The report acknowledges that a partnership with Bidco “could adversely damage UNDP’s reputation and the communities it seeks to help”
KAMPALA, Uganda, November 22, 2016 – Embattled Ugandan farmers fighting threats and land grabbing by Bidco have praised a draft report by U.N. investigators that calls into question the company’s business practices.
The report is the result of a complaint by the Bugala Farmers Association to the U.N.’s Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU).
The report can be found on the following link: APO.af/cWkh3e
In the complaint, the farmers stated that the United Nations had not performed sufficient due diligence on Bidco before inviting it to join Business Call to Action, which is part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The farmers provided evidence that Bidco has engaged in human rights, labour and environmental violations in the Kalangala District of Bugala Island, Lake Victoria, Uganda, where Bidco has grabbed land from smallholder farmers and cut down over 18,000 acres of rainforest to make way for a large-scale palm oil business.
The U.N. investigators found fault with the decision to invite Bidco into partnership with UNDP: “After the fieldwork and additional research, SECU concluded that the processes employed by UNDP for admission of Bidco were not consistent with UNDP policies.”
The report acknowledges that a partnership with Bidco “could adversely damage UNDP’s reputation and the communities it seeks to help”, and Bidco’s activities “may be considered risky”.
Kenya-based Bidco has tried to distance itself from the allegations of land grabbing and environmental destruction in Uganda, but the UNDP investigators found there is a clear link between the company’s corporate structure, overseen by CEO Vimal Shah, and operations in Uganda.
The investigators also determined that Bidco’s claim of not being involved in land acquisition in Uganda is not accurate. Bidco “knew of, relied on, and encouraged the purchase (of land) by the government.” Bidco Uganda also was “engaged in decisions and discussions related to the purchase,” the report says.
John Muyisa, a representative of the Bugala Farmers Association, commended the work of the U.N. investigators, who visited remote Kalangala District as part of their research.
“We are very pleased that the United Nations has performed an objective evaluation of its internal processes and determined that it is risky to partner with Bidco. The United Nations is a globally admired organisation, and it is absolutely correct that, as the report says, ‘Communities should be empowered’ and not be trodden upon by predator corporations like Bidco.”
In light of the report’s findings, the Bugala Farmers Association has called on the United Nations to terminate its partnership with Bidco.
Any member of the public can comment on the U.N. draft report until 7 December. The report can be found on the following link: APO.af/cWkh3e
Members of Prince Charles’ Banking Environment Initiative fail to cut ties with companies that deforest in Africa.
KAMPALA, Uganda, August 23, 2016 – East African protesters have taken to the streets of London to demonstrate against banks that do business with Bidco Africa, highlighting the connection between global financial institutions, The Prince of Wales and widespread deforestation in Africa.
Barclays and Standard Chartered saw their London headquarters picketed due to their funding of Nairobi-based Bidco, a company that cuts down thousands of acres of pristine rainforest in Uganda, and engages in human rights and tax violations in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Bidco Truth Coalition (No2Bidco.org), an activist alliance, has revealed that the Banking Environment Initiative (BEI), based at Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership under the patronage of The Prince of Wales, is failing in its mission to lead the banking industry in collectively directing capital towards environmentally and socially sustainable economic development.
The BEI’s nine member banks are Barclays, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lloyds, Northern Trust, RBS, Santander and Westpac.
By signing up to BEI’s ‘Soft Commodities’ Compact, the nine banks have committed to only direct capital towards sustainable business models and achieve zero net deforestation among their client Companies.
Under BEI guidelines, member banks must drop clients that don’t measure up to socially and environmentally responsible policies.
Bidco Africa, which has engaged in multiple human rights, labour, tax and environmental violations, has publically stated that it does business with Barclays, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank.
Bidco owns an oil palm plantation that has deforested 18,000 acres of rainforest in Uganda. Bidco has also grabbed land from over 100 smallholder farmers.
The environmental impact of the palm oil project has led activists to call on the UN Global Compact to eject Bidco from its roster of members.
In 2004, the World Bank pulled out of Bidco’s Uganda project, citing violations of the World Bank’s anti-deforestation policies.
But BEI has remained silent, and Barclays, Standard Chartered and other banks continue to do business with Bidco Africa.
The Bidco Truth Coalition calls on BEI, its patron, The Prince of Wales, and BEI’s nine member banks to publically state that they will no longer do business with Bidco and other companies that destroy the environment.
Bidco Truth Coalition unites groups to demand accountability for Bidco
KAMPALA, Uganda, May 31, 2016 – The Bidco Truth Coalition, an online activist organisation, has launched No2Bidco.org, a platform dedicated to charting the human rights and environmental violations of Bidco Africa, the Kenya-based edible oil producer headed by CEO Vimal Shah.
No2Bidco.org includes a catalogue of Bidco’s violations, including illegal labour practices in Kenya, deforestation in Uganda and tax evasion across East Africa. The platform also provides visitors with the ability to add their voices to a global campaign of petitions and letter-writing to reveal Bidco’s business practices.
No2Bidco.org’s central archive of independent reports about Bidco provides activists, businesses, governments and NGOs unfiltered access to information free from Bidco’s influence on the media.
No2Bidco.org includes a catalogue of Bidco’s violations, including illegal labour practices in Kenya, deforestation in Uganda and tax evasion across East Africa
The platform’s anchor organisation is the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), the respected Uganda-based Friends of the Earth affiliate. Other organisations include the Bugala Farmers Association, a Ugandan group of more than 100 farmers who lost their land to Bidco; Citizens for Tax Compliance, a Kenya-based group that advocates corporate tax compliance; the Association of Non-aligned Bidco Workers.
Founded in 1997, NAPE has been instrumental in giving a voice to farmers displaced by Bidco’s deforestation on Uganda’s pristine Ssese Islands. NAPE and its dedicated staff have a history of exposing corporations and governments that collude to earn vast sums of money at the expense of poor individuals.
The Bugala Farmers Association, which has successfully challenged Bidco in court for more than a year over its members’ loss of land, recently submitted a petition to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for partnering with Bidco. As a result, UNDP has launched an investigation into its partnership with Bidco.
The Association of Non-aligned Bidco Labourers is a group in Kenya and Uganda that gives informal representation to aggrieved casual workers at Bidco’s factories. Most workers supported have been terminated illegally, experienced abuse by Bidco management or been injured at the workplace.
The Bidco Truth Coalition invites other like-minded organisations to join the No2Bidco.org platform to demand change at Bidco and accountability for those who support the company.
“The United Nations development program has deployed a team of experts to Kalangala district to investigate allegations of human rights violation by BIDCO Palm Oil Company. This follows the farmers’ petition to UNDP in November 2015 upon learning that the oil firm had been requisitioning for money from the UNDP for expositions. Now the investigative team says money will not be advanced till further notice” (NBS TV Uganda, 2016)
Ames, IA and Seattle, WA: On Monday February 15th, Iowa State University graduate students will deliver 57,309 petition signatures to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU while AGRA Watch members deliver the same petition to the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington. (The petitions will be delivered at 9:30am PST and 11:30am CST.) The petition asks the University and the Gates Foundation to cease supporting the transgenic banana study, including human feeding trials, and to change the trajectory for this type of research conducted at public universities. Petition signatures were collected by ISU graduate students, AGRA Watch and CREDO Action.
With the purported goal of reducing Vitamin A deficiency in Uganda and other parts of the world, genetically modified bananas are enriched with beta carotene. The study examines the extent to which the bananas’ beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body and absorbed by consumers. The study is funded by the Gates Foundation.
The CREDO petition is a follow-up to a petition launched in 2015 by ISU graduate students who, in partnership with AGRA Watch, collected over 1000 signatures, that were delivered in December. These petitions respond to an email that was sent to the ISU student body in April 2014 inviting young women (ages 18-40) to eat genetically modified bananas in return for $900.
This study is one of the first human feeding trials of a genetically modified product, and there has been no prior animal testing of this product. Thus, ISU students are being asked to be the first to consume a product of unknown safety. The study is not being conducted in a transparent manner, and concerned ISU community members have not been able to receive answers about the research design, risks, nature of the informed consent given by the subjects, and the generalizability of the study.
The safety concern is not limited to students or activists. Dr. David Schubert, a molecular biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said, “Beta carotine is chemically related to compounds that are known to cause birth defects and other problems in humans at extremely low levels, and these toxic chemicals are possible if not likely by-products of plants engineered to make large amounts of beta carotene. Since there is no required safety testing of the banana or any other GMO, doing a feeding trial in people, especially women, should not be allowed. It is both unethical and immoral, particularly because there are several naturally occurring varieties of banana that are safe and have higher levels of beta carotene than the GM varieties.”
Beyond the possible harm to students, the banana may have negative long-term impacts on Ugandan agriculture. Many banana varieties serves as staples in Ugandan diets. Ugandans have the right to have access to safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. A coalition of over 100 U.S., African and international organizations expressed concerns in an Open Letter that genetically-modified bananas are not meant to serve such a purpose, and that this crop will have an adverse affect on Ugandan agriculture, food security and food sovereignty.
Bridget Mugambe, a Ugandan campaigner with Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, declared, “What is eluding the Gates Foundation is the existence of diverse alternative sources of Vitamin A rich foods that are easily planted and readily available in Uganda. The need for this Vitamin A rich GM banana is clearly assumed, and may sadly end up destroying a food that is at the very core of our social fabric.”
The demonstrations come on the heels of a widely-reported new critique of the Gates Foundation, commissioned by UK-based Global Justice Now. In the reportentitled “Gated Development”, the organization argues that “big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities.” The report goes on to claim that the foundation creates “a corporate merry-go-round where the [foundation] consistently acts in the interests of corporations”.
Mariam Mayet, Director of African Centre for Biodiversity (South Africa) stated, “We in Africa vehemently oppose the introduction of GM crops plants into our food and farming systems that is being carried out in the name of the public good. Once again we would like to draw attention to the conclusions of the 400 global experts of the IAASTD report, who are under no illusion that the current obsession with yield and productivity (personified in the extreme by GMOs) is a panacea for a more ecologically sustainable and equitable food system.”