantations. The exploitative nature of the deal is especially evident in the fact that it was negotiated not in hard currency but Tanzanian shillings subject to currency depreciation,’ Karumbidza explains. ‘Tanzanian communities can expect to receive several million Tanzanian shillings from the carbon credit revenue in 15 years – whatever that is worth.’

Though Green Resources – the first company to receive Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) certification outside of the USA, has claimed that thus far the company has reaped no profits after 12 years of operation in Africa, the plantations will soon be fully grown and ready to harvest.[47]


Fig 5.3 Photo from Iringa



Ugandan plantations and the New Forests Company

Perhaps the most notorious controversy regarding CDM forestry projects is in Uganda’s Namwasa planation, run by the New Forests Company (NFC). NFC is a British forestry company (with a 20 percent stake owned by HSBC bank), and the CDM project, initially funded by the World Bank Bio-Carbon Fund, in the Kiboga and Mubede districts comprises 6,500 ha of ‘protected area’ within which 400000tCO2-e are said to be sequestered during the project lifecycle. The media focus on the project began after an Oxfam report in September 2011 alleged that up to 22,500 people were evicted from their land in Kiboga and Mubende districts by the Ugandan National Forestry Authority to make way for the NFC plantation, with Oxfam’s work with the communities concluding that many have been left destitute (Grainger and Geary 2011). Testimonies from villagers suggest that no consultations were undertaken prior to eviction, and that some people were even violently forced from their land (Institute for Security Studies, 2011).

These allegations concern the manner in which illegal encroachers were moved from the central forest reserves of Namwasa and Luwunga. Oxfam claims that the government failed to consult the encroachers and that violence was used during the evictions (Oxfam’s term) / vacations (the government term) (Institute for Security Studies (ISS) 2011). Oxfam claims that interviewees state that they did have lawful entitlement to the land, upon some of them had lived there for more than 40 years, far pre-dating the inception of the incumbent government or even the onset of democracy in the state. Others too claimed to be Second World War veterans and their descendants who were ‘allocated the land in recognition of service’(Redd-monitor 2011). That land claims are often hotly contested in Uganda’s history of land disputes.

The NFC however describes itself as a ‘sustainable and socially responsible’ company contributing jobs, revenue, and the timber products countries need as they develop which would otherwise be logged from natural forests, whilst at the same time attracting revenue from carbon. It disputes Oxfam’s claims, ‘strongly denying’ that they had any involvement in any Ugandan evictions or violence, (New Forests Company 2011).

In the Ugandan case the NFC claims to be an innocent bystander to government-led evictions, but the incentives such potential investments offer effectively displaces, delegitimises and depoliticises complex and often unresolved social and legal histories such as land tenure claims. This process recasts landscapes as merely ‘degraded land’ to be utilised for the purposes of carbon sequestration for the ‘global good’ and marginalises local claims and interests.

Busoga Green Resources AS (Norway) Plantation


The Busoga Forestry Kachung Forest Project, begun in 2006, aims for the afforestation of ‘degraded lands’ into a commercial plantation run by Green Resources AS (Norway) with the Busoga Forest Company as its local subsidiary, after they acquired the Norwegian Afforestation Group in 2007. The 7000 ha of rented land in Uganda for the plantations, at a cost of US$ 3 per hectare for a period of 50 years, is aimed at planting fast growing species (Eucalyptus, Pinus and several native species) to sequester 810 000 tCO2-e and contribute to ‘sustainable environmental management’ (Green Resources 2011).

Once again we see the polarizing nature of CDM activities with the creation of winners and losers from the process. A legacy of contestation over land rights , with 10,000 of the total 100,012 ha of forest reserve in the eastern region cleared of illegal encroachment in 2006 by the law enforcement arm of the National Forest Authority (NFA). A Friends of the Earth Report, in cooperation with the World Rainforest Movement and FERN, entitled ‘Tree Trouble: A Compilation of Testimonies on the Negative Impact of Large-scale Tree Plantations” outlines the details of the deal and the benefits accruing to Green Resources. According to the agreement, a one-off sum (500,000 Ugandan shillings, approx. USD 312) is paid to the authorities when the contract is signed, regardless of how large the leased area is, and the authorities receive an annual rent of 5,000 shillings (approx. USD 3) for each hectare planted with forest, inflation adjusted every ten years (Friends of the Earth International 2011). The report concludes that the ‘carbon plantation’ lands are leased to the private interests at a bargain price and that the authorities have virtually no capacity to assess what value the companies plan to generate through carbon trading. This they assert amounts to neo-colonialism as Uganda gives away the option of changing land use in the future, as well as the carbon rights to the units sequestered which cannot be double counted toward Ugandan national carbon accounting or potential emissions reductions commitments (Friends of the Earth International 2011). Again, in the Ugandan case companies fall back on arguments that it is the government mandating and carrying out the evictions but it is clear that CDM projects provide incentives for the further de-politicisation and suppression of complex land struggles and claims, generating both winners and losers (in the form of foreign plantation companies and evicted local residents respectively).

Rehabilitation of Mt. Elgon and Kibale National Parks


The FACE (Forests Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emission) foundation was created in 1990, as an initiative of four major Dutch electricity companies of the Dutch Electricity Generating Board (SEP). [48]The company has two projects at Kibale national park and at Mount Elgon National Park. Both have had particularly turbulent project histories including human rights abuses which have marred their implementation processes.

Started in 1994 and receiving initial USAID funding in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Foundation (UWA) the objectives of this carbon project were to implement forestry regeneration in the Mt. Elgon and Kibale National Parks, through the planting of twenty native tree species over a total area of 27 000 ha, sequestering 700 000 tCO2-e over its 17 year tenure (FAO Forest Division 2011). Although these are as yet unverified by the CDM board (the projects have submitted PDDs) and are currently transacted under the Voluntary Carbon Standard(VCS) (for example, on the website with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation, the incentives created by the CDM have formed a large part of the motivation for their implementation. As the CDM must be considered a nascent, and perhaps in the African case a largely failed endeavour, it is important to consider the scope of projects in emergence such as Kibale and Mt Elgon.

In both locations of the projects there have been evictions. In 1992, 30,000 forest dwellers and peasant settlers in Uganda were expelled without warning from a strip of land between the Kibale Forest Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth National Park. They lost most of their livestock and belongings so that a wildlife corridor could be created between the Reserve and the National Park. The expulsions took place under the Kibale Forest and Game Corridor Programme, part of the World Bank’s Forestry Rehabilitation Project which was co-financed by the European Community (Global Justice Ecology Project 2011). At the Mt Elgon site similar evictions took place in 1993 in which there were no consultations or compensation and in 2002, UWA evicted 550 families from Mount Elgon and destroyed their houses and crops (Guide for Africa 2011). There have since been protracted and on-going resistances and contestations by park boundary inhabitants to get their land back as they see it. Connor Cavanagh in a REDD+ Earth blog article chronicles the ‘weapons of the weak’ utilised in resistance against conservation tactics within and bordering the protected area of Mt. Elgon. Despite the efforts of conservation authorities to frame illegal activities as purely self-interested and profit-seeking, Connor suggests something quite different than mere criminality; nothing less than a new form of resistance: guerrilla agriculture (Connor Cavanagh 2011), actions such as boundary marker moving, negotiating and bribing officials and park enforcers, and the dissemination of ‘hidden transcripts’ — narratives that subaltern individuals use to interpret their own experience of domination or oppression, to give meaning to their resistance, and to frame alternatives. At Mount Elgon, the most common ‘hidden transcripts’ refer to alternative constellations of interaction between humans and their ‘natural’ environment, which either condemn modern conservation altogether, or imagine it in ways that are radically inclusive of humans (Connor Cavanagh 2011). Thus whilst A/R CDM and other carbon forestry projects seek to reshape local geographies and externalise their project costs there is always a natural ‘push-back’ and contestation to undermine or delegitimise project efforts, not through revolution, but through subtle and variegated strategies of resistance.

Nile Basin Reforestation Project

The Nile Basin Reforestation Project is a deal between the Ugandan Government represented by the National Forest Authority and the World Bank BioCarbon Fund, detailing improved conservation management practices in the Rwoho Central Forest Reserve gazetted woodland, including the reforestation of degraded grasslands to create 341.9 ha of timber plantations (pine and mixed native species) and sequester 29795 t CO2-e. A central dynamic of CDM projects that this project exposes is the relationship between financial capital and local institutions and the scalar and spatial re-arrangements (or misalignments) that arise in attempts to commodify carbon and the resultant power relationships.

The Ugandan NFA, the lead national institution involved in the process, is a statutory body which is run as a business entity; however its other mandate is to ensure the survival and sustainability of the central forest reserves. The institute for security studies produced a report examining the NFA at this nexus and its actions in the Nile Basin project, alerting to how roles can conflict when motivated by investment opportunities, posing a danger to effective forest conservation. (Institute for Security Studies (ISS) 2011, 68).

Central to the sustainable management of forests, especially in Tanzania, which has a community based focus to its forestry resource management, is community `involvement. Since the project protected area was established, grazing (which used to take place on the approximately 50 percent of deforested land now used for tree planting) has been criminalised, but by its own admission, the NFA’s efforts to police the plantations have not worked and have given rise to conflicts with communities that have protested against their ‘denial of access’ to forest resources by local communities, insensitive management styles, failure to deal with vermin and problem animals, and a lack of opportunity for communities to voice their concerns’. This precipitated the NFA decision to enter into collaborative forest management (CFM) both to quell dissent and to protect the plantations developed by private investors (Institute for Security Studies (ISS) 2011, 69). However the ISS report questions the sincerity of the community participation, concerning rights to grazing, the overstating of potential economic benefits to communities and failing to accommodate community concerns. While expected to establish at least 20 per cent of the area (or about 400 hectares), only 70 of the 250 members (28 per cent) of the Rwoho Environmental Conservation and Protection Association (RECPA) have joined the project (Institute for Security Studies (ISS) 2011, 70). There have been limited employment benefits but there have been complaints that the contractors employing community members receive about 60 per cent of the payments, and there are allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest in regarding how local contracts for plantation work are awarded to outsiders (although these claim have not been verified by the research).

Mozambique – Green Resources AS Niassa Project

One of the more recent CDM entrants in the A/R sphere is the Green Resources AS (Norway) forestry plantation and sequestration project in Lurio and Sanga districts in Niassa Province of Mozambique, which has also achieved FSC certification in October 2011. The 2009 agreement with the Mozambican government gives permission to develop a 126,000 hectares forest plantation (Green Resources will assist in the establishment of 54,000 ha forests by local smallholders and companies) over a 15 years project period, set to be the largest forestation project approved in Africa (Green Resources 2010).

Kenneth Lia Solberg, a contributor to REDD+, completed several months of fieldwork researching socioeconomic impacts of the private carbon offset forestry planation. He cited a number of grievances with the relationship between Green Resources and local inhabitants (Kenneth Lia Solberg 2011).

The feeling of many villagers that they had no say in the land acquisition process, frustration with the nature of the temporary jobs provided and the unfulfilled developmental promises on the part of GR and a lack of a community development plan with specific goals and deadlines and contracts with the community are central concerns (Kenneth Lia Solberg 2011). Solberg concludes that if the company wants to be welcomed by the people in Sanga, they should clearly define and follow through with initiatives to show positive results on the ground for otherwise, they risk more incidents  in Malica .

Democratic Republic of Congo – Ibi Batéké Carbon Sink Plantation

This A/R CDM project under the direction of Nova Cell (DRC), and with finance from CASCADe Africa, a multi-lateral conservation fund, seeks to sequester 2400000 t CO2-e through fast growing plantations on savannah grassland and to supply the capital Kinshasa with charcoal through sustainable fuel wood production (UNFCCC CDM 2011). The World Bank BioCarbon fund has agreed to purchase 500 000 tCERs (temporary certified emission reductions), supposedly derived from converting 4 000 ha of grassland to tree plantations and as such Ibi Batéké is widely promoted as a success despite not yet being registered by the CDM. However, a 2006 case study describes how the Batwa people in the DRC were exploited and excluded from consultation, according to the report entitled the Impacts of the Carbon Sinks of Ibi-Batéké’ Project on the Indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Sinafasi Makelo (Timberwatch Coalition 2011, 14).


There are a number of salient points to draw out from the experience of A/R CDM projects in East Africa. The first is how the predominant driver of the process has been private capital in the form of Forestry multi-nationals (most of them coming from Europe). The evidence of the role and impact of Green Resources LTD serves as an important yardstick by which to evaluate motivations behind A/R CDM funding projects with drive for profit, and asymmetries of benefit between the extractive company and the host country being some predominant characteristics.

As the case studies have shown, the circumvention of supposed ‘safeguards’ to ensure additionality and the interests of local communities is rife. At the project specific level it is clear that techno-centric project implementation strategies linked to this finding. No project exists in isolation from its socio-economic context. Projects are as much contingent upon the variety of local socio-economic factors (e.g. land rights claims) as they are upon the land cover types they are seeking to reforest or ‘regenerate.

The difference between de facto and de jure land rights is evident in the CDM cases, and methodologies which de-politicise this fact for the purposes of implementation run the risk of creating or exacerbating land conflicts or contestations, with patterns of eviction and criminalisation of alternative livelihoods.     In conclusion, the particular orientation of the CDM mechanism leads to projects which privileges the logic of commercialisation over explicitly conservationist or developmentalist approaches to natural resource management. The high number of plantations (wrongly defined as forests) and the emphasis on enforcement of protected areas is a result. If projects can be said to require a balance between community and conservation interests to achieve success, the majority of AR-CDM projects’ relative exclusion or de-legitimisation of community rights and interests not only marginalises local peoples but simultaneously undermines conservation agendas through resistances and contestations (through the weapons of the weak). The overall outcome is certainly not one that leads to either ‘clean development’ or a substantive climate mitigation solution.

[1]. Winrock International (1999) ‘Guidelines for Inventorying and Monitoring Carbon Offsets in Forest-Based Projects’ Arlington, VA, Winrock International.

[2]. Ibid

[3]. Ibid

[4]. Republic of Tanzania (2007) ‘A Handbook for Clean Development Mechanism Projects (CDM) Activities in Tanzania’.

[5] UN FAO (2009), ‘Global Demand for Wood Product’,

[6]. Norwatch (2000) ‘Norwegian Tree Plantations, Carbon Credits and Land Conflicts in Uganda’: p. 4.

[7]. Green Resources (2009) ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’, p. 2 (available from:

[8]. Ibid

[9]. Ibid p 4

[10]. Ibid p 2

[11]. Ibid p 4

[12]. Business News Network (2010), Interview with Green Resources’ Mutuma Marangu, 28 April (available from:

[13]. Ibid

[14]. Green Resources (2009) ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’, p. 6.

[15]. Christian Aid (2009) ‘The Role of Carbon Markets In Countering Climate Change’ (as cited by Victor, David. (2008) ‘A Realistic Policy on International Carbon Offsets’, CITY, Stanford University Press).

[16]. Green Resources (2009), ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’ p. 5.

[17]. Ibid

[18]. Green Resources (2009) ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’, p.5.

[19]. TimberWatch (2009) ‘Potential Impacts of Tree Plantation Projects under the CDM An African Case Study’

[20]. Green Resources (2009) ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’, p. 5.

[21] Murray, James (2009), ‘Carbon market under fire as UN suspends British CDM project accreditor’ Sep 14.

[22] Ibid. See: Mohr, L & Schneider, L. (2009), ‘A rating of Designated Operational Entities (DOEs) Accredited under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)’ Report for WWF.

[23] Wall Street Journal (2007), ‘FSC’s ‘Green’ Label for Wood Products Gets Growing Pains’, Oct 30.

[24] Forest Stewardship Council (2011), ‘About FSC’, <;

[25] Forest Stewardship Council (2011), ‘FSC Governance’, <;

[26] Green Biz (2010), ‘Half of U.K. Consumers Don’t Know Wood Purchases Could be Illegal’, Sep 21. <;

[28] WWF Panda.Org (2010), ‘Markets force Romania and Bulgaria to catch up on forest certification’, Sep 24. <;

[29] Ibid

[30] WWF (2000), ‘Implications for the Sustainable Management

and Conservation of Tropical Forests’.

[31] SGS (2010), ‘Group Systems and Services Certification’, <;

[32] Ibid

[33] The Corner House (2000), ‘Exporting Corruption: Privatisation, Multinationals and Bribery’, <;

[34] Henry, James (2011), ‘Blood Bankers: Sub-emerging Markets’, <;

[35] Timberwatch, ‘Certification: FSC Greenwash’, <;

[36] Lang, Chris (2007), ‘South Africa’, Jun., <;

[37] Lang, Chris (2006), ‘South Africa: Mondi and Environmental Racism’, Apr. <;

[38] Timberwatch, ‘Certification: FSC Greenwash’, <;

[39]. Republic of Tanzania (2007) ‘A Handbook for Clean Development Mechanism Projects (CDM) Activities in Tanzania’, p. 4.

[40]. Ibid

[41]. Green Resources (2008) ‘Overview of Plantation/Certification Development in Tanzania’, p. 9.

[42]. Green Resources (2009) ‘CCA Africa Agribusiness Sector Presentation’, p. 5.

[43]. Green Resources (2008) ‘Overview of Plantation/Certification Development in Tanzania’, pp.13-14.

[44]. Carbon Positive (2010) ‘Reforestation Vital for Africa & Climate Developer’,(available from:

[45]. Green Resources (2008) ‘Overview of Plantation/Certification Development in Tanzania’, pp.13-14.

[46]. Norwatch (2009), ‘Climate Project on Cheap Ground’, (available from:

[47]. Carbon Positive (2010) ‘Reforestation Vital for Africa & Climate Developer’.

[48] FACE’s activities planting pines in Ecuador since 1990 have become very controversial also. Larry Lohmann, Carbon Trading, Climate Justice and the Production of Ignorance: Ten examples,  Development,  51(3), Sept. 2008 , pp. 359-365