in Norway, Tanzania

Green Resources’ carbon plantations in Tanzania. Curse or cure?

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A recent report gives a critical view of the Clean Development Mechanism in Africa. The report, “The CDM in Africa: Can’t Deliver the Money”, draws together a dozen researchers under the guidance of Patrick Bond of the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa.

One of the chapters in the report, co-authored by Adrian Nel and Kadija Sharife, looks at a Norwegian company called Green Resources AS and its plantation operations in Tanzania.

Green Resources was founded by Norwegian forestry analyst Mads Asprem in 1995. According to the company website, it employed 5,300 people at the end of 2010 and has invested US$100 million in its operations in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Southern Sudan.

The company claims to be “Africa’s leading forestation company”, and has a total area of 22,000 hectares of plantations. The company “holds more than 300,000 ha of land for future planting and conservation”. Three of Green Resources’ plantations of eucalyptus and pine trees in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council system as well managed.

The company has also applied for CDM certification for its three plantations. Two were not approved because the plantations were established before 2000. These are now registered under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and are selling carbon credits on the voluntary market. The third plantation is still waiting for CDM approval.

Jorn Stave of NorWatch wrote about the early history of the company’s operations in Tanzania in a 2000 report titled “Tree Trouble“, produced by Friends of the Earth International, World Rainforest Movement and FERN. His report questions whether Green Resources’ plantations are additional and critiques the concept of carbon trading. It also notes that workers on the plantations are paid below below the Tanzanian Government’s minimum wage. Those that were being paid, that is. He found that some workers had not been paid for 8 months and others complained of irregular and unpredictable payments.

In February 2011, TimberWatch produced a report based on field trips to Tanzania in January and May 2010. The report, titled “CDM Carbon Sink Tree Plantations: A case study in Tanzania”, reported the following impacts (among others):

“[L]and being lost by displaced communities, poor working conditions, the destruction of biodiversity on which communities rely for food, fuel and medicines; reduced water availability, as well as many other direct and indirect effects that impact negatively on the livelihoods of the affected communities.”

Blessing Karumbidza, co-author of the TimberWatch report, describes the Green Resources project as “Land-grabbing, a form of neo-colonialism supported by the Norwegian authorities”. He told the Norwegian news publication BT that, “This area has been grassland as long as people in the area can remember. Now we have a plantation that is not forest, but a monoculture without biodiversity.”

Tonje Refseth of the Department of International Environment and Development (Noragric) wrote her 2010 Masters Thesis on Green Resources’ plantations in Tanzania. She found that some villages in the Green Resources project areas have lost more than 33% of their land – the limit under the 1999 Village Land Act. One village, Uchindile, lost 60% of its land to Green Resources.

Villagers have in effect lost the land. The company has acquired renewable land leases for 99 years. In return villagers receive employment and community projects (such as schools). But workers told Refseth that salaries were not adequate. She found that the majority were being paid less than the minimum wage set by the Government.

The company has promised to give 10% from the sale of carbon credits to villagers. Refseth explains that the money will not be given as cash, but will be used for community projects. “I find this a bit troubling,” Refseth writes, “because this money will be used to fulfil promises that were made a long time ago and should have been fulfilled already.”

She adds that,

“[N]o transparent plan is made on how much each village can expect to receive and what it should be spent on including the costs. This has created confusion and some conflicts as the villagers were told about this a couple of years ago without seeing anything of it.”

In 2011, the Daily News reported that four of the villages received their first share of the money from the sale of carbon credits.

Green Resources shrugs off TimberWatch’s criticism. “This is not a serious organisation,” Mads Asprem, the company’s Managing Director, told BT. “TimberWatch is opposed to plantations. These are people who are against development and who want Africans to continue to live in straw huts.”

Asprem argues that Green Resources’ plantation projects should be eligible for REDD financing. In a 2010 article in Development Today, he argues that “REDD can only be successful with reforestation.”

“[T]here is a need for large-scale plantations to provide the wood and charcoal to supply Africa’s subsistence demand requirements, and to supply the charcoal market if REDD is to be successful. Reforestation has huge benefits at the inception of projects because it creates plenty of new employment.”

But as Anders Haug Larsen of Friends of the Earth Norway points out, “There is a fundamental problem that Norway can increase its greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits from projects like this.” Or as Blessing Karumbidza puts it, “It is Norway – one of the world’s leading oil producing nations – rather than Tanzania that stands to benefit.”
 

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  1. As if to demonstrate just how crazy the upside down world of carbon trading actually is, one of the companies buying carbon offsets from this project in Tanzania is BP, the sponsor of the London Olympic games. This is one of the projects that will make the Olympic games “carbon neutral”.

  2. This blog draws on various old reports and newspaper articles, and is basically an anti carbon trading blog based on anti carbon reports. The blog does not provide any serious research on its own. The only new report that is mentioned in the blog is “The CDM In Africa: Can’t Deliver the Money” report (http://cdmscannotdeliver.wordpress.com/) from 22 February 2012, which is not new at all, but a desk study of existing reports. Some of these reports are desk studies of their own. Others are extremely poorly researched and at times provide false information.

    ‘The CDM in Africa’ website is clear about its objectives, in the subtitle on the home page head banner: ‘Why the Clean development Mechanism won’t save the planet from climate change, and how African civil society is resisting’. The report argues strongly against UNFCCC’s CDM program which is an initiative that most of the world’s countries have supported, including almost all developing countries. It is also a stinging attack on Norway, and it criticizes Green Resources. We feel Green Resources is targeted because it is a active in CDM development and because we are a private company, not because of what we are doing. Green Resources is disappointed by the poor effect of CDM in Africa and the extensive bureaucracy around the mechanism. Correctly implemented, however, CDM can have huge development effect for Africa. Green Resources is re-investing 100% of any carbon revenues in the local communities where the carbon income was generated, and provide 10% as community development projects.

    It dedicates one chapter, Chapter 5 (pp52-66) to ‘East African trees and the green Resource Curse’, as one of six case studied presented. The report is criticizing Norway as the carbon buyer, quoting the Timberwatch report and saying about the project that ‘it is Norway – one of the world’s leading oil producing nations – rather than Tanzania that stands to benefit’. We do not believe any of the authors visited our plantation areas, and that the report is entirely based on a desk study.

    A number of serious allegations are presented over these pages, but none of them are substantiated. The allegations include: 1) that GRL, our Tanzanian subsidiary, ‘flaunt additional criteria and lack Free and Prior Informed Consent from local, forest dependent communities’ (p 53 and p58). We follow Tanzanian law in all our land acquisition, where the District administrations play an extensive role in advising the local communities ahead of and during the decision process, where SEIAs are required, the business plan must be approved by the investment authorities and the entire process is checked and approved by District and Central Governments. 2) the GRL activities ‘lead to outright eviction of local communities’ (p53). We have not evicted anybody from any of our plantations. We have paid resettlement compensation to a small number of people, but these have been entirely free to remain at their homesteads or accept our compensation 3) referring to the Timberwatch report and argues that a ‘bio-diverse’ grassland is replaced by ‘alien pine or eucalyptus trees’ (p58). Green Resources is adhering to strict environmental regulations and is setting aside conservation areas with the original vegetation. Typically, about 50%, and often less, of the areas are planted with the remaining being conserved. By preventing the regular fires to spread in the areas, wet lands and valley bottoms typically see a recovery of the natural tree vegetation and forests are being re-established. The result is increased bio-diversity.

    The report relies heavily on the previous Timberwatch reports from 2009 and 2011 to make a case about GRL, and this is dealt with separately. There is also reference to a 2000 report by Norwatch. Both the TimberWatch and NorWatch reports are stalwarts of anti-carbon finance, anti private-sector, anti-plantations and anti-development movement. It is very sad that these people think they can do whatever, flaunt any generally accepted principle of journalism in their attack on a company that has created employment for 4,000 people in rural Africa and after 17 years activity not provided returned to its shareholders.

  3. Dear Mads,
    being someone from Finland, having recently started working in Kenya with forestry-based communities who here are also potentially affected by CDM projects, they need to be ensured about the functionality of FPIC (Free and Prior Informed Consent).

    I would be interested of your experience, how do you ensure the distribution of information to the very local level, to the local people actually affected by global and national-level policy formulations?

    At least some of the discussions I have had with the communities make them feel subjected to policy conducted elsewhere, with the state administration possibly failing to meet expectations. I do not have a stand on either of the camps (pro-/anti) you describe, but I am interested about the actual implementation.

    “We follow Tanzanian law in all our land acquisition, where the District administrations play an extensive role in advising the local communities ahead of and during the decision process.”

    As you write about relying on local administration, do you not feel being overly reliant on this information looking at the issues from top-down – and the possible weaknesses of the district or municipal authorities’ capacities to deliver you 360° information? How are the local hearings arranged?

    Best,
    Joni Karjalainen