Thursday, April 26, 2007

Burn up your own Crops!

I saw an article last week insinuating that the UN is the new colonialand imperial master. My thought was, a shadow of truth, but stilted rhetoric without real substance.


But than this week the arrogance of the FAO "experts" in Rome has flattened me. They debate whether burning food to fuel vehicles maydivert edible crops in developing countries. Maybe this is the newcolonialism. The UN seems to want in on the action, broker to theworld's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility withthe smug feeling that they are sticking it to the oil producers. This self-righteousness is going to get someone killed.

The FAO banner reads, "Combustion Or Consumption? Balancing Food AndBiofuel Production." The consequences of large-scale bioenergyproduction for worldwide food security and biodiversity, takes on newmeaning when it is the developing countries providing the biomass. Alexander Maller, Head of FAO's Natural Resources Management andEnvironment Department, said "While there is legitimate concern amongsome groups that bioenergy could compromise food security and causeenvironmental damage, it can also be an important tool for improving thewell-being of rural people if governments take into accountenvironmental and food security concerns." Is it only me, or does thatsound like the ghost of old colonials.

It is not the oil produces that will suffer (their profit margin seemsto be unchangeable) it is the two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive that will bear the burden. The ivory and wild rubberof one century may become the biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol -produced from crops like maize and sugarcane of this century. And we all know the only people who can eat money are the politicians.

"Rome is burning it's own crops," is not a phrase we are likely to hearas long as they can conveniently shift the biomass burden to those whohave the weakest voice and the most to loose.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mean Spirited Mining in Africa (1)

Farmers Now Evicted The Nation (Nairobi)
NEWSApril 14, 2007 Posted to the web April 14, 2007
By Juma Namlola

Nairobi The Government yesterday evicted seven farmers from Maumba village in Kwale District who had refused to make way for the titanium mining project. They received a rude awakening when a bulldozer descended on the village at about 3am and started demolishing their houses as a contingent of Administration Policemen kept guard. The exercise was supervised by acting Kwale District Commissioner Isaac Oseko.

A blind farmer was part of those affected as the bulldozer brought down the only structure in his homestead. Mr David Kimenye Maingi, who has four children in secondary school, said he did not have anywhere to go as he did not know any other relative. "I was born blind and this is the only place I have known. My children are in three different secondary schools and I depend on income from this farm to get school fees. It is difficult to say what will happen next," he said.

As Mr Maingi spoke, a heavy downpour destroyed some of his children's school books that were strewn in the compound.

Another farmer, Mrs Serah Nduku Mulei, 71, and her children were also busy gathering their belongings as she kept on looking at her late husband's grave. The mother of eight told the Nation the farm had been her home for 44 years and did not know how she could cope with life elsewhere.

Last November, Nairobi High Court ruled that the Government was justified in forcibly taking over land belonging to the eight farmers to allow for titanium mining. Mr Justice Joseph Nyamu said that, in the public interest, the Government had the right to seize the land belonging to the farmers, who have been unwilling to give it out for the Sh9 billion mining project. The judge said it was apparent the mining project was important for the country and the farmers who were unwilling to vacate citing inadequate compensation were not sincere since they had been part of the Government-brokered negotiations that resulted on an agreed compensation. Through a private valuer, Mr Gitonga Aritho, the farmers argued the compensation of Sh80,000 per acre did not consider the physical structures, social, psychological effects and disturbance caused by the decision.

On December 21, the farmers were summoned to Msambweni DO's office for an enquiry attended by two Government valuers. But the farmers instructed their lawyer Gibson Kamau Kuria to get interim orders restraining the Government from evicting them, arguing the enquiry was flowed because it wasn't conducted by officials from the ministry of Lands.

Copyright © 2007 The Nation


Monday, April 16, 2007


Vast forests with trees each worth £4,000 sold for a few bags of sugar
John Vidal in Kisangani
Wednesday April 11, 2007
The Guardian

The Odzala rainforest, part of the national park in central Democratic
Republic of Congo. Elsewhere, huge tracts of unprotected forest have
been snapped up by loggers for but a fraction of their true worth.
Photograph: Michael Nichols/Getty

Lamoko, 150 miles down the Maringa river, sits on the edge of a massive
stretch of virgin rainforest in central Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC). On February 8 2005, representatives of a major timber firm arrived
to negotiate a contract with the traditional landowners.

Few in the village realised that the talks would transform all their
lives, but in just a few hours, the chief, who had received no legal
advice and did not realise that just one tree might be worth more than
£4,000 in Europe, had signed away his community's rights in the forest for
25 years.

In return for his signed permission to log thousands of hectares for
exotic woods such as Afromosia (African teak) and sapele, the company
promised to build Lamoko and other communities in the area three simple
village schools and pharmacies. In addition, the firm said it would give
the chief 20 sacks of sugar, 200 bags of salt, some machetes and a few
hoes. In all, it was estimated that the gifts would cost the company

It was the kind of "social responsibility" agreement that is encouraged
by the World Bank, but when the villagers found out that their forest
had been "sold" so cheaply, they were furious.

They complained to the local and central government that there had been
no proper consultation, that the negotiations had been conducted in an
"arrogant" manner, and that people had been forced to sign the
document. They demanded that the company pull out.

Since February 2005, logging roads have been driven deep into the
forests near Lamoko and the company has started extracting and exporting
trees, but the villages have yet to see their schools and pharmacies.
"We asked them to provide wood for our coffins and they even refused
that," said one man who asked to remain anonymous.

The Lamoko agreement is just one of many contracts, or concessions,
that European companies have signed with tribal chiefs in the DRC as the
country begins to recover from a decade of civil wars and dictatorship.
But according to a Greenpeace report released today, Lamoko did better
than many communities. Some contracts seen by the Guardian show only
promises of sugar, salt and tools worth about $100 (£55) in return for
permission to log. Others have reported that pledges made three years
ago have still not been fulfilled. The report, which took two years to
compile, claims that industrial logging backed by the World Bank is now
out of control. "Younger people feel that elders have failed to look
after the long-term interests of the community," it says.

Last week many community leaders told the Guardian that their villages
would sink into destitution if logging went ahead. As many as 40
million of the poorest people in Africa depend on the Congolese forests and
all the concessions handed out by the transition government in May 2002
are in inhabited areas. More than a third are home to pygmy

"If the trees go, then we will have nothing. We will be consigned to
poverty forever. The forests are our only hope. If they go, we only
become poorer", said one man who lives near Kisangani. Like most people in
the area, he did not want to give his name for fear of intimidation from
local authorities, who are known to be mired in corruption.

"The companies are obliged to employ local people, but they bring in
their own people and we are left at best with unskilled jobs that pay the
minimum wage - less than 50p a day," said another man.

It is believed that 20 foreign-owned forestry companies are active in
the DRC, and that Chinese and other logging groups are also seeking to
gain concessions. The companies should be prevented from doing so by a
moratorium negotiated by the World Bank in 2002 as part of an initiative
to control the forestry industry.

Most of the major logging companies, including Danzer, Trans-M, TB,
NST, Olan, and Sicobois, have concession contracts signed after the World
bank moratorium, but although there is an investigation into their
legality the majority are expected to be rubber stamped this year.

"Most of the companies have benefited from the World Bank's failure to
ensure that the moratorium it negotiated with the transitional Congo
DRC government has been enforced," said Greenpeace's Africa forests
campaigner, Stephan van Praet.

The companies, which export both logs and sawn timber, supply wood all
over Europe but considerable amounts are thought to be shipped to
Britain, mostly as finished products such as flooring, windows, furniture
and doors.

African teak wood is protected by global agreement and cannot be
exported from some tropical countries such as Cameroon, which have few trees
left, but there are still no restrictions on its export from the DRC.

Greenpeace and other international forestry groups say the fate of the
Congo forests depends on the World Bank and other donors, including
Britain, rejecting industrial logging, demanding a comprehensive land-use
plan for a country that is effectively lawless, and insisting that the
government tackles corruption.

The bank accepts that logging could destroy the forests in a short
time, leading to immense social problems.

"If we do nothing it is certain that the forests will disappear and
poverty will increase. Not one dollar of tax that has been collected has
returned to the provinces," said Kankonde Mukadi, the forest officer for
the World Bank in Kinshasa.

There is also concern because rainforests provide important carbon
reserves. Up to a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions are now linked
directly to tropical deforestation, the report says.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007


Friday, April 06, 2007

Worth a Read

Where Witch Birds Fly. A heartbreakingly beautiful novel set in the
twilight of the Cold War

Eugene Harkins' Where Witch Birds Fly (Clarity Press, $14.95) takes
Richard White¯and us¯into the languorous, semi-surreal world of
post-colonial Africa. It's 1985. The British are gone, as are the French,
the Spanish, and the Portuguese before them. Now it's the Lebanese
ruling the commercial roost making fortunes off Sierra Leone's storied
diamond reserves.