World Rainforest Movement

Tanzania: Another case of Norwegian CO2lonialism

A project implemented in Uganda by Norwegian company Tree Farms to set up between 80,000 and 100,000 hectares of plantations of pines and eucalyptus to act as carbon sinks has been severely questioned because of its negative social and environmental consequences. It has been defined as a “loss-loss-loss” situation, where the profits for the company are doubtful, local peasant communities are losing their lands and working for miser salaries, and Uganda is losing its sovereignity in relation to the management of its territory and natural resources (see WRM Bulletin 35).

In a report published in July 2000, a project also managed by Tree Farms –this time in neighbouring Tanzania– is analyzed (“Carbon Upsets. Norwegian “Carbon Plantations” in Tanzania” by Jorn Stave, NorWatch). So far Escarpment Forestry Company Ltd., subsidiary of Tree Farms, has planted 1,900 hectares of Pinus patula and Eucalyptus saligna at Sao Hill, Mufindi and Kilombero districts in the Tanzanian highlands. The company is in the process of acquiring larger areas. Additionally it is funding the activities of TAGGAT (Tanzania Greenhouse Gas Action Trust), a foundation that is working with the company in the development of simulation models for carbon fixation in tree biomass.

Even though this project differs in several aspects to that implemented by the same company in Uganda, the research concludes that this is another case of “CO2lonialism” provoking negative impacts on the environment, local communities and Tanzania as a country. Local biodiversity –including two orchids and one Aloe species endangered– will be affected by tree monocultures. At the same time, the fate of carbon content of soils and roots of natural vegetation once plantations are set up is uncertain. Even though Tree Farms made consultations with local villagers before works began, it has used local work force for plantations hiring them by a salary well below the official recommended minimum wage. Moreover, there are still more than 100 workers with several months of pay outstanding. The sum the company is paying as annual rent to the Tanzanian government for land use (U$S 1.9 per hectare) is lower than the rent at Tree Farm’s project in Uganda. Nevertheless, the Norwegians are pushing the authorities in order to reduce the rent by as mush as 50%. At the same time, Tanzania will lose control of the leased land during a period of 99 years.

The activities of Tree Farms in Tanzania can be considered as even worse than those in Uganda, since in this case the company is expected to make huge profits taking advantage of the very low negotiation power of local communities and the scarce institutional development of the Tanzanian state. Since the “carbon market” implies an absurd trade between agents with very different power, it is not surprising that the more powerful and richer gain while the more feeble and poorer loose. Definitely carbon sinks are not a solution for climate change, but an additional problem, both at the global and the local levels.

Article based on information from: “Carbon Upsets. Norwegian “Carbon Plantations” in Tanzania” by Jorn Stave, NorWatch, July 2000;