World Bank accused over land grabs

Aid provider denies claims of forcible evictions in developing countries. Tom Bawden reports

Central Uganda can be a pretty barren and desolate place, a deeply rural region with employment hard to come by. So, when New Forests Company (NFC) chief executive Julian Ozanne, a London-based tree planter once married to X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, expressed an interest in the country, he was welcomed with open arms.

Ozanne, a former Financial Times African bureau chief and a graduate of the London School of Economics, has clearly brought much good to an impoverished region, planting more than 14 million pine and eucalyptus trees in central Uganda over the past seven years on three plantations that employ more than 1,400 people.

But not everybody is happy. Some communities around the plantations in the central Ugandan districts of Mubende, Luwunga and Kiboga claim they have been forcefully evicted in campaigns that some allege included arson. The communities also say they were not properly consulted and have been offered no adequate compensation or alternative land.

Disputes over land ownership in the developing world are nothing new. What appears to makes this case stand out is that the World Bank is an indirect backer of NFC through a $7m (£4.3m) loan it made to AgriVie, an agricultural investment firm that is a key shareholder in the London-based group.

But, according to a new Oxfam report, it turns out that these plantations in Uganda are by no means an isolated example of World Bank-backed projects falling foul of local communities. Last week, Oxfam accused the World Bank of facilitating land grabs in some of the world's poorest countries – through its $8bn-a-year agricultural loans programme – after a raft of formal complaints from communities affected by projects it has financed.

Some 21 complaints over land-rights violations have been made to the bank's ombudsman in the past four years from countries like Uganda, Chad, Cambodia and Panama. Most remain unresolved. In the case of NFC's activities in Uganda, the government's National Forestry Authority claims responsibility for the evictions, and the World Bank has "commenced a dispute resolution process" with the support of all parties involved.

NFC said it could not comment while the resolution process was ongoing, although the group has told the World Bank's ombudsman it does not assume any direct responsibility for the evictions, was not involved in carrying them out and was explicitly excluded from the process by the Ugandan government.

The developing world typically gets hit the hardest because property laws are weak to non-existent, and governments are hungry for the revenues and jobs that land deals can yield. In many cases, Oxfam argues, families may have farmed a plot for generations but have no legal title, making it relatively easy for governments to sell the land.

"Investment should be good news for developing countries – not lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship," says Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking (inset left).

The charity is calling on the World Bank to temporarily freeze its agricultural loans and review its advice to developing countries, help set standards for investors and introduce more robust policies to help stop land grabs.

At present, 66 investment funds, many of them from London, have invested about $14bn in farmland and agricultural infrastructure. That amount could triple by 2014.

A World Bank spokesman disputed the need for a moratorium on lending, and does "not accept the inference that the World Bank Group is facilitating or overtly supporting negative practices associated with large scale land acquisitions".

Oxfam responded: "We would argue, based on the evidence, that in too many cases, the application of safeguards for affected communities has not been sufficiently stringent."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Jeremy Clarkson
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own