Tuesday, June 2, 2015

[biofuelwatch] The UK's publically-owned CDC Group is bankrolling an agro-colonial project in the DR Congo





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The UK's publically-owned CDC Group is bankrolling an agro-colonial project in the DR Congo
Join us for a meeting with Congolese activist Jean-François Mombia Atuku to discuss what UK groups can do to pressure the CDC to give back 100,000 ha of agricultural lands and forests to local communities

Where: Global Witness, Lloyds Chambers, 1 Portsoken Street, London, E1 8BT (+44 (0)207 4925820)
When: Monday, June 15, 2015 10:00am - 12:30pm

 

PLEASE RSVP BY JUNE 9TH (<devlin@grain.org>)

The DR Congo organisation RIAO-RDC and international organisation GRAIN have just released a report (see media release below) exposing how several prominent development finance institutions (DFIs) are funding Feronia Inc., a Canadian agribusiness company accused of land grabbing and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Community leaders living within the 100,000 hectares covered by Feronia Inc.'s oil palm concession areas say the land was taken from them illegally and that they never gave their consent for Feronia to operate there. 

Feronia is over 80 percent owned by the UK's CDC Group and a number of other DFIs—including the French Agency for Development (AFD) and the US government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)—through their investments in the Mauritius-based African Agriculture Fund (AAF). The CDC is Feronia's largest shareholder.

The CDC and Feronia's other DFI owners are mandated to support poverty alleviation in developing countries and must operate according to strict policies that prevent them from investing in companies that grab land, violate labour rights or engage in corrupt practices. Company records and testimonies from affected communities, however, show how Feronia Inc. is in flagrant violation of the policies of its DFI owners.

RIAO-RDC and GRAIN have been building an international solidarity alliance to put pressure on the DFIs that control Feronia, which so far includes  Fundación Mundubat (Spain), War on Want (UK), Association Française d'Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuples d'Afrique (France), World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay), Food First (US), SOS Faim (Belgium), and CIDSE. 

The meeting in London, as well as other meetings that will take place in Paris, Brussels and Madrid, are intended to share information about the situation, broaden the international alliance and develop strategies for pressuring the CDC and other DFIs. Jean-François will be joined by Devlin Kuyek and Ange David Baimey of GRAIN.

This is an important occasion for UK groups to hold their government to account for its support of land grabbing overseas. It is also an important precedent-setting struggle in a larger massive land grab for oil palm plantations that is errupting in West and Central Africa. The communities struggling to get their land back from Feronia and the CDC need your support.

Please confirm your presence as soon as possible, as space is limited.

Contact: Devlin Kuyek <devlin@grain.org

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Réseau d'information et d'appui aux ONG nationales (RIAO-RDC) | GRAIN

Media release
2 June 2015

For immediate release

Agro-colonialism in the Congo: European and US development finance bankrolls a new round of agro-colonialism in the DRC

Several prominent development finance institutions (DFIs) are funding Feronia Inc., a Canadian agribusiness company accused of land grabbing and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Community leaders living within the 100,000 hectares covered by Feronia Inc.'s oil palm concession areas say the land was taken from them illegally and that they never gave their consent for Feronia to operate there. Feronia is violating DFI policies that prevent companies they invest in from operating on lands that were acquired without the free, prior and informed consent of local communities.

Feronia Inc. operates plantations and a large-scale cereal farm on 120,000 ha of land in the DRC. Its oil palm concessions were acquired from the transnational food company Unilever in 2009.

The company is over 80 percent owned by the UK's CDC Group and a number of other DFIs – including the French Agency for Development (AFD) and the US government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) – through their investments in the Mauritius-based African Agriculture Fund (AAF).

DFIs have a mandate to support poverty alleviation in developing countries and must operate according to strict policies that prevent them from investing in companies that grab land, violate labour rights or engage in corrupt practices. A new report, based on company records and testimonies from affected communities, shows how Feronia Inc. is in flagrant violation of the policies of its DFI owners.

"We demand, first and foremost, the start of negotiations to reclaim our rights over the lands that have been illegally taken from us," reads a statement delivered to RIAO-RDC and the international organisation GRAIN on March 8, 2015 by over 60 customary chiefs and other community leaders from across the district of Yahuma, where 90 percent of Feronia's Lokutu oil palm plantations are located.

Community leaders interviewed by RIAO-RDC and GRAIN at Lokutu also spoke of a brutal system of labour exploitation and community harassment that clearly violates the DFI's policies on labour rights and national labour laws.

To receive a day's pay, workers on Feronia's Lokutu plantations say they must complete tasks that are impossible to complete in a day's work. While the company's directors are handsomely compensated, plantation and nursery workers say that by the end of the month they have earned around $1.50 per day, well below the DRC's already low minimum wage.

"We calculated that in 2010, Feronia's top directors were paid 1,000 times the average annual pay of the company's plantation workers," says Ange David Baimey of GRAIN.

One of the Feronia directors who profited most from the company is Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, the DRC's Ambassador to the UK since August 2008 and, prior to that, President Joseph Kabila's Private Secretary and Minister of Information.

Investigations by GRAIN and RIAO-RDC into Feronia's company records show that Kikaya was paid a total of nearly $3 million in cash and shares during his time as director with the company from 2009-2014. Most of the money was paid through "rental fees" of between $120,000-$150,000 per year for his residence in Kinshasa and through a buyout of his stake in Feronia's Cayman Islands holding company. The anti-corruption policies of Feronia's DFI owners are supposed to prevent such payments to influential politicians.

Community leaders from Lokutu also told GRAIN and RIAO-RDC that Feronia prevents local people from raising livestock or farming within the company's concession, even on lands that the company has abandoned. Community members caught by company guards carrying just a few nuts fallen from the oil palms are fined or, in many cases, whipped, hand cuffed and taken to the nearest prison.

"Community leaders from the areas where Feronia has its plantations have had enough of this company," says Jean-François Mombia Atuku of RIAO-RDC. "They want Feronia to give them back the lands, so that they can once again benefit from the use of their forests and farms."

"The CDC and the other DFIs that own Feronia need to do the right thing: give the people of the DRC back their lands and compensate them for the years of suffering they have endured," says Graciela Romero Vasquez of the London-based organisation War on Want.

The report, "Agro-colonialism in the Congo: European and US development finance bankrolls a new round of colonialism in the DRC", is authored by GRAIN and RIAO-RDC in collaboration with Fundación Mundubat, War on Want, Association Française d'Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuples d'Afrique, World Rainforest Movement, Food First, SOS Faim, and CIDSE.

Read the report: grain.org/e/5220


Contacts

Jean-François Mombia
Réseau d'information et d'appui aux ONG nationales (RIAO-RDC)
Dakar, Sénégal
+221 773 469 621
jfma2013@gmail.com

Devlin Kuyek
GRAIN
Montreal, Canada
+1 514 571 7702
devlin@grain.org

Ange David Baimey
GRAIN Accra, Ghana
+233 269 089 432
ange@grain.org

For questions on the role of the CDC:

Graciela Romero Vasquez
War on Want
London, UK
+44 (0) 20 7324 5066
gromero@waronwant.org

For questions on the role of the AFD/Proparco:

Jean-Claude Rabeherifara
Association Française d'Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuples d'Afrique
Paris, France
+33 6 86 62 68 60
jc.rabeh@gmail.com

For questions on the role of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID):

Fernando Fernandez
Fundación Mundubat
+34 630 448 838
ffernandez@mundubat.org

For questions on the role of OPIC:

Tanya Kerssen
Food First
Oakland, US
+591 6702 6706
tkerssen@foodfirst.org


* DFI investors in the African Agriculture Fund include:

  • Agence française de développement (AFD)/Proparco (FISEA), $30M + $10M = $40M
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), $100M
  • Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) $40M
  • African Development Bank (AfDB), $40M
  • European Commission (EC), $12M*
  • Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) (amount not known)
  • West African Development Bank (BOAD)(amount not known)
  • ECOWAS Bank of Investment and Development (EBID) (amount not known)

 

 

Graciela Romero-Vasquez

International Programmes Director

War on Want

 

Direct Line: +44 (0) 20 7324 5066

General Line: +44 (0) 20 7324 5040

Email: gromero@waronwant.org

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Posted by: Graciela Romero Vasquez <gromero@waronwant.org>



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