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Camels kept by pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya for livelihoods

Dear Friends, 

At the Oakland Institute, our work begins at the behest of communities who seek support in their struggle to defend their lands and livelihoods. Once again, this past year, together with our courageous partners in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Melanesia, we took on powerful actors — governments, “development” institutions, private equity funds, and corporations — to hold them accountable for land theft and human rights abuses.

While the pandemic and other issues dominated the attention of people, media, and governments, we had to double down on our efforts on issues outside of the public eye to bring global attention and mobilization. 

What began as an inquiry into the impact of the Lapsset Corridor — a so-called development scheme in Northern Kenya — pivoted, as the Samburu, Maasai, and Borana communities I visited with the research team instead alerted us about the devastating impact of “fortress” conservation of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) on their lives. Despite NRT’s claims that it empowers locals in “community driven” conservation projects — bankrolled by Western aid agencies — our work exposed a vastly different reality. We brought forward evidence of grave human rights abuses and land theft and confronted NRT’s donors to hold them accountable. Our advocacy led them to launch an urgent investigation. Our work in Kenya shattered the silence around NRT’s privatized and militarized conservation model — lifting the lived experiences of the Indigenous, which have gone ignored so far in the global realm. Our commitment to the struggle of the communities means continued research and advocacy, till it yields justice. 

In the following you will read how we remain steadfast in our commitment to stand up, speak up, mobilize, and take action. I hope our annual report will uplift you by reaffirming that regardless of the odds, victories against injustice are always within reach. While we celebrate the wins, it is clear how much more needs to be done. Maintaining our independence and agility as an organization is key. We are grateful to our donors, whose support allows us to work nimbly and effectively on issues as they arise. Thank you for making it possible!

With gratitude and solidarity,

Anuradha Mittal Anuradha Mittal's signature

Anuradha Mittal
Executive Director


Our work holds governments, corporations, and international institutions accountable for their actions and policies. Our research and reports sunlight social and environmental justice issues, we organize advocacy campaigns, testify at Congressional and Senate hearings, and more.

Our research and advocacy exposes and challenges the false solutions put forward by international institutions like the World Bank, governments, and corporations to fight hunger, climate change, and bring development.

In partnership with impacted communities, we document threats to land rights, livelihoods, and natural resources and develop communications and advocacy campaigns to support and elevate these struggles in both the national and international arena. 

We support sustainable farmer-led food systems and work to build a farm economy from the bottom up. Our research is providing blueprints of what these systems can look like and what policy changes are needed for them to flourish

The Legal Defense Fund that we started in 2015 to support land rights defenders continues to assist individuals and groups around the world. In 2021, we supported partners in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, DRC, and Papua New Guinea.

Underlying all of our work is our strong commitment to elevate the voices of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples, and all communities who are ignored, marginalized, and repressed in the name of development.

Protest organized by Maasai women on March 8, 2022 — International Women’s Day

Our Impact

Over 700 Maasai gathered in Oloirobi village

Exposed the Looming Threat of Eviction for the Maasai in Tanzania

For centuries, the Maasai have been the guardians of the land in East Africa’s Great Rift Valley. This long-term care and conservation should be rewarded and lauded. Instead, the Maasai are fighting for their lives — facing violence, starvation, and eviction, as investors and tourism enterprises seek to profit off their stewardship.

In June 2021, the Institute sounded the alarm on the Tanzanian government’s latest plans to evict over 80,000 residents — mostly Indigenous Maasai from their land, further restrict the livelihoods of those remaining, and destroy buildings in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA).

Report coverScreenshot from petition to Tanzanian gov and UNESCO.

The Looming Threat of Eviction: The Continued Displacement of the Maasai Under the Guise of Conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area unveiled the plan — developed at the behest of international conservation agencies to generate tourism revenue.

Dismantling justifications used for the removal of the Maasai from their land, we exposed how the plan was created without the consultation and consent of the Indigenous residents. The evictions and restrictions constraining tens of thousands of livelihoods are not about ensuring conservation but about expanding tourism revenues within the World Heritage Site. The report further revealed the complicity of international conservation agencies in driving the plan, which was designed following misguided calls for action to control population growth in the NCA by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Our communications strategy resulted in extensive global media coverage and elevated the plight of the Maasai internationally. Our petition to take action garnered over 133,000 signatures and was delivered to the Tanzanian government and UNESCO World Heritage Committee — elevating community demands to the highest levels. Additional petitions aimed at halting Maasai evictions followed and increased pressure as millions added their names.

The Institute was instrumental in driving a letter from eight Special Rapporteurs to the Tanzanian government and UNESCO World Heritage Committee expressing concern over the eviction plans. Our advocacy has shattered the hopes of the Tanzanian government for a swift and quiet eviction of the Maasai. The world is watching and the Institute remains committed to the struggle of the Maasai communities to protect their lands and livelihoods.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu meeting with Ms Agnes Kalibata

Standing up to the Corporate Takeover of the UN Food Systems Summit

The United Nations Food Systems Summit was reduced to a mere day-long virtual event on September 23, 2021 — the result of an unprecedented counter mobilization around the world. Hijacked by proponents of corporate industrial agriculture, the summit faced a united front from farmers, civil society groups, and social movements around the world, who rejected and mobilized against the takeover of global food and agriculture governance.

In January 2021, we coordinated a letter to the United Nations Secretary General, which was endorsed by 176 organizations from 83 countries challenging the corporate take-over of the summit. Our report, People Vs. Agribusiness Corporations: The Battle Over Global Food and Agriculture Governance, provided the analysis of the corporate hijack of the UN institutions and the struggle to keep the international organization faithful to its founding values

Report coverAgroecology in Andhra Pradesh, India. © Rucha Chitnis

The appointment of the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as the UN Special Envoy of the summit was the lightning rod that catalyzed global opposition. AGRA’s push of monocultural, fossil fuel-based agriculture and promotion of genetically engineered crops has failed to deliver on its much-touted promises, while devastating livelihoods of farmers, holding national budgets hostage to chemical inputs and foreign corporations, and worsening hunger. The report called out a number of powerful actors — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, some Western governments, the World Bank, and others — who continue to peddle corporate industrial agriculture and stand in the way of urgently needed solutions.

In the months leading to the summit, we worked with organizations from around the world in an unprecedented number of petitions, public communications, and other advocacy actions that mobilized millions, including through the organization of national and global counter summits. From Nigeria and the Philippines, to Zimbabwe and Peru, calls for a radical shift in our food and agriculture systems — from destructive and polluting industrial corporate production to farmer-centered agro-ecological systems — made the summit moot.

Kumpa Halkano giving testimony at a community meeting about alleged violence by armed security units in Northern Kenya

Shattering the Silence on Community Conservancies Devastating Land & Lives in Northern Kenya

Amidst growing resistance of local communities against the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) — one of Kenya’s largest conservation agencies — Stealth Game: “Community” Conservancies Devastate Land & Lives in Northern Kenya, sunlighted the devastating impact of privatized and neo-colonial wildlife conservation and safari tourism on Indigenous pastoralists.

Although terms like “participatory,” “community driven,” and “local empowerment” are extensively used by NRT, the report exposed how pastoralist communities are being dispossessed of their ancestral lands through corruption, cooptation, and sometimes through intimidation and violence — to create wildlife conservancies for conservation dollars.

Report coverProtest Against NRT in Merti Sub-County, Kenya, May 8, 2021

Since its founding in 2004, NRT has set up 43 conservancies on over 63,000 square kilometers of land in Northern and Coastal Kenya — over eight percent of the country’s total land area. NRT claims that its goal is to “transform people’s lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources.” Community members, however, have repeatedly asked for justice after years of being ignored by the Kenyan government and the police when reporting killings of family members and other human rights abuses. 

Based on extensive field research, Stealth Game was the first independent report to provide a comprehensive review of the evolution of Kenya’s land and wildlife conservation laws; the history, structure, and functioning of “community” conservancy model of NRT; while elevating voices of the pastoralist communities accusing NRT of land grabs and deploying armed security units involved in serious human rights abuses.

The report was launched by the Council of Elders, pastoralist leaders, and community members at a press conference in Nairobi. Together with Survival International, we organized a webinar where impacted community members directly shared their lived experiences alongside conservation and human rights experts with a wide audience. Despite a coordinated campaign by NRT to disrupt the webinar, the victims were not silenced. Widespread media coverage and our advocacy efforts led NRT’s main donors to launch an investigation into the findings of the report — a long-held demand of the impacted communities.

Community members of Mwingi near the disputed land of the Lokutu concession, DRC © Oskar Epelde

Exposing the Investors Profiteering from the PHC Oil Palm Plantations in DRC

As community efforts to reclaim 100,000 hectares of their ancestral land occupied by oil palm plantations are met with violent repression, unlawful arrests, and murder, our report: Meet the Investors Behind the PHC Oil Palm Plantations in DRC exposed the financiers profiteering from the plantations.

Communities in Lokutu, Yaligimba, and Boteka in DRC, forcibly displaced first in 1911 by the Belgian colonial authorities to establish oil palm plantations, continue to face acute hardships today. Livelihoods are severely impacted — hunger and poverty are widespread while the dumping of untreated industrial waste has polluted a major source of drinking water. Having lost their lands and reduced to working as laborers on the plantations, community members face poor wages and unsafe working conditions. In 2021, violent repression by security forces, working on behalf of the company, further escalated.

Report coverUniversity endowments, pension funds and philanthropic foundations have together invested over a hundred million dollars into funds managed by Kuramo Capital Management

Meet the Investors brought to light the company’s key partners and US-based institutional investors, including the Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and Kamehameha Schools, along with investors exposed in the March 2021 publication, In King Leopold’s Steps — University of Michigan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, South African Government Employees Pension Fund and Public Investment Corporation, and the UK Royal County of Berkshire Pension Scheme.

The report also detailed the internal legal battle underway between several individuals for the control of the plantations, illustrating how profits take precedence over the claimed objective of doing development in DRC. Our advocacy campaign, involving student groups, is targeting the investors to demand an independent investigation into the serious allegations. We remain committed to holding the investors profiteering from the exploitation of the plantation to account for the wrongdoings of the company. 

Graffiti pushing back against the World Bank

A Landmark Victory: World Bank Finally Ends Its Destructive and Corrupt Doing Business Report

On September 16, 2021, in a major victory for people and the planet, the World Bank announced its decision to discontinue publication of the Doing Business Report (DBR). The DBR had been “paused” following data irregularities in the 2018 and 2020 reports. The cancellation followed internal audits and reviews into the irregularities that revealed data manipulation by the World Bank.

Since DBR’s launch in 2002, the World Bank has ranked countries on the “ease of doing business” — regulatory changes and reforms that make them more attractive to private investors. Even before the extent of the data manipulation came to light and destroyed any credibility of the DBR, the rankings were built on a flawed premise that rewarded countries for reducing labor standards, destroying the environment, and providing easy access for corporate pillaging and land grabs.

Since 2014, the 280-organization strong Our Land Our Business campaign — composed of NGOs, unions, farmers, and consumer groups from over 80 countries — had called for the end of the rankings. For over seven years, Our Land Our Business waged an unwavering advocacy campaign, including letters, petitions, and mass protests around the world. Coordinating the campaign, the Oakland Institute produced dozens of reports and advocacy materials, providing in-depth analysis and monitoring the impact of the DBR around the world.

The report also detailed the internal legal battle underway between several individuals for the control of the plantations, illustrating how profits take precedence over the claimed objective of doing development in DRC. Our advocacy campaign, involving student groups, is targeting the investors to demand an independent investigation into the serious allegations. We remain committed to holding the investors profiteering from the exploitation of the plantation to account for the wrongdoings of the company. 

Samburu communities in Nantudu, Olidonyiro fearing evictions from community lands, Kenya

Tearing Down the Walls of Fortress Conservation

In Kenya and Tanzania, our work raised the voices of Indigenous Peoples to challenge the Western-based “fortress” conservation narrative that denies their rights to their ancestral lands and constrains their livelihoods. Our research and advocacy exposed the dangers of expanding this racist, neo-colonial conservation model at a time the “30x30 initiative” — a plan under the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity — is calling for 30 percent of the planet to be placed in protected areas by 2030. This plan would double the current protected land area over the coming decade by forcibly displacing Indigenous guardians of the environment — in what will be the largest land grab.

Tourist buses flood the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania

A major part of our work since our inception 18 years ago has been about protecting people’s lives, livelihoods, culture, and environment amidst land grabs and renewed forms of colonial exploitation. With our research and advocacy, we are part of a growing network pushing back against the disastrous 30x30 initiative, which promotes wildlife and environmental conservation by displacing Indigenous communities, stewards of biodiversity for centuries. Study after study shows that Indigenous Peoples are the best conservationists. Upholding their land rights is the way to ensure protection of our natural world. 

Our research makes it clear that conservation projects pursued at the expense of those who protect the environment are bound to fail. We will continue to dismantle the false solution of fortress conservation and elevate the struggles for life and land.  

Climate Protest outside Blackrock Headquarters in October 2021, San Francisco CA © Lews Bernier

Addressing the Climate Crisis and Challenging False Climate Solutions

We remained steadfast in challenging large-scale industrial agriculture — a major contributor to the worsening climate crisis. We exposed the disastrous impact of projects ranging from oil palm plantations to industrial agriculture models promoted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that extensively rely on fossil fuels, exacerbate pollution, and devastate livelihoods. 

September 2021 protest targeting Line 3 financing institutions in San Francisco. Credit: David Solnit.

Fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture is laying waste to the environment. Food systems are responsible for 34 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, with production processes — which include inputs like synthetic fertilizers — as the leading contributor. Family farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous communities — stewards of the land and agricultural biodiversity — are marginalized and forced off their land to be replaced by chemical-reliant monocultures. This is why our work has mapped out the path for farmer-led agroecological systems.

Exposing false solutions is also paramount at a time carbon trading is becoming a new “El Dorado” for banks and speculators who foresee profit-making opportunities. Oakland Institute Fellow Kristen Lyons examined plantation forestry for carbon offsets — a popular international carbon market initiative — and exposed how it secures an unfettered pathway for expansion and economic growth of heavy polluters. Security for the Big Polluters: Plantation Forestry for Carbon Offset Delays Action on Climate found that these projects rely on a violent “climate border force” to defend the boundaries of these projects. In doing so, the lives and livelihood activities that once defined these landscapes are “locked out” with carbon offset projects directly implicated in water, food, and other security struggles, alongside other devastating impacts for displaced local communities.

Farmer protest in the Philippines, January 9, 2021 © KMP

New Podcast to Amplify Voices On The Frontlines

From farmers resisting the corporate takeover of agriculture, activists risking their lives to protect water and forests, food and farm workers fighting for basic dignity, and Indigenous Peoples defending their culture and ways of life, For Land and Life — the Oakland Institute podcast — takes listeners to the frontlines of today’s most pressing social and environmental issues. Last year’s guests included leading activists from the Philippines, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Peru and Oakland. 

Available on all major platforms, the podcast takes you behind the scenes of our investigations and provides a platform for our partners to speak directly to the world. Subscribe wherever you listen to stay up to date on our latest episodes. 


Thank you Oakland Institute and the team for all your efforts to defend rights for the Ngorongoro communities. You remain the most dependable voice and actor. Asante.

Joseph Oleshangay

Tanzanian Human Rights Lawyer

Your work is phenomenal. That's the highest praise that I can give. You are a bright beacon of justice and equity in the world. With deepest gratitude

Individual donor

Drum Rolls!!! Waaaw! Congratulations to you for your perseverance and vision

Amadou Kanoute

CICODEV, Senegal

The Oakland Institute’s work on agriculture is, frankly, in a league of its own. Over recent months I have found their reports on Ukrainian agriculture to be particularly powerful. The world is full of NGOs cranking out fact-filled but ultimately rather limited material. The Oakland Institute, on the other hand, is unique for combining detailed and original research with unflinching structural analysis of the complex social and ecological crises we face. I am heartened by the Oakland Institute’s work and very thankful for it.

Christian Parenti

Professor of Economics John Jay College, City University of New York

The Oakland Institute’s research team visiting impacted Miskitu communities living beside the Rio Coco River in Nicaragua


Guardian headline: "Farmers and rights groups boycott food summit over big business links"BBC headline: "Do conservation efforts endanger the lives of indigenous communities"FP headline: "Western Nonprofits Are Trampling Over Africans' Rights and LandFT headline: "Tanzanian Maasai battle eviction from ancestral land"IPS headline: 'The End of World Bank's "Doing Business Report"'Mongabay headline: "Gates Foundation among investors backing troubled DRC palm plantation"The Economist headline: "Can elephants and rhinos coexist with livestock and their owners?"Tracking Extinction headline: "Il falso Eden di NgoroNgoro"AfricaBusiness headline: "Kuramo Capital Management under attack for its CSR in DR Congo"Le Courrier headline: "Protéger la nature, ou soi-meme?"Africa Intelligence headline: "Top donors zoom in on Northern Rangelands Trust in wake of abuse claims"African Political Economy headline: "The struggles of the Ngorongoro Maasai"Business Insider Africa headline: "To conserve Africa's biodiversity, its leaders must rethink protected areas"agro headline: "Le Sommet des Nations unies les systemes alimentaires 2021, un rendez-vous sous tension"The Elephant headline: "Stealth Game: The Proverbial Has Hit the Fan"Nigrizia headline: "Rd Congo: chi guadagna dalle piantagioni di palma da olio?"Le Journal l'Afrique headline: "The failure of the "green revolution" promised by Rockefeller and Gates"Architectural Review headline: "Conservation and capital in Kenya"



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Budget pie chart

As this chart shows, 74 percent of every dollar raised goes directly to our programs and partners, and 13 percent to our legal defense fund. For detailed information on the Oakland Institute’s finances, please see our annual 990 forms at: www.oaklandinstitute.org/about/annual-reports