A Statement from the Oakland Institute on the Conference on Land Policy in Africa

  • November 12, 2014

    A Statement from the Oakland Institute on the Conference on Land Policy in Africa


    Anuradha Mittal, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, +1-510-469-5228


Response from the Oakland Institute to CEO Mads Asprem’s letter in reaction to the report, The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda

  • November 9, 2014

    The recent release of our report has engendered a written response from Green Resources’ CEO, Mr Mads Asprem, received on November 3, 2014. Here we clarify a number of issues he has raised.

    To begin, Mr Asprem claims that Associate Professor Kristen Lyons and Dr. Peter Westoby misrepresented themselves as students while working in Uganda, and in their approach to engaging with him and/or Green Resources staff. With over twenty years experience working as social researchers in international contexts, the researchers have developed clear procedures related to professional conduct in the field. Given that Associate Professor Lyons met with the Ugandan Director of Green Resources, Mr. Isaac Kapalaga, at least four times over two years, it is strange that the company did not understand the researchers’ role and positions.

Dark Green? Green Resources CEO responds to Oakland Institute's new report

  • November 3, 2014
    Mads Asprem

    Fremtiden i vare hender, Spire and Utviklingsfondet is arranging a ‘mini-seminar’ about Green Resources’ Ugandan operation in Oslo on 4 November without inviting Green Resources. Green Resources is Africa’s leading reforestation company, having established more than 40,000 ha of plantation forests. We are a commercial forestry company that has sequestrated millions of CO2e, and created large environmental and social co-benefits. It is ironic that less than a week after the publication of possibly the most serious report ever to be publish on the negative effects of climate change by IPCC, Fremtiden i vare hender and Utviklingsfondet chose to attack what may be East Africa’s most successful private effort to combat climate change.

A Conversation with Ruth Nyambura of African Biodiversity Network, Nairobi, Kenya

  • October 10, 2014

    Ruth Nyambara has travelled to Washington, DC to participate in a panel, The Role of the World Bank Indicators in Agricultural Development, organized by the Oakland Institute at the World Bank Civil Society Policy Forum on October 10, 2014. She will also join the #WorldVsBank action outside the Bank at Rawlins Park, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington DC at 4 pm.

World Bank, Listen! The “Doing Business” Approach to Agriculture Needs to End

  • October 10, 2014

    As the World Bank representatives gather in Washington D.C. October 10-12, 2014, will it be business as usual, or will the Bank finally pay heed to a growing movement demanding food sovereignty?

    The World Bank withdrew its much-criticized Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in 2002 in response to global protests against the imposition of neoliberal reforms on developing countries. However, the harmful guiding principles of the SAPs continue on through the Bank’s Doing Business (DB) index. Established in 2002, the DB ranks countries based on whether their regulatory environment is “business friendly” and as such influences investors and bilateral donors around the world. The DB model has been reproduced to create a set of benchmarking instruments, such as the Investing Across Borders report in 2010 [1] and the Agribusiness Indicators pilot project the same year. Most recently, in 2013, the World Bank created the Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA) project at the G8’s urging to “develop options for generating a Doing Business in Agriculture index.” [2]

Senegal Land Grab: Will Foreign Company Survive an Embezzling Employee and Local Protests?

  • May 21, 2014

    Senhuile, a foreign-owned agriculture company operating in Senegal, announced on April 28, 2014 that it had “revoked” its CEO Benjamin Dummai. A few weeks later Senegalese authorities arrested Dummai on charges of embezzling almost half a million dollars. Senhuile not only faces bankruptcy because of Dummai’s criminal behavior, but must also address the mounting pressure from local communities opposing its industrial agricultural plantations.

Time for Action to Stop Land Grabs in Papua New Guinea

  • May 7, 2014

    Two recent events suggest a promising reversal of land grabbing in Papua New Guinea (PNG). In the past 12 years, the amount of customary land in PNG decreased from 97 percent to 86 percent. [1] This is because although customary land cannot be sold under PNG law, [2] legal mechanisms, such as the Special Agricultural Business Lease (SABL) scheme, were developed for foreign investors to access the land.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings: Relinquishing Sovereignty for a Good Grade

  • April 7, 2014

    Launched in 2003, the World Bank’s annual Doing Business (DB) ranking system rates 189 countries on the “ease of doing business” within the country and pressures them to achieve higher rankings in subsequent reports by enacting neoliberal regulatory reforms. Despite its positive veneer, the report encourages governments to eliminate economic, social, and environmental safeguards and promotes competition among countries for higher rankings and, consequently, higher foreign direct investment.

Development Fairytales: A Foreign Firm’s Story in Senegal

  • March 6, 2014

    Large companies across the world are invading rural areas in developing countries, allegedly responding to a need for economic development, food security, and poverty alleviation. Such is the narrative of Senhuile, a shadowy company backed by a maze of foreign investors, which is operating in the natural protected area of Ndiaël in northwest Senegal.

Wall Street Wants Our Food System

America's Disappeared

  • December 23, 2013

    The holiday season can overwhelm us with its Christmas jingles on repeat and cheap decorations that crowd the aisles of every big box retailer. In between RSVPing to holiday parties and cleaning the house for visiting relatives, donating to food drives and charities can become just another chore on our list of obligations. Why open our pocketbooks and write yet another check? Are there Americans who really need our help?

Norwegian Oil Money in Dirty Business

  • December 12, 2013
    by Borghild Bråtveit

    On October 14, 2013, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance announced its decision to exclude two Malaysian logging companies, WTK Holdings Berhad and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, from its Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) portfolio.

SNAP: An Investment in Our Children

  • November 27, 2013
    by Peiley Lau

    As families across the United States sit down for the Thanksgiving feast, many others will struggle to afford even basic food on this holiday. For a lot of Americans, hunger is a constant concern. Food insecurity, and malnutrition and hunger with it, has grown dramatically in recent years. In 2012, one out of every six, or 49 million, Americans was food insecure. [1] The magnitude of food insecurity renders the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more important than ever.

Under the Table: Illegal Wood in Your Home

  • November 26, 2013
    by Jettie Word

    On Our Land, a new report and documentary film on land grabbing in Papua New Guinea (PNG), exposes an alarming global black market in contraband wood that is used in kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms across Europe and the United States.

Papua New Guinea: The Land at the Core

  • November 15, 2013
    by Alice Martin-Prevel

    “In a sense, Wola belong to land as much as it belongs to them.” Paul Sillitoe’s [1] consideration about the Wola farmers of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) brings us to the heart of a critical question: what is the value of land in a country like PNG? In the current context of land grabbing, why is it important to preserve traditional systems of tenure? In the West, people understand land as a private piece of territory with a title deed attached to it, but in PNG there are additional economic, social and spiritual dimensions to land. 

Notes on Global Structural Inequality: Land and Neoliberal Politics in Africa

  • October 22, 2013
    by Elsadig Elsheikh

    Africa’s arable lands continue to receive growing attention for research and policy debate mainly due to the pressing social, political, and environmental challenges that African countries face with regard to food insecurity and foreign direct investments. “Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity: A Program to Scale Up Reforms and Investments,” [1] a book published by the World Bank and authored by Frank Byamugisha, is the latest in this debate’s odyssey.

What is the Future We Envision for America?

  • October 1, 2013
    by Peiley Lau

    According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Washington should care for the generations ahead. Yet, his recent austerity measure undermines investment in America’s future. If the $40 billion cut to the existing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the House of Representatives should pass in the Senate, the government will have failed the nation’s poor.

World Bank’s Land Strategy: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

  • September 23, 2013
    by Alice Martin-Prevel

    Released on July 22, 2013, the World Bank’s report, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, provides a ten-step program to “boost governance,” “step up comprehensive policy reforms,” and “accelerate shared and sustained growth for poverty reduction” in sub-Saharan Africa. [1] At first glance, these ambitious objectives, aimed at addressing the ongoing crisis of land grabbing on the African continent seem promising; however, the report’s substance fails to deliver.

US Immigration Reform Bill Makes Splash, but Mass Firings Continue

  • July 3, 2013
    by Melanie Berkowitz

    While the United States Senate made final tweaks to pass its highly publicized immigration reform bill S.744 last Thursday, community members in the San Francisco Bay Area protested the firing of hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers.

The Herakles Files: CEO’s False Image

  • June 5, 2013
    by Jettie Word

    Bruce Wrobel, the CEO of Herakles Farms and founder of the nonprofit organization All for Africa, is a self-proclaimed “environmentalist and activist for the poor.” Upon first glance, his initiatives in Africa seem to support these claims--but scratch the surface and the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. A new report by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace, Herakles Exposed, reveals the company’s internal documents that highlight the discrepancy between the image Bruce Wrobel hopes to cultivate and his company’s actual practices. As shown in the report, Herakles Farms not only sidesteps sustainable practices, but also appears to be caught in an unstable financial situation in spite of its attempts to bypass responsible social and ecological practices.

Herakles Farms Double-Speak

  • May 30, 2013
    by Melissa Moore

    Herakles Farms doesn’t seem to value providing straightforward information or answers to the Cameroonian government, the local population impacted by their palm oil plantation in Southwest Cameroon, nor their own investors. Which version of the company’s own documents are we to believe when they present completely opposite information depending on the audience?

State Department Underscores Human Rights Abuses of Key US Ally in Africa

  • May 8, 2013
    by Luis Flores

    The just-released 2012 Human Rights Practices country report for Ethiopia, compiled by the US State Department, confirms an uncomfortable fact—most US government officials are aware of the repressive nature of Ethiopia’s US-backed regime.

Unheard Wisdom: Ethiopian Activists Bring Knowledge of Land Grabs to India, Investors and Policymakers Absent

  • March 14, 2013
    by Ashwin Parulkar

    In early February, the Oakland Institute organized a three-day forum in New Delhi with the Indian Social Action Forum, Kalpavriksh, and Centre for Social Development on the impact of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia and India by private enterprises on indigenous communities in both countries.

Update from Gambella, Ethiopia: Human Rights Violations Impact the Anuak

  • February 19, 2013
    by Nickolas Johnson

    As part of the Oakland Institute’s (OI) continued research and reporting on the ever unfolding and unfortunately more distressing news coming out of Ethiopia, OI recently published a new briefing paper titled Unheard Voices: The Human Rights Impact of Land Investments on Indigenous Communities in Gambella. Prepared by the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law, this briefing paper provides an overview of the human rights impacts of land investment and the villagization process on the indigenous Anuak community in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.

Opportunity in Deepening Indian-Ethiopian Relations

  • February 5, 2013
    by Luis Flores

    Mounting evidence indisputably shows that the brand of agricultural investment spreading in Ethiopia is accompanied by, or rather dependent upon, military violence and the suppression of civil rights.

Tackling World Hunger: Still Headed the Wrong Way

  • October 14, 2012
    by Frederic Mousseau

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s report, State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, was released on October 9, 2012. Although one might be tempted to celebrate the decrease in the number of undernourished people from nearly 1 billion in 2009 to 870 million today, this new report is not a harbinger of good news.

Enough Is Enough: Gambella, Ethiopia Update

  • October 1, 2012
    by Nickolas Johnson

    Beatings, rape, and torture have become the new normal for many living in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. New reporting by Human Rights Watch (HRW), sheds light on the current living conditions of Ethiopians in the Gambella region as a result of the government’s villagization program. Marred in human rights abuses in the aftermath of an unfortunate shooting that left five Saudi Star employees dead this June, the Ethiopian government has retaliated with arbitrary arrests, beatings, and rape. Oakland Institute (OI) and HRW have done extensive research in the Gambella region and this new report shows a continued pattern of abuse by the government.

Launching the OI Blog

  • As part of the Oakland Institute's mission to bring fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time, we are launching a blog that will feature coverage of fast-changing focus areas such as land rights, the high food price crisis, food sovereignty, and more, as well as analysis and opinion articles by the Institute's international staff, fellows, and researchers.

    Our hard-hitting reports and research have exposed insidious land grabs in Africa, pushed university endowments to divest from exploitative funds, halted the eviction of hundreds of thousands of small farmers, and made the case that emergency food aid should be bought locally or regionally--but there is always more to share on these swiftly evolving issues.

    We invite you to subscribe to the OI blog to stay in touch with the latest news from the ground and up-to-the-minute expert assessment of policy developments and breaking action on the ground.

    Bookmark this page or subscribe to the RSS feed today!