In west Kenya, as the UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) reported, over a thousand homes had been torched by the government’s Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to forcibly evict the 15,000 strong Sengwer indigenous people from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills.
Since 2007, successive Kenyan governments have threatened Sengwer communities in the Embobut forest with eviction. A deadline for residents to leave the forest expired in early January, prompting the most recent spate of violence. The pretext for the eviction is that the indigenous Sengwer – labeled wrongly as ‘squatters’ – are responsible for the accelerating degradation of the forest.
Ahmed argues that such evictions are part of a land-grabbing strategy carried out on behalf of Western interests. A number of NGOs have criticized policies carried out by the Kenyan government as part of the Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP), which is funded by the World Bank. This management plan invokes the initiative “REDD” (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). The Sengwer people have lodged a formal complaint with the World Bank, which denies any role in the evictions. The Sengwer say that under the NRMP, the border of the Cherangany forest reserves was changed so as to include land occupied by Sengwer families. The Sengwer could then be officially evicted. The No REDD in Africa network (Nran) said that the Bank, “as carbon credit financier and broker,” was “aiding and abetting the forced relocation of an entire Indigenous People through its Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP)”.
Ahmed asserts that the land of indigenous peoples is being targeted by foreign governments or transnational corporations interested in acquiring land for growing crops or biofuels. Some 500 million acres of land in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean was bought up between 2000 and 2010 for these purposes. The people who lived on these lands have simply been displaced.
Ahmed’s assertion is backed up by a number of other reports on land-grabbing over the past few years. In 2011, journalist Tracy McVeigh reported from Kenya’s Tana Delta. She described how 427 families were evicted to make way for a sugar cane plantation and commented:
The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the West, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel.
With land and water resources being appropriated for the carbon credit business, conservation, or industrialized agriculture, many people in the developing world are being forced to fight for their very survival. As Omar Bocha Kofonde, a village elder, told Tracy Mc Veigh:
The hippos have gone, the fish, the birds, and the soil is salty. The goats and cattle have no grazing. The river used to flush out the sea water, now the sea is coming up on to our land because there is no river. Everything is in danger. People thought they owned the land, we have been here for hundreds of years. Now we will fight; we are ready to die, for what else is there?
– Catherine Vigier, Zeteo Contributing Writer
- Nafeez Ahmed, “World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs—NGOs.” The Guardian, 3 July 2014.
- Tracy McVeigh, “Biofuels land grab in Kenya’s Tana Delta fuels talk of war.” The Observer, 2 July 2011.