Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Friends of the Earth study links UK banks with land grabbing....

Friends of the Earth has claimed that two high street banks are funding a palm oil company involved in land grabbing activities in Uganda, violating environmental regulations and affecting the local community’s lives.
According to campaign group’s research, Barclays and HSBC, together with investment firm Schroders, are helping fund a large palm oil plantation owner and refiner named Wilmar International.

A subsidiary of the company owns plantations in Uganda and has been found to have violated land laws, Friends of the Earth says.

HSBC is accused of lending £777m to Wilmar since 2009, while Barclays and other two European banks, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank, are also involved. Schroders, meanwhile, holds £14m worth of shares in the company.

Friends of the Earth adds that communities in Uganda have been displaced from their land without receiving compensation or assistance. Large parts of the forest have been cleared for palm plantations, affecting the environment and the lives of local people, who are also experiencing food insecurity as crops have been replaced by palm plants.

Campaigners have called on investors to put pressure on Wilmar or divest from the firm.

Friends of the Earth Uganda campaigner David Kureeba said, “Investors must push Wilmar to clean up its act or put their money elsewhere. Wilmar and its subsidiaries, backed by European money, are forcing communities from their land in Uganda.”

Meanwhile, international food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said, “The financial sector must take responsibility for its activities and ensure the companies they invest in respect human rights and abide by local environmental regulations.”

Land grabbing is the contentious issue of large-scale land acquisitions: the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. While used broadly throughout history, land grabbing as used today primarily refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007-2008 world food price crisis. Obtaining water resources is usually critical to the land acquisitions, so it has also led to an associated trend of water grabbing. By prompting food security fears within the developed world and newfound economic opportunities for agricultural investors, the food price crisis caused a dramatic spike in large-scale agricultural investments, primarily foreign, in the Global South for the purposes of food and biofuels production. Initially hailed by investors and some developing countries as a new pathway towards agricultural development, investment in land has recently been criticized by a number of civil society, governmental, and multinational actors who argue that it has had negative impacts on local communities.

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