The global forest crisis is worsening and infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.
Thousands of homes belonging to hunter-gatherer Sengwer people living in the Embobut forest in the Cherangani hills were burned down earlier this year by Kenya forest service guards who had been ordered to clear the forest as part of a carbon offset project that aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation.
These resolutions were drafted during a seminar organized by the UK-based NGO Forest Peoples Programme and involving community members from Nguti, Ebanga, Sikam, Babensi II, Fabe, Massaka Bima, Mobenge, Ikoti-Ngolo, Ndiba-Ngolo, Oron-Isangele, Meangwe II Ngolo, Bweme-Ngolo, Lipenja II-Batanga, Toko and Baro, along with community support organisations, including the Centre for Environment and Development, Struggle to Economise Future Environment, Nature Cameroon and Greenpeace, who came to learn about their rights under national and international law with regard to developments on their customary lands.
On 8th February 2013, the Batwa of Uganda submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court of Uganda seeking recognition of their status as indigenous peoples under international law and redress for the historic marginalisation and continuous human rights violations they have experienced as a result of being dispossessed of their ancestral forest lands by the government.
Before their eviction, the Batwa had lived in the forest since immemorial times. The measures taken to remove the Batwa, to create ‘environmentally protected’ areas, and to limit access and use of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Echuya Central Forest Reserve, resulted in the violation of the Batwa’s property rights over their ancestral lands. While colonial protection of the forest started in the 1920s, most Batwa continued to live in the forest and to use its resources until the 1990s; when they were evicted, without consultation, adequate compensation or offer of alternative land.
While focusing in particular on the German financing of rainforest protection in Cameroon, this report also covers the broader issue of how Cameroon’s forest policies are shaped by the REDD process. It takes a case study approach, examining the way such forest protection policies impact on local communities by focusing in on the specific example of those communities whose land has been overlaid by the Takamanda National Park.
The UK-listed company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), which is threatening to seize land owned by Liberians in defiance of commitments by Liberia’s President, will today receive a visit from affected communities. Members of the Jogbahn Clan, together with representatives from Liberian and international NGOs, will deliver a petition with over 90,000 signatures, reminding EPO that it does not have community consent to expand onto their lands, and that doing so could escalate violence. EPO’s past operations in Liberia have triggered allegations of conflict and human rights abuses.
The lead article in the last FPP E-Newsletter focused on the superb progress the Ogiek of Chepkitale, Mount Elgon, Kenya, have made in their efforts to secure their forests and livelihoods by writing down their sustainability bylaws and embarking on the process of enforcing them. This process has resulted in their arresting charcoal burners, and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has now begun to restrict some of the charcoal burners’, as well as encroaching agriculturalist activities that were leading to the destruction of the indigenous forest.
The forcible eviction of the Sengwer communities from their ancestral lands began this last week, despite the interim injunction granted in the High Court at Eldoret against any such evictions, and despite the national and international Appeal against such unlawful action. For the latest update see below, and for the background to this see the section below that. Update: