Monday, February 20, 2017

Forcing local peoples off their lands cause conflicts

Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Forcing communities to leave their lands cause conflicts and sixty-three percent of disputes related to private sector land and natural resource investments in Africa began when communities were forced to leave their lands, according to new research.

The research by TMP Systems and the Rights and Resources Initiative in Dakar, Senegal early this month (9 February) found that most African governments are competing for investment to spur economic development and improve living standards but they need to radically improve the governance of tenure rights to create an attractive and stable investment environment.

The research also found that areas targeted for development in Africa are more heavily populated than similar developments elsewhere in the world.
“African governments are competing for investment to spur economic development and improve living standards,” says TMP Systems CEO Lou Munden.

He adds, “But most countries need to radically improve the governance of tenure rights to create an attractive and stable investment environment. Companies and investors—who increasingly understand that unclear tenure rights create financial and reputational risks—need to do more to identify and respond to these implicit challenges in emerging market investments.”

The population density within a 50-kilometer radius of disputed projects in Africa was more than twice the global average: 816,547 people compared with 319,426 globally. For West Africa, the average was over 1 million people.

“The mistaken belief that Africa is a continent of empty, freely available land open for development has done so much harm,” says RRI Coordinator Andy White. “No land is unclaimed, and uprooting communities without their consent from their lands and traditional livelihoods creates conflicts and social unrest. Recognizing and securing local peoples’ property rights instead provides security for governments, investors and companies—a critical need, given all the political uncertainty in the world today.”

According to the research, the typical tenure-related dispute in Africa occurs:
           An average of 61 kilometers from national borders, far from the seat of centralized government;
           In an area with endemic poverty, low access to government services and poor nutrition;
           In an area that is less developed with little prior change in how the land was used; and
           In an area with a history of social conflict.

“The fact that disputes were just 61 kilometers from national borders on average was surprising and, in our view, very revealing,” adds Munden. “It suggests that tenure dispute is much more likely in areas with low legal accountability and economic development. The point is that investors can be exposed to serious risk in these areas because local people will ensure their interests are heard.”

The suite of reports explores investment-based conflicts in East, West and Southern Africa, and compares them to similar conflicts around the world. They were released at a panel event in Dakar alongside RRI’s Annual Review of the global state of land and resource rights, which found that development finance institutions have emerged as potential leaders in the land rights arena given their significant leverage over investments in the developing world.

While a number of high profile corporations have also pledged to both prevent deforestation and respect human rights, implementation of these commitments is slow at best, given complex supply chains and local suppliers whose reputations are less exposed. Despite the growing number of economic actors that accept the market rationale for respecting community land tenure, rights violations are still commonplace.

“Corporations can prevent conflicts that are costly to investors and devastating for local peoples by working with local communities to secure their property rights,” says RRI Coordinator Andy White. “But not everyone at the table embraces this approach or applies it effectively.”

 Palm Oil and West Africa

In West Africa, plantation agriculture—especially palm oil projects—drive a majority of disputes. Community displacement was the primary driver of 70 percent of the tenure disputes examined, while issues related to compensation were the primary driver for 30 percent. Sixty percent of the tenure disputes resulted in work stoppages, which impact companies’ and investors’ profits, and 30 percent resulted in violence.

Munden noted that the Fanaye biofuel plantation project on Senegal’s northwest border was implemented without the consent of local communities. In one case, violent protests in Fanaye Dieri led to the death of two community members and compelled the government to revoke the concession and move it 30 kilometers to the east, to the Ndiael Nature Reserve.

But the new location cut off local cattle farmers from their grazing lands, triggering additional conflict. After six years, the concession currently uses only 1,500 hectares out of the 20,000 allocated by the government.

“Because of our soil, many investors are interested in coming to our country,” says Alioune Guèye, President of the Federation of Peasant Landowners, in Senegal. “But some of our most impoverished communities also live on that soil and rely on it for their survival. Too often, companies feel they can cut a deal with the government, raze the land, and create vast plantations while the locals are simply pushed out of the way. Without their land, these communities will have nothing. Their rights must be respected.”

Infrastructure and East Africa

Infrastructure and public utilities are driving a majority of the disputes in East Africa, and communities have made use of stronger legal frameworks to bring lawsuits against companies that violate their rights. 

Community displacement was the primary driver of 36 percent of the tenure disputes examined, while compensation was the primary driver for 27 percent. Seventy-three percent of the tenure disputes resulted in work stoppages, yet only 27 percent resulted in violence.

While wind power has been embraced by many in Kenya as a clean source of energy for its growing economy, conflict over land and resource rights has delayed or derailed a number of wind power generation projects. Three projects are at the heart of this storm of disputes:

           A wind farm in Kinangop was cancelled after a protracted legal battle and a massive protest that destroyed a wind mast. The developers are now suing the Kenyan government, seeking compensation for their losses.

           A flagship project at Lake Turkana has been delayed for a decade due to an ongoing legal challenge from nomadic pastoral communities. Four communities are seeking redress because their lands were taken without consent

           In Kajiado County, landowners are mounting legal opposition to the Kipeto project whose buffer zone—half a kilometer wide—included much of their lands.

“The lack of detailed consultation and informed consent contribute to conflicts that increase the cost of doing business in Kenya, and investors are starting to look to other countries for new projects,” Mali Ole Kaunga, director of Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT), notes. “Disputes that end in violence even one-quarter of the time are still too violent for everyone involved—the communities, investors, companies and governments.”

Sugar and Southern Africa

In Southern Africa, sugar plantations and mining developments are driving a majority of the disputes and, without strong legal frameworks for communities to assert their rights, significant violence has resulted. 

Community displacement was the primary driver of 82 percent of the tenure disputes examined. Issues relating to compensation were never the primary driver, showing that companies could not buy their way out of disputes. Seventy-three percent of the tenure disputes resulted in work stoppages, and 73 percent triggered violence—the highest rate of violence in the world.

While a number of major buyers and producers who dominate supply chains in the sugar sector have made commitments on land tenure, efforts to clean up their supply chains have been plagued by issues of transparency and lack of local engagement.

In Madagascar, a sugar plantation that had operated without conflict since 1984 became the site of local resistance in 2005 after the project owners, Complant and Sucoma, attempted to reroute an irrigation system, which would have flooded lands belonging to local communities. Over the next several years, through 2014, strikes, riots and work stoppages ensued—indicating that even seemingly successful projects can become mired in conflict and work stoppages if local tenure rights are not respected throughout project implementation.

National Land Commissions as Tenure Rights Champion

Representatives from four national land commissions—Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and Senegal—attended the Dakar event to report on the status of land rights and ongoing tenure reforms in their countries and respond to the report’s findings. 

These commissions have played a helpful role in channelling efforts for governments exploring comprehensive reform. One such example is in Senegal, where they established an inclusive process for the drafting of the land policy that is now being reviewed by the president’s office.
“Economic developments that fail to benefit local communities have little to zero value because of the conflicts they generate,” says Solange Bandiaky-Badji, RRI’s program director for Africa. “The land commissions have a great opportunity to create legal frameworks that prevent the root causes of these inequities. Treating local communities as equal partners and respecting their rights is the first step towards creating true economic development.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Science journalism can still flourish despite difficulties

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Establishing space for science journalism has potentially off-putting experiences for a science journalist. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially in some parts of the developing world.

In most circumstances, it is more discouraging than rewarding to those budding as freelancers and folks in mainstream non-specialised media. Often, it requires one to be an intelligent, tough go-getter.

It is mostly affected by the dearth of space for science-oriented stories, lack of understanding and appreciation of the role of science journalism within the media fraternity, mutual mistrust between scientist and journalist, low returns for correspondences and freelancers. Well, the odds are many.

But there are several ways, I reckon, with which this can be overcome, though not overnight. Science journalists need to have a discussion with senior editors to learn how the existing media covers science. No doubt, for a journalist, they are the first audience of any story idea or a written piece.
A science journalist needs to convince editors that most science stories are, in fact, stories about important aspects such as people, society, politics or the economy.

They also need to have meetings (introducing themselves) with the key persons at leading science based organisations. This does not necessarily mean that you have to report the way they want, but in so doing you get credible sources of stories.

Top officials at the government ministry responsible for science and technology should also be in the loop. Researchers and government officials will, for instance, keep the journalist updated on the latest development or upcoming meeting.

Equally important is the creation of opportunities for scientists and journalists to meet, learn about each other and understand how each works. This guarantees new story ideas for a science journalist.

Persuading editors, scientists and authorities to appreciate the role science plays in economic transformation for the betterment of a country is critical to creating the much needed room for science journalism.

For instance, a science journalist in Africa needs to find it imperative to clearly explain that the bulk of current initiatives aimed at lifting the continent out of the backwaters of development require research and development as a tool to overcome, among many other ills, poverty and disease choking it.

Only through appreciating the potential that science has in socioeconomic development can owners of publications and authorities understand why science journalism needs space in the media.

Collaborating with key persons at the leading science based organisations makes the journalist trustworthy and reliable. It helps create a good environment for covering science as both parties see each other as key partners in sustainable development.

The benefits of collaboration are enormous; you do things as a team and the need for collaboration between journalists, researchers and government officials cannot be emphasised enough – it is of paramount importance to achieve development.

Society at large can benefit from the fruits of science but for this to happen people need to understand and support science, and journalists act as a bridge between science and society. This does not only inform the public but creates interest and respect for science. An association of like-minded individuals is critical in the fight for space for science journalism.

But in all of these, a journalist has to strive to remain independent and must not be sucked into becoming a handmaid of those in the science world. Difficulties not withstanding, it’s a journalism branch worth taking.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Global summit sets direction for post-2015 sustainability agenda

By Ochieng' Ogodo


The IUCN World Conservation Congress that closed in Hawaiʻi, Honolulu, on 10 September 2016 set the global conservation agenda for the next four years and defined a roadmap for the implementation of the historic agreements adopted in 2015.

The IUCN Congress closed with the presentation of the Hawai'i Commitments, a document titled “Navigating Island Earth” that was shaped by debates and deliberations over ten days, and was opened for comment to some 10,000 participants from 192 countries.

The document outlines opportunities to address some of the greatest challenges facing nature conservation and calls for a commitment to implement them. It captures the collective commitment by all the Congress attendees to undertake profound transformations in how human societies live on Earth, especially making patterns of production and consumption more sustainable.

“Some of the world’s greatest minds and most dedicated professionals met here at the IUCN Congress to decide on the most urgent action needed to ensure the long-term survival of life on Earth and our planet’s ability to sustain us,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.

“This IUCN Congress has come at a pivotal time in our planet’s history as we find ourselves at a crossroad, facing challenges of unprecedented magnitude.

“Today we leave Hawaiʻi equipped with a much clearer roadmap for advancing on the post-2015 agenda, confident that we have taken our first steps on the road to a sustainable future where nature and human progress support each other.”
The event brought together more than 10,000 registered participants including leaders from government, civil society, indigenous, faith and spiritual communities, the private sector, and academia, to collectively decide on actions to address most pressing conservation and sustainable development challenges.
Over 100 resolutions and recommendations have been adopted by IUCN Members – a unique global environmental parliament of governments and NGOs – many of which call on third parties to take action on a wide range of urgent conservation issues.
Key decisions included closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory, the urgency of protecting the high seas, the need to protect primary forests, no-go areas for industrial activities within protected areas and an official IUCN policy on biodiversity offsets.
“International decision-makers have converged on the most urgently needed conservation action,” says IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng. “IUCN’s more than 1,300 Members behind these decisions give them the weight to drive the real change needed to address some of the biggest challenges our planet faces today.”
IUCN Members have also approved a new programme for IUCN for the next four years and elected new IUCN leadership.
The IUCN Congress put new issues on the global sustainability agenda, including the importance of linking spirituality, religion, culture and conservation, and the need to implement nature-based solutions – actions that protect and manage ecosystems, while effectively addressing societal challenges, such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risk reduction, human health and economic well-being.
U.S. President Obama’s announcement to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – now the largest protected area in the world – set the scene for the IUCN Congress.
Other announcements included the commitment from Governor Ige of Hawaiʻi  to  protect 30% of  Hawaii’s highest  priority watershed  forests by 2030, effectively manage 30% of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters by 2030, double local food production and achieve 100 % renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2045.
Colombia has announced the quadrupling in size of the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary bringing it to 27,000 km2.
The IUCN Congress also saw new commitments to the Bonn Challenge initiative to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2050. With the latest pledges from Malawi and Guatemala, total Bonn Challenge pledges have now exceeded 113 million hectares, committed by 36 governments, organisations and companies.
Key resolutions and recommendations adopted by the IUCN Congress
Illegal wildlife trade
Following intense deliberations, IUCN Members have urged all governments to close domestic markets of elephant ivory, seen as creating opportunities for laundering illegal ivory. Elephants are killed for their tusks across Africa, threatening both the survival of savannah and forest elephants and park rangers.
Combatting illegal wildlife trade was also at the heart of an IUCN decision on the alarming increase in the poaching of vicuña for its fibre. IUCN Members have called for measures to be put in place to promote the sustainable use of the species, and eliminate the illegal trade, including greater traceability of vicuña fibre and cross-border collaboration.
Hunting for captive-bred lions
IUCN members have called for legislation to ban – by 2020, and particularly in South Africa – the breeding of lions in captivity for the purpose of 'canned shooting', regarded by hunters as ‘an ethically repugnant embarrassment’.
The high seas
Members have also identified the need for internationally binding legislation to preserve the high seas, and have set an ambitious target of 30% of marine areas to be protected by 2030. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean lies beyond the jurisdiction of countries.
Indigenous peoples
IUCN Members have also agreed to create a new category of IUCN membership for Indigenous peoples’ organisations, boosting support for Indigenous peoples’ rights on the international scene. A large number of resolutions adopted by IUCN Members have also contributed to strengthening Indigenous peoples’ rights.
Protection of primary forests
IUCN Members have expressed support for the conservation of primary forests, including intact forest landscapes. These are seen to play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity, and are vital for the protection of indigenous cultures, and livelihoods of poor, marginalised communities.
No-go areas
Another decision by IUCN Members has put all land and seascapes classified under any of IUCN’s categories of protected areas off limits for damaging industrial activities – such as mining, oil and gas, agriculture – and infrastructure developments – such as dams, roads and pipelines. To date, only World Heritage sites have been formally recognised as no-go areas.
Oil palm industry
In another decision, IUCN Members stressed the crucial need to identify intact forests and critical ecosystems to be avoided by the fast-growing oil palm industry. The rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities should be respected and taken into consideration, according to the decision. Activities of the oil palm industry can have negative impacts on the environment, such as the loss of habitat for great apes and other primates, as well as on community livelihoods.
Biodiversity offsets
IUCN Members have also agreed on a policy on biodiversity offsets, emphasising that priority must be given to avoid biodiversity loss. Offsets must be a measure of last resort, and in certain cases, they are not appropriate – according to the Members. 
Natural capital
IUCN Members have also agreed to develop a policy defining natural capital, taking into account ecological, ethical and social justice issues. Members have noted emerging standards which aim to integrate the value of nature in the decision-making of business and financial institutions, and the need for an improved understanding of natural capital.