Category Archives: From the Field

JA! speaks truth to TNC’s in Europe!

Lobby tour participants and organisers FoE Spain in Madrid

 

Over the past few weeks, JA! took part in a lobby tour organised in Europe, by Friends of the Earth Europe, where we met with current partners, made new allies, shared our anti-gas struggle and confronted the companies and banks who make up the liquid natural gas industry in northern Mozambique. This tour was imperative for the campaign, because so many of the companies and banks involved in the industry are based in Europe.

Lobby tour participants outside the EU Brussels

The tour, which went through Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels, was aimed at creating awareness about our struggle against the gas industry in Mozambique and demonstrating the critical need for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) at the United Nations. Currently, there is no accountability mechanism at the UN, only guiding principles which companies do not abide by, as they see them as an impediment to their greed and profit.

 

Our partners had arranged for JA!, along with activists from the DRC and the Phillipines to meet with current and new partners and allies, as well as industry players and state authorities.
Panel discussion with lobby tour participants and parliamentarians in the Hague2

Our confrontations with the industry were often met with blatant hostility, when we tried to hold them accountable for their actions, and when we raised questions they didn’t like. We attended four annual general meetings (AGM’s), those of Shell, Natixis, Eni and Total.

Intervention at natixis AGM

Natixis, the French bank which arranged for the entrance of three major French banks to finance the Coral LNG Project1, was so hostile at their AGM that when JA! attempted to ask a question about their negligence and ineptness in the project, they turned off the microphone and refused to answer the question. Shareholders were shouting “go home!” as JA! and partner organisations walked out of the meeting.

 

At the Shell AGM in Amsterdam, we were part of a large contingent of civil society organisations, mostly Dutch but also some European. Shell has a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Mozambique LNG to buy 2 million tonnes of gas per year for 13 years.

 

JA! and an organisation from Nigeria were the only attendees from the global South. The response to our questions was, as expected, vague, but our voice had been heard and carried in the Dutch media. Shell had little respect for activists – when the Nigerian activist raised the impacts that Anadarko’s project was having on their community in the Niger Delta, the Charles Holliday, Shell’s Chairman, responded that he should approach the ‘helpdesk’ in the foyer for assistance.

Interview with online news outlet madrid2

The third AGM we attended was that of Total in Paris, which is the new owner of the Mozambique LNG Project2, since May when it purchased Anadarko’s Africa assets. Anadarko, however, is still operating the project, and plan to hand over the lead to Total at the end of the year. After Greenpeace disrupted the AGM last year, there was a large police presence, and for some reason that was not properly explained to us, even though dozens of activists had arranged for access to the AGM, only JA! and an activist from Greenpeace were allowed into the plenary. JA!’s question was met with a dismissive answer, with Total evading responsibility for the impacts of the gas industry on the ground, claiming that responsibility lies with Anadarko.

 

This was a theme that came up in all AGM’s that we attended, including the fourth one, that of Italian company Eni, in Rome. Eni, along with ExxonMobil has the biggest stake in operating the Coral South LNG Project in Mozambique. We found that all the companies that we confronted, including during the one-on-one meetings we had with industry financiers BNP Paribas and BPI (French Public Investment Bank) put all the blame for the impacts on Anadarko. When we pushed them for answers, it became clear that none of these companies had even looked at the Environmental Impact Assessment that Anadarko had made in 2014, and yet were blaming them for all the climate injustices that were taking place. They are conveniently ignorant.

 

JA!’s partners had arranged for us to hold meetings with several authoritative bodies, including Michel Forst, UN Rapporteur on HRD; French parliamentarians from the working group on human rights and TNC’s; the deputy director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a parliamentarian from political party ally in Spain, Unidas Podemos; Belgian parliamentarians, and party representatives at the European Union.

 

We also met with other organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Action Aid.

 

In each country we spoke at events, to full houses of activists, journalists and the general public, some meetings of over 100 people. Our partners organising the tour had built a media campaign around our visit. Here are links to some of the articles about our struggle in European media and blogs:

 

Publico (Spain)

 

Les Echos (France)

 

Basta (France)

 

Observatories de Multinationales

 

L’Humanite (France)

 

Banktrack

 

Foe Scotland

 

It was great to see the amount of interest in our campaign, once people were made aware of the issue, and on the flipside, frightening to see how little attention the industry had been given in European media. But we believe that this tour has taken us several steps forward in the following ways:

  •  We have made many new partners and allies in the campaign throughout Europe, strengthening our coalition
  • We have shared the campaign with people working on or interested in the issue of fossil fuels and climate justice, including activists, journalists, academics and students.
  • We have directly questioned industry players one on one, from which we received some crucial information
  • We raised the issue in large industry public platforms, AGM’s, leading to attention on written and social media, and making shareholders aware
  • We have brought the issue to the radar of high level individuals on an EU level, and on the level of political parties, parliament and ministries

Now that we have strengthened the foundation of the Campaign in Europe, we must continue to push for answers and accountability. Push for activists in Europe to take their power as European citizens to hold their companies to account, and push them to force their governments, at national and EU level, to take responsibility for those corporations from whom they receive their tax.

1 Area 4 is operated by MRV, a joint venture company comprising ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC, which holds a 70% interest in the concession for prospection and production in that area. Galp, KOGAS and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique each hold 10% interest. ExxonMobil will lead the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas production facilities and related infrastructure on behalf of MRV, and Eni will lead the construction and operation of upstream infrastructure, extracting gas from offshore deposits and piping it to the plant.

2 The Area 1 block is operated by Anadarko Mozambique Area 1, Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum group, with a 26.5% stake, ENH Rovuma Area One, a subsidiary of state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd.(20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique BV (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JA! causes a ruckus at the Eni AGM

On Wednesday 14 May, JA! Attended the AGM of Italian oil and gas giant Eni, in Rome, where we put CEO, Claudio Descalzi, Chairperson Emma Marcegaglia and the board of executives on the spot in front of about 50 shareholders, by asking them questions about their work on gas in Mozambique and oil in South Africa that they really did not want to deal with. This was the first time we had been at the Eni AGM and we were able to go with the help of our Italian partners, Re:Common.

The meeting started at 10am and went on till 9pm, unusually late. After submitting written questions two weeks ago, we received the written answers, in Italian, literally as we walked into the meeting, and had to study them while the meeting was already in session, to see what they had or had not answered sufficiently before we were given a chance to speak.

JA! was given 10 minutes for an intervention. We first gave the context of the way Enis Coral Liquid Natural Gas Project was destroying endangered flora and fauna, and forcing people off their land before operations had even started, as well as their oil exploration in Block ER236, off the South Coast of Durban, affecting the livelihoods of at least 20 fishing communities and followed this with a barrage of questions about both of these issues, none of which were properly answered by CEO Descalzi.

While we asked many questions covering a range of topics, the main issues we raised were:

– Why did Eni begin operations in Mozambique in 2006, when they only received their license in 2015, and only completed their environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 2014? (This EIA was done in conjunction with Anadarko)

– Why is Enis gas project in Mozambique releasing greenhouse gases that will increase the whole of Mozambiques carbon emissions by 9.4% by 2022, when their main focus for the next ten years is decarbonisation?

– Why did Eni ignore the poor and marginilised communities of the South Coast of Durban, while only engaging with the wealthy communities at country clubs and upmarket hotels, to do their EIA?

Descalzi was extremely patronising in his responses, saying that Eni had not done any drillingin South Africa, so he is not sure about the forced removals of fishing communities that you (Ilham) are talking about.

He also interrupted JA, to say that Eni is not involved in Area 1 so the EIA for Mozambique But this is a lie, as Enis logo is on the front page of the EIA.

He did not answer the questions about them beginning operations in Mozambique before they received their license. He also claimed that the resettlement process of what we know to be forcefully-removed communities in Mozambique was in line with the EIA.

He said that the answers to the other questions were in the document of written responses, which will be released next month.

After the end of the AGM, Descalzi sought out JA !representative, and thanked JA! for the questions, to which JA! responded that none of the questions had actually been sufficiently answered, and that his so-called responses were offensiveas they contradicted what JA! Has seen on the ground, and which we are told by affected communities. He is basically, JA! said, saying that we are either ignorant or lying.

It was clear that we, and our partners Re:Common had an impact on Descalzi as he was answering our questions, he stumbled, saying Im well-cooked, an Italian saying meaning that he was extremely tired. That he sought Ilham out before anybody else was quite telling, offering her his personal contact details. Now lets see what happens

JA! will publish a more detailed post, the questions asked, and the verbal responses from Descalzi, as well as an analysis. Its important to note that Eni, and Descalzi, along with Shell, are currently defendants in a court case, charged with one of the worlds biggest corruption scandals, allegedly paying $ 1.3 billion in bribes, to Nigerian politicians for the purchase of an oil field in Nigeria. Lets see now, if he keeps his word by responding fully and personally to the questions he has offered to personally answer, while also remembering, Can we trust one of the most corrupt men in the world?

Tagged , , , , , ,

Justica Ambiental’s intervention at Eni Annual General Meeting

14 June 2019

Rome

I represent an organisation called Justica Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique in maputo. Ive come quite a long way to ask Eni some questionsI will ask in particular questions about the onshore and offshore work in Area 1 and Area 4 of the Rovuma Basin in Mozambique, which includes the Coral Floating Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the offshore oil and gas exploration in Block ER236 off the South Coast of Durban in South Africa.

we want to give some context to the shareholders:

Although the extraction in Mozambique has not yet begun, already the project has taken land from thousands of local communities and forcefully removed them from their homes. We work with and visit most regularly the villages of Milamba. Senga and Quitupo. The project has taken away peoples agricultural land, and has instead provided them with compensatory land which is far from their homes and in many cases, inarable. Fishing communities which live within 100 metres of the sea are now being moved 10 km inland.

Furthermore, the noise from the drilling will chase fish away from the regular fishing area, and the drilling and dredging will raise mud from the seabed which will make fishing even more difficult with little visibility.

There is little to no information about the type of compensation people will receive. Communities think the ways in which peoples compensation has been measured and assessed is ridiculous. For example, the company assesses someones land by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods. Another way is by counting the number of palm trees that one person has on their land. Most people have been given a standard size of land of 1 hectare. This is regardless of whether they currently have 1 hectare, 5 hectares, or even ten hectares.

80% of Mozambicans dont have access to electricity, and need energy to live dignified lives. Despite this incredibly low electricity rate, the LNG projects will not help Mozambique and its people benefit from its resources. Instead the LNG will be processes and exported to other countries, in particular Asia and Europe.

The projects will have a huge negative impact on the local environment, destroying areas of pristine coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, including endangered flora and fauna in the Quirimbas Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere.

Mozambique is a country that is already facing the impacts of climate change. In the last two months, two cyclones hit the country hard, as we saw most recent with Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth that together killed over 600 people and affected at least 2 million.. The EIA admits that the contribution of the projects greenhouse gases to Mozambiques carbon emissions will be major.

This project will require a huge investment by the Mozambican government, which would be better spent on social programs and renewable energy development. The project itself will require an investment of up US$ 30 billion. This project will divert funds that should be going to education and other social necessities, including $2 billion that the World Bank estimates is necessary to rebuild the country after the cyclones, in order to build and maintain infrastructure needed for the gas projects.

Over the last year and a half, there as been a scourge of attacks on communities in the gas region, which many communities believe are linked to the gas projects because they only began once gas companies became visible. In order to ensure the security of the gas companies and contractors, the military has been deployed in the area and maintains a strong presence, and several foreign private security companies have been contracted by the companies.


SOUTH AFRICA

While the human rights and environmental violations against the people of the South Coast are many, the particular issue Id like to raise is that of the lack of meaningful public participation with the affected communities, who were totally excluded from the process.

Exclusivity of meetings:

Eni held a total of 5 meetings.

Three of them were at upper end hotels and country clubs in the middle class areas of Richards Bay, Port Shepstone and in Durban. This is extremely unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who will be affected, many of whom live in dire poverty: communities of as Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, St Lucia,, Hluluwe, Mtubatuba, Mtunzini, Stanger, Tongaat, La Mercy, Umdloti, Verulam, Umhlanga, Central Durban, Bluff, Merebank, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Illovu, Umkomaas, Ifafa Beach, Scottsburgh, Margate, Mtwalume, Port Edward and surrounding townships like Chatsworth, Inanda, Umlazi, Phoenix and KwaMakhuta. This is blatant social exclusion and discrimination.

During the two so-called public participation meetings with poorer communities in February and October 2018, attended by both Eni and consultants Environmental Resources Management, the majority of people affected were not invited. The meetings, held by Allesandro Gelmetti and Fabrizio Fecoraro were held in a tiny room with no chairs. Eni had not invited any government officials.

[Sasol head of group medial liaison Alex Anderson, confirming the meeting, said: Eni, our partner, is the operator and the entity managing this process. Sasol is committed to open and transparent engagement with all stakeholders on this project, as its an ongoing process over the coming year. We value the engagement and the feedback we receive, so that we consider stakeholder concerns into the development of the project.]

Eni says it dropped the finalised EIAs off at 5 libraries for the interested parties to read. However these libraries are difficult for most of the affected communities to travel to, and one of the libraries, Port Shepstone library, was in fact closed for renovations at the time.

QUESTIONS:

Civil society in Mozambique:

The response to our question was not answered, and I would like to reformulate it.

Is Eni working with any Mozambican organisations as part of its community engagement, and which are they?

Is Eni working with any organisations, Mozambican and from elsewhere, who are NOT paid by the company?

Reforestation:

Id like to quote an article in the FT article David Sheppard and Leslie Cook 15 March 2019- Eni to plant vast forest in push to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which says, I quote:

by planting trees which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, companies like Eni are looking to offset their pollution that their traditional operations create.

Italian energy giant Eni will plant a forest 4 times the size of Wales as part of plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions

1. Does Eni dispute the truthfulness of the Financial Times article

Eni says that it has already begun the contract process with the governments of the countries in Southern Africa, where these forest projects will take place.

1. Has the company assessed whether there actually is 81 000 hectares of unused land available for this project?

2. Has Eni already held any public participation meetings with the communities who live on the land that will be used for ?

3. who is doing this assessment and when will it begin

4. how many communities and people will be affected?

EIA s:

1. In the case of Area 1, Eni responded that the responsibility for ongoing public participation with the communities of Cabo Delgado lies with Anadarko for the joint EIA. Does Eni confirm it is relying on another company to guarantee that its own project fulfills requirements for an EIA?

2. Also on Area 1, the last EIA was done in 2014? Why does Eni rely on an impact assessment that is 5 years old?

3. Eni has responded that it only concluded its EIA in 2014, but had already begun seismic studies in 2007 and prepared for exploration in 2010. Furthermore, Eni only received its license from the Mozambique government in 2015. This is a whole 8 years after it had begun seismic studies.

Why did Eni begin studies that affect the environment and people before completing an EIA?

Decarbonisation:

This question was not sufficiently answered: I have asked why Enis decarbonisation strategy does not align with its actions in Mozambique, where the EIA says, and I quote from Chapter 12: The project is expected to emit approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 during full operation of 6 LNG trains.

By 2022 the project will increase the level of Mozambiques GHG emissions by 9.4%

The duration of the impact is regarded as permanent, as science has indicated that the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is said to range between 100 and 500 years, and therefore continues beyond the life of the project.

I ask again, how does this align with Enis decarbonisation strategy?

Private security:

1. Who is Eni using as their private security companies in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. What was the legal process the company went through to contract these private security companies?

3. If any companies are not registered locally, what legal process did Eni go through to bring them to Mozambique and South Africa?

Contractors:

1. Will Eni provide us with a list of all their contractors in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. if not why not?

Jobs in South Africa:

You have not answered our question here

How many jobs will Eni create at its operation in SA?

How many of these jobs will be paid by Eni?

Contract

I ask this in the name of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. The organisation requested Eni to make available the contract signed with the Dept of Environmental Affairs and Petroleum Agency South Africa that gives Eni permission to conduct seismic testing. Eni has said no, because the right to the document lies with a contractor.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Petitions to government institutions fall into oblivion

On the 21st of September 2016, Justiça Ambiental, in partnership with the World Rainforest Movement, submitted to the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to Green Resources and to Portucel a petition signed by 12332 people exposing the numerous conflicts and social, environmental and economic impacts – especially in the local communities directly affected. The petition stated the following:

“On September 21st, on the occasion of the International Day of Struggle Against Tree Monocultures, we, the undersigned organizations, groups, movements and individuals, expressed our solidarity and support to the communities that are fighting against the expansion of these large plantations. We demand that Green Resources, Portucel and all other companies and financial capital investors who are usurping land or planning to support the capture of fertile agricultural land for tree monocultures in eastern and southern Africa return it to the communities. By doing so, they can help prevent new conflicts between plantation companies and governments and contribute to solve the many that already exist across the region. We demand that the Government of Mozambique maintain its Land Law and ensure that the rights of communities to land, water and food are duly respected.”

The conflicts and impacts of monoculture plantations are not exclusive to rural communities in Mozambique. In fact, they are a characteristic of this type of investment and can be found everywhere where plantations of this type are promoted.

The petition was submitted to the aforementioned bodies with the knowledge of:

The Office of the President of the Republic

The Parliament

The Attorney General’s Office

The Governor of the Province of Zambézia

The Governor of the Province of Niassa

The Governor of the Province of Nampula

However, to date, after more than 2 years, none of the institutions above deigned to respond…

These public institutions, that we are told exist to serve and defend the interests of the people, are the ones who systematically ignore their concerns, demands and petitions…

In August 2018, Justiça Ambiental, ADECRU (Academic Action for the Development of Rural Communities) and Nampula’s UPC (Provincial Peasants Union) facilitated the process of drafting and submitting a petition on behalf of the communities affected by Green Resources, which contained some 3406 signatures from members of affected communities. The petition exposed in detail the innumerable situations these communities were subjected to and the various attempts at conflict resolution that have had no results at all. This last petition was submitted to the following institutions:

Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety, addressed to the Minister;

Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, addressed to the Minister;

The Parliament’s 5th Committee – Committee on Agriculture, Economy and the Environment;

Green Resources Mozambique;

Mozambican Bar Association;

Norfund;

Embassy of Norway in Mozambique; and

National Commission on Human Rights

Of these institutions, only the National Human Rights Commission responded and was showed interest in investigating the matter, however, so far nothing else has happened.

Land conflicts persist, communities affected and deceived with promises of better living and employment are still waiting for a response, they continue to wait for a solution to their many complaints, and to believe that there will be answers to their many appeals !!!

More frightening than our government’s silence and inaction over these petitions and complaints regarding this type of investment, is that it continues to promote the monoculture plantations business, it continues to invite investors and distribute land that is not vacant, nor is it infertile or marginal – as they claim in order to defend their investments.

The latest versions of the Forestry Policy and Implementation Strategy, of the 2035 Forest Agenda and of the National Forestry Program, which are allegedly still under public discussion, clearly demonstrate that our government, particularly the environment and forest sectors, is far from realizing the scale of the social, environmental and even economic impacts of this investment.

Even more serious than the complete absence of current knowledge about the negative impacts of large monoculture plantations on the environment, in particular on maintaining the ecological balance on which we all depend, is the arrogance with which they refuse to learn from the many examples that exist throughout the world. It is completely unacceptable and absurd to hear a forestry technician effusively defend that monoculture plantations are forests and then insist by asking “are those not trees?”! It is equally unacceptable that the definition of forests can be altered to accommodate the interests of many false solutions such as REDD and the commodification of nature. Yet, this is precisely what is happening in the sector.

Important instruments such as the 2035 Forest Agenda and the National Forestry Program are being developed under the leadership of government’s “strategic partners”, with tremendous economic interests in the sector, such as the World Bank that has poured millions and millions of dollars in these “make-believe” processes. Yet we, the Mozambican organizations that stand our ground against the complete pillage of our resources, are the ones who are constantly accused of serving foreign interests. The influence and power enjoyed by these “strategic partners” who finance and direct these processes is visible and frightening. Who rules our country? Are we really sovereign? Or is that speech valid only when your “strategic partners” and our eternal “financiers” are angry with your crazy adventures with public money? Are we only sovereign then?

Public participation is still a huge challenge, and it does not seem to us that there is a real desire to improve, since this way it is much easier to conduct the processes without much resistance. Mozambican civil society barely participates in public discussion processes, whether about environmental aspects or other issues. The participants of these meetings are mostly representatives of civil society organizations and other organizations and sometimes some students. This weak participation also tells us a great deal about the way citizens feel about these processes and, above all, what can be expected of them.

In the case of the above-mentioned instruments, it should be noted that technical committees have been set up for the elaboration and discussion of these, but the space attributed to civil society organizations is always very small and it is not clear how organizations are “chosen” to participate . JA! participated in the technical committee and despite the numerous comments on the various versions of the document, nothing was really considered and properly analyzed. Our natural resources, our forests and ecosystems are only treated as profit-making resources, we do not consider their biological importance and the fact that we are part of this planet and depend on the biological services that these ecosystems provide us and that allow life on Earth.

It seems childish to remember that we do not own Planet Earth and nature, we are part of it. We are the most stupid and destructive part of it…

Our stupidity is demonstrated over and over again by the state of our planet, by the state of our forests, rivers and other ecosystems… We don’t see the other animals – the ones we call irrational – destroying their habitat as humans do… for profit!

JA! Visit finds confusion and distrust in Cabo Delgado gas region

DSCF2153When JA! team visited Pemba at the end of February, 2019, the biggest city in Cabo Delgado province, to learn about the current situation of the ‘gas rush’ in northern Mozambique, it quickly became apparent to us that there is very little clarity and transparency about what is actually happening in the gas industry. Attacks on communities, land grabs, the stage of the companies’ operations, and even which companies are involved, have left people uncertain and confused.

 

The industry is constantly changing, with one example at the time being the pending takeover of US company Anadarko, which is the leader of one of the two major projects since it first ‘discovered’ gas in the Rovuma Basin in 2010. Just two weeks ago, Chevron put in a bit to purchase Anadarko for $ 33 billion, and a mere few days later, Occidental Petroleum tried to outbid them with $ 38 billion.

This has huge implications – communities who have been in communication with Anadarko about resettlement and compensation, or already signed agreements with them, the government’s financial agreements with Anadarko and investments in the project – these will all need to change, and more frighteningly, nobody knows how they will change.

 

Furthermore, the stages of the gas projects are constantly changing, new contractors come in and new deals are signed in the blink of eye. The official information out there is that In 2006, 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of northern Mozambique. There are two concession areas that the Mozambique government has already given the rights away to:

IMG_20190225_150151_9

Area 1, the location of the Mozambique LNG Project, which was led by Anadarko, but will now be led by Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, and Area 4, the location of the Coral LNG Project that is lead by Eni and Exxon.*

And both projects have secured purchasers which ultimately has given them the financial green light to operate.

 

Over the last year, there have been many violent attacks on villages in the gas region, and there are different theories about who is responsible and who benefits from them. Due to these attacks, on this trip the JA! Team was unable to travel to the communities with which we work near Palma.

Instead, our focal point that we work with closely, arranged to bring two community members to meet us in Pemba instead.

 

Even though we were unable to travel to Palma during this visit, just meeting with people in Pemba – NGOs, activists and journalists – pointed us to an increasing number of issues arising. Basically, the more people we spoke to, the more people we realized we needed to speak to.

Two people from communities being affected by the industry, Crisanto Silva from Senga, and Burahani Adinane from Milamba, traveled six hours to tell us about the situation they are facing now.

 

Mr Burahani told us how his community left Milamba in February and are staying with family in Palma because they felt very unsafe, in constant fear of being attacked. He says that at the end of last year, Anadarko made an agreement with the community telling them what they would receive as compensation. They have not yet signed that agreement with the government, and Anadarko has not returned that agreement document to them as they said they would, so they are in a constant state of uncertainty and limbo.

 

He says that the compensation assessment process has been ridiculous – one way the company assesses someone’s land is by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods.

 

People with 5 hectares (ha) of land are going to get only 1.5 ha in compensation,” he says. “I have 64 ha but will only get 1.5 ha!  The company did the measurement by counting the number of trees in the plot. I had 583 trees, but how do I fit that in 1 hectare?”

 

The fishing community is being moved 10 km inland, away from the sea, where it will be very difficult for them to get to their fishing grounds, which will also be the location of a new port construction project. And actually, people have lost access to the sea even before the process has been completed.

 

Now we will be resettled from the sea,” says Mr Burahani,and personally, i don’t know how to do anything but fish”.

 

Crisanto Silva, from Senga, which is the village that the removed communities will be resettled in, told us about the problem of the military in the area. Following the violent attacks on villages, mainly those around or in the gas region,  that have been taking place since October 2017, the government has brought the military, allegedly to protect the communities from the attackers. Nobody is sure about who is responsible for the attacks, but there are many theories going around. The official government line is that they are carried out by Muslim extremists, but many others believe that gas companies, or powerful people in government are responsible themselves.

 

However, Mr Crisanto says that the military who is supposed to be protecting them, instill fear in the community instead. They stand around drinking beer, says Mr Crisanto, and give the people of Senga a curfew of 8pm, and then beat up people who are out after that. “But the army is only in the village till midnight,” Mr Crisanto says, “which I don’t understand… We are too afraid to go to the fields but the army refuses to escort us, so we are left without food.”

 

Mr Crisanto also says that he knows the ecosystem will be completely destroyed, and the Anadarko and Exxon factories are right next to the port that will be built. The port will go 2km into the sea, and the excavation is disturbing the sea bed. This is really affecting fishing patterns and the amount of fish in the area.

 

After speaking with the community members, we held several other meetings that provided important information. One of the other urgent issues is that of media oppression – two community journalists from Cabo Delgado were imprisoned for a long time, with one, Amade Abubacar, detained from 5 January to 23 April 2019. While the official reason for his arrest is unclear, Amnesty International says the he was arrested for documenting deadly attacks by armed groups against civilians.

 

This has left the few journalists who are not following the mainstream government rhetoric in constant fear of their lives or of losing their credibility if they write or say anything which does not align with it. The journalists we spoke with insisted on speaking to us in our hotel room because even being seen with us would put them in danger.

 

We spoke with a few NGO’s, some of whom provided us with very interesting information. We learnt about the vast current issues with the resettlement process. For example, the areas where Anadarko plans to give people machambas (farmlands) is at high risk of attacks, and it is very difficult for civil society to physically go there to protect people from these attacks. Communities feel that monetary compensation is not enough, as it is their ancestral land that is being taken from them. When they have meetings with companies about the process, they are not given the space to ask questions, and when they hold meetings with civil society, the military appears to disrupt the meeting. Anadarko is also known to hold resettlement meetings with individual families, which is divisive, and there is growing hostility over who gets which machambas.

 

We also learnt that many areas in Cabo Delgado, including areas where people are given machambas, are actually not arable, because Portuguese colonizers used them to grow cotton plantations which utilized many chemicals and degraded the soils.

 

Another rather disturbing piece of information is that while we met several NGOs doing interesting work, there are very few in Cabo Delgado working on the gas issue that do not receive funding for some or other service from Anadarko. It raises questions of independence and transparency for us when NGOs receive money from the very companies they are supposed to be challenging.

 

After those few days we spent in Pemba, it became clear that things are changing very quickly – the presence of the companies and private security is growing, fear of attacks and military is increasing and people are already losing their homes and livelihoods. There is a sense of unease in the air – many people don’t want to talk, or if they do, are afraid to say anything openly against the government or industry.

 

There is no doubt that the need to stop the industry is urgent, as the devastation we are already seeing may be irreversible. We will continue to work closely with the affected communities, as part of a campaign that uses different approaches – local and international to stop gas in Mozambique!

Broken Lives,Stolen Futures. A short documentary made by JA! of the sad situation of the communities in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, affected by the gas exploration..

 

Of Coral FLNG, ExxonMobil owns a 35.7 percent interest in Eni East Africa S.p.A. (to be renamed Mozambique Rovuma Venture S.p.A.), which holds a 70 percent interest in Area 4, and is co-owned with Eni (35.7 percent) and CNPC (28.6 percent). The remaining interests in Area 4 are held by Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos E.P. (10 percent), Kogas (10 percent) and Galp Energia (10 percent).


In Mozambique LNG, Anadarko (soon to be taken over by Chevron or Occidental Petroleum or?) leads the LNG project with a 26.5 percent ownership stake. Other owners include the Mozambique state energy company, 15 percent; Japan’s Mitsui Group, 20 percent; India’s ONGC Videsh, 16 percent; India’s Bharat, 10 percent; Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, 8.5 percent; and Oil India Ltd., 4 percent.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Selfish…

My brother died.

He died because he grew up in a rural area where there were no schools, therefore he did not study. And because he did not study, when the local administrator appeared with some gentlemen who offered him money and a job in exchange for his land, he believed their word and signed some papers unaware of what he was doing. When he realized he was conned, he complained but no one helped him out.

He died because when the miserable six-month contract and the money they paid him ran out, he had to go live in the city to escape starvation. He ended up starving in the city.

He died because he could not afford the minibus taxis and, in the city, there are not enough buses, so on his way to work he jumped on the back of a truck full of people that rolled over in a tight turn because it was too full. The tire blew up. The accident happened shortly after the truck was stopped by the police to pay their “toll”.

He died because the only running ambulance in the district was on its way to another place, so they took too long to get him to the nearest health centre.

He died because in the health centre they did not have the means to save his life.

I wish I could invite the heads of our government to the funeral. It seems fitting to me that one of them should bang the last nail in my brother’s coffin, since, directly or indirectly, it was them who hammered all the others.

In most Mozambican schools, there are not enough tables, chairs, manuals, notebooks, pencils, pens and even teachers. There are schools without a roof, schools without windows and even schools without walls.

In most hospitals and health centres in Mozambique, a lot is needed and lacking. For example, Maputo’s Hospital Central, due to lack of equipment, refers critically ill patients to private hospitals that very few can afford, thus condemning those who cannot to their fate.

On Mozambique’s modest roads, twice a day, millions of men, women, and children commute in crammed up minibuses or in the back of trucks that do not even meet the minimum safety requirements to transport cattle.

Mozambique lacks A LOT of basic stuff.

However, the selfish do not mind. They do not hide. They could not care less. They have no shame.

gbbb

Shamelessly, they use the public treasury to lead palatial lives, totally out of step with our humble reality, robbing the people of their right to live with a minimum of dignity.

And as if that was not enough, without any decorum, – as if asking: “What are you going to do about it?”– they rub their shameless opulence in the face of the insulted. In the face of parents whose children study sitting on the floor. In the face of the elderly who have to endure standing for hours, crammed in the back of crowded trucks, in the rain or in the blazing sun. In the face of the helpless mothers, whose children die everyday in the corridors of our hospitals.

Regrettably, in a country that is growing increasingly devoid of values ​​and examples, it is only natural that the deplorable behavior of the selfish can easily find fertile soil in the most manured heads. Their dishonesty and the example of impunity that they set, has repercussions at all levels of our society. From top to bottom, their totally unethical and immoral posture, – which they ironically call “wise and didactic leadership” – spreads like a social plague and becomes a code of conduct. “Every man for himself and screw the rest” is the rule. Everything else is bogus. Social justice is a mirage.

And it’s mostly our fault. Not only because of what we let the selfish do, but also because of what we allow them not to.

We are so used to not relying on the State, that we bypass it. We ignore it. We replace it taking on its obligations. Those who can, in addition to their taxes, pay for security, for sanitation, for health, for energy, for education. The State says thank you and leans on us. Hangs on to us. Washes its hands of the responsibility and buys another Mercedes.

And once again, it is those who have no one and nowhere to turn to who get screwed. The rest continues to live quietly in their bubble. Until the day the bubble bursts…

The “ A, B , C “ of Large and Mega Dams

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

img

It is a big cement hall, that stop the course of the river. The word seems to be related to the Greek word taphos, meaning “grave” or “grave hill”, in reality it is a tombstone for the river.

By the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), a large dam is higher than 15m while a Mega dam is over 100m. Most Mega dams worldwide are used for energy production.

Mega dams have been the center of many debates, research and studies for the last decade.

Between 1930 and 1970, the boom of Mega dams was seen to be synonymous with “economic development” and a symbol of human ability to assert control over nature. But then the truth of their negative impacts started to arise, and it become the center of many debates and arguments around costs-versus-benefits, ecological impacts, social impacts, etc.

From one side the proponents claim dams as a source of energy and as such a tool for development, from another side the opponents state that those benefits are far outweighed by disadvantages such as loss of communities livelihoods and rivers ecosystems to name just some.

The late 1980s and 1990s era, were marked by large protests, and controversial debates about mega dams. Pressure and huge campaigns from civil society, social movements and communities affected by dams to stop financing mega-dams. Same financed institutions, with the pressure and information about crimes against human rights, by mega dams financed by the world bank, funds were decrease to the world Bank Dams projects. Due to such an outcry, an independent commission under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, the South African water minister, was created in April 1997, the “World Commission on Dams (WCD)”, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of mega Dams globally. The WCD was composed of members of civil society, academia, private sector, professional associations and government representatives. The report findings and recommendations were launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD found that while “ dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable… in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” The study also made recommendations and provided guidelines which all dam projects should follow, including five core values and seven priorities detailed below:

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
Recognising entitlements and sharing benefits,
Ensuring compliance and

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

For a while, the understanding of the large costs of Mega dams started to become a reality, but suddenly with the climate crises, they came back with the tag of “Solution for Climate change”. But it is not a solution. It is riddled with problems and earns our tag of “false solution”.

At JA’s last year climate justice meeting “Seeding Climate justice II”, held in Maputo, JA invited Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers (IR), who presented the impacts of dams on the climate, and debunked the myth that mega dams are one of the energy sources to address our climate crises. Without going into the known social and environmental impacts, the presenter began her presentation by asking “Hydro dams, do they provide CLEAN energy? NO, THEY DON’T, ITS NOT TRUE! They exacerbate climate change instead”. Dams especially tropical dams can often produce a huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting biomass in the reservoir. Then there are huge impacts of droughts and floods on the energy production, and dependency of hydroelectric on a changing climate is questionable.

Rudo spoke about the breakthrough research done in 2012, “ A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, there was a lot of opposition, attacked by politicians, statements that IR ‘’was scaring people, and that was not going to happen’’. But it is real, 4 years after, we see that is happen, this year, Lake Kariba never went above 20% capacity, Lesotho Katse dam was 63%, Zambia that was 80% dependent of Hydro, due to a 2 years drought is turning into solar. This is real , Zambezi Basin countries will have a decrease in stream flow, as many studies estimate and a decrease of run-off to be between 26% to 40% by 2050. No one is trying to scare people, but it is already happen and is going to only become worse.

We recall back in 2012, when Rudo come to Maputo to present the finding of this study, we were attacked by most of the government participants at the launch meeting, to the point of becoming quite an ugly and unproductive meeting.

We raised the question again, how can Mozambique build a dam as risky as it is Mphanda Nkuwa is to the environmental and communities, seismic risk, and now adding the economic and climate change risk? Those risks exist, due to extreme climate changes, and they must be included in any evaluation and decision to build or not a dam.

But as the researcher stated on their study, that government, dam builders and decisions makers, are not taking into consideration the economic risks associated to climate change, in his wordsThere is been a neglect of climate risks in hydropower planning – in an approach that might be called either ‘wait and see’ or ‘head in the sand’ ”.

But it still amazes me how difficult is for people to understand and see mega dams for what they really are: a monstrosity that destroys lives, livelihoods and rivers ecosystem, to say some. In a way I can understand if you look into a coal power station, you see ugliness, you see smoke, pollution and a landscape that no one wants to live there if they have a choose. At the other end, a mega dam is an huge infrastructure that makes any engineers proud of it, a lake, and an enormous hall that splits water in amazing speed, and a sound that make you feel small in this world… for sure looks much better then a coal power station. But it is just that, a facade. Because it is not synonymous with development, just ask the 40-80 million people displaced by dams, how their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Neither is it a solution for climate change as it often emits methane (more in tropical areas), destroys forests for the reservoir. Neither it is good for the environmental as it block rivers and inundates forests and agricultural land , and deny downstream enough water for wetlands to operate accordingly. Neither they protect us, from flood if they are not build to do so, or a way to keep water during drought.

Why they do not protect us from floods…. Well, if they are build just for that, yes, but you do not need a Mega dam for that, a mega dam is either for energy production, irrigation or water supply. To produce energy, you need to keep as much water as possible, and then when a big flood comes, there is no space to keep all the water in, same for irrigation, and to protect us from floods we do not need mega dams, small dams are the ideal, and system that can divert water when is too much, same for drought.

JA released in 2009 a study about renewable energy sources for Mozambique, another study that was attacked by the government participants in such a way that the author had difficulties to do his presentation without being constantly interrupted, simply because that study showed that we do not need Mphanda Nkuwa, and there are other ways forward to have energy for everyone with less impacts. The magic potion is not that difficult, we need to start with decentralized energy systems, clean energy, solar, wind, even mini to small hydro dams, a mix of energy sources, which must be affordable by all people.

We can do, and we should think more on solutions to tackle and minimize climate change impacts, instead to follow a path that put us where we are…. In a crises, can we be more smart and take decisions that are smarter, at least we live in a era that we have many options, and we know what mistakes where made, that we can avoid them.

So why build mega dams, to destroy rivers systems, communities livelihoods, increase climate impacts adding the economic risk , is really a mega dam worthwhile? It is not a solution for the climate crises we are hurtling towards. Climate change will affect rivers flow, and worsen extreme and intense floods and droughts that will put a risk on the economic benefit, so why ????

For whom and what. That’s the million dollar question. Because is not for us the people, is not a solution for our climate crises, is not for the environment…. who is it for? And what is it for?

Some info on dams, from the article of 12 dams that change the world from: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227-3

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154m reparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

Recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered the symbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams

https://energypedia.info/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams_(WCD)_Report

http://www.unep.org/dams/documents/Default.asp?DocumentID=663

https://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/the-world-commission-on-dams

http://www.unep.org/dams/WCD/report/WCD_DAMS%20report.pdf

more https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-about-large-dams

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Corporate Impunity: Strategies of struggle (Part I)

2016 was an important year in our continent’s struggle against corporate impunity: the first session of the Southern African Peoples Permanent Tribunal (PPT) took place in Swaziland. This Court, which was founded more than 30 years ago in Italy, is an independent body that examines situations of systemic human rights violations – especially in cases where existing legislation (both national and international) is not capable of safeguarding the rights of populations. Although it does not have the power to issue an obligatory sentence for the company (which, by the way, is very important and is one of the reasons we are working for – but let’s talk about it later on), the PPT is strategically very important: On the one hand, it allows victims to be heard and advised by a panel of experts from various areas and to establish partnerships; and on the other, it is a moment of complaint and visibility for the cases, and therefore, of exposure to infringing companies. And although in our country this criminal impunity is often seen as a synonym of cleverness and of the perpetrators degree of influence, on the international level things are not quite like that. Being labelled as a human rights violator is a matter of great concern to these corporations, and therefore it can lead to a change of attitude – not because their ethical principles and values are very important to them, but simply because a bad reputation affects the only thing that truly matters to corporations: their profits.

Ten cases from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique were presented in last year’s PPT, most of them related to the extractive industry. From our country, for the serious impacts that their activities have on the communities around them and for the noncompliance with the promises they made to those communities before settling in the region (to the point that one of them actually started its mining activities without resettling those living within the concession area – as we have denounced through various channels including this one), we took to the court VALE and JINDAL. A Panel of Jurors listened attentively to the communities’ grievances and to a contextualization made by invited experts, and then released its deliberations.

This year the process is repeated: in August, seven cases from the Southern Africa region will be presented by the affected communities themselves and by the civil society organizations who work with them. This time, the general theme of the cases is Land, Food and Agriculture. In addition to cases presented by Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius – who will denounce large corporations such as Parmalat and Monsanto – this session of the PPT will also hear the denunciation of two Mozambican cases: the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the already strangled Zambezi River; and ProSavana, the Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese governments’ triangular partnership program that aims to develop agribusiness in the Nacala Corridor. These two Mozambican cases have the same particularity: they are not yet implemented. However, and this is what made us chose these two cases for this year’s PPT (because, let’s face it, what we are not lacking in our country are examples of human rights violations by private initiatives), despite not being implemented yet, its impacts are not less significant.

In Mphanda Nkuwa, for example, local communities were visited for the first time in 2000 by representatives of the companies responsible for the construction of the dam. They ere warned that they could not build new houses in that region because they would not be compensated for them. Since then, these people live in total uncertainty and can no longer make any long-term plans, at the risk of losing their assets when they start construction. ProSavana, on the other hand, has been characterized by the secrecy, manipulation and misrepresentation of information with the aim of promoting a false idea that the project will promote agricultural development in the northern region of the country, while in fact it is an initiative that will serve to facilitate large scale encroachment of peasant lands. This program will also destroy the livelihoods of local populations and exacerbate their already grave poverty. There are already reports of manipulation and intimidation of leaders of local peasant organizations.

The mobilization of civil society (Mozambican, Japanese and Brazilian) in opposition to ProSavana was fundamental to halt to the initial plans of this program and postpone the conclusion of its Master Plan. The purpose of taking these two cases to the PPT is to bring together even more elements that may help stop these projects.

Spaces such as the PPT are also crucial for perceiving trends, identifying development models, and analyzing common practices of transnational corporations – as well as their strategies to escape responsibility. Thus, by moving these experiences to a more global scale, it is easy to see that these violations of fundamental human rights are not perpetrated by one or another transnational corporation in isolation. That is, these are not a couple of rotten apples in a sack full of beautiful apples. Rather, it is a generalized behavior that is enabled by an architecture of impunity, characteristic of our extractive capitalist development system. This architecture of impunity puts corporate rights above human rights, and makes way for an abundant number of examples of very lucrative corporate crimes.

The architecture of impunity consists of several elements and actors:

We have the economic power of corporations – on the basis of which these establish their relations with one another and with states – and of international financial institutions;

We have political power, which in turn is responsible for capturing policies and politicians that fail to regulate the collective interests of society to serve private interests;

Trade architecture, embodied by numerous trade and investment agreements, facilitates profit and allows corporations to file lawsuits against governments should they make decisions that affect their anticipated profits;

Legal power is represented by the financial capacity to hire and dispose of influential lawyers who defend corporations in endless processes, as well as by inadequate and insufficient legal instruments that regulate their actions; and finally

Social power, which is exercised in all spheres of our lives through the influence that corporations have in the media, academic spaces, civil society organizations, among others.

Discussing some of these elements and developing the cases that will be presented in the PPT next month, were the objectives that motivated the Workshop on the Architecture of Impunity, held in the context of the Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Since it is the affected communities themselves who present the cases to the Panel of Jurors in the PPT, this enabled them to get the support of several resource people, to appeal, discuss and deepen the specificities of their denunciations and also to identify common ground with the other cases.

But the struggle to end corporate impunity is not only fought in the field of opinion sentences, nor is the important opinion of a panel of judges our only weapon to demand a different behavior from transnational corporations. Another battle is being waged to develop a legal instrument that will ultimately have the power to condemn and punish corporations – since the absence of such an instrument is currently one of the biggest gaps in international law. We are talking about the UN Intergovernmental Working Group, created in 2014 with the mandate to develop a binding treaty for transnational corporations on human rights issues, which will meet in October this year for its third session. At this time, transnational corporations simply have to follow voluntary standards and guiding principles that “advise” best practices on human rights issues. There is no doubt that this blind faith in corporate goodwill has had grave and irreparable consequences, both on people and on the planet. In next month’s article, we will look into this issue more carefully, getting deeper into the debate about the urgency of a legal mechanism that is accessible to any community affected by the operations of a transnational corporation. For now, we continue to look closely at next month’s PPT, certain that this will be another important moment regarding the convergence of struggles for a fairer, healthier and more common-good oriented world.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When African Renewable Energy Was Hijacked

A few years ago, during the United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015, 55 African leaders launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). It pledged to follow a people-centred approach to renewable energy development and energy access work across our continent. It talked about rights and equity, very important for our context and for justice. It talked about community ownership and distributed power for African people, in both senses of the word ‘power’. It demanded new and additional renewable energy for our people – no double counting of funds for other projects. It was an African-owned and African-led initiative.

JA! people participated in the AREI meetings in Paris in December 2015 and in Marrakesh in November 2016. Civil society was included into this process from the beginning. Could this become something we would be proud of as Africans? The AREI was a unique approach, in a continent marred by ever-increasing development of dirty energies like coal, oil, gas and big hydro, where it is commonplace to sacrifice our people, kill the local ecology, grab lands and destroy the climate at the same time. The AREI put in strong and important criteria in place to avoid these terrible impacts and said that projects would not support fossil fuels or nuclear.

The AREI really pledged to be different. And this pledge to go for a different, people-based approach is really important. It moves us away from a system fix approach to a system change approach, to change the base principles which drive how we think about energy for people.

In Paris, developed countries stepped forward with $10 billion in pledges to support this initiative. But would these countries really let this initiative survive? Or would money talk? The frightening answer came just over a year later, and by early March 2017, the AREI was already in danger.

The first attack came from the European Commission (EC), and the French government which had helped birth this initiative in the UN talks in their country. What did the attack look like? They came forward at the board meeting with a plan to fund 19 renewable energy projects with an investment of a whopping 4.8 billion. You can read the press release dated 4 March of the European Commission at this link – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-442_en.htm. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The claim for 4.8 billion is false, they are providing a mere €300 million themselves and hoping to leverage the rest. Not just that, remember the AREI’s commitment for new and additional projects with strong criteria to prevent environmental injustices? Well, these proposed projects were already partly pre-existing ones, with all kinds of double-counting and dodgy accounting taking place on the financing. Some of the projects, like a geothermal project in Ethiopia, are from 2014, the year before the AREI initiative was even finalized. Worst of all, these projects are being rammed through without caring about criteria and impacts. Our colleagues discovered that at least 1 of these projects involves fossil fuels interests. We heard that 14 of these projects were just rubber-stamped through, while 5 of them were not even reviewed due to lack of time. The base principles of AREI were the first to be under attack. Even the vague notion of system change is threatening to the system.

 

African civil society began to hit back at this affront. By early April, JA! had joined over 180 African organizations who signed up to a letter demanding this hijack of the AREI be reversed. Last week at the UN negotiations in Bonn, on 18 May 2017, 111 international organizations outside of Africa released a letter supporting the African demands for the EC and France to stop the hijack of African renewable energy. A lot of media pick-up has happened around these letters.

The EC knows it is being watched and is now on the back-foot. Our European colleagues were invited to a meeting with them in Bonn last week, where they found out that the EC is seriously trying to do damage control. They are shocked by the media pick-up and are calling it a scandal. But they are not yet saying how they will do things differently. This meeting took place on 16 May 2017. Some mainstream system-fix type civil society people already wanted to stop the international letter since they said the EC is talking to us. Others said, no way, the EC and France need to be exposed and they made sure the letter was released 2 days later, before the Bonn talks closed. You can read the press release here- http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102862873361&ca=c6022777-a64f-4bd8-b159-69ebbf8df668.

Supports who?

Another mega agricultural project launched in Mozambique

We received the news about its launching ceremony with skepticism. For many of us, it was the first time we were hearing about the project. Another mega project loaded with ambitious and (some) noble goals, like so many others that preceded it and vanquished without achieving half of what they set out to do.

“This mega project of my Government, whose objective is to gradually take rural families out of poverty, is the embodiment of the investment in Mozambican families as the main mechanism to promote sustainable, integrated and inclusive development and reduce regional and local asymmetries”, said Filipe Nyusi.

It is premature to make major considerations or comments on the subject because still very little is known. We have not yet had access to any document on the project, and the little information that exists is circulating in the mainstream media. However, the simple fact that a project this big (judging by the amounts involved and by the 125 thousand families of alleged beneficiaries) is launched in this manner, leads us to ask: Where did this project come from?

Once again, this is a top to bottom approach. The project was designed, discussed and launched, without giving the alleged beneficiaries or other interested parties and/or affected people, the chance to participate in its construction!

Surely there are more than enough reasons to justify the urgency to launch this project. To justify why there was no time to perform appropriate public consultations; to involve the many actors who deal with agricultural issues such as research institutions, academics, civil society, grassroots organizations and peasants in discussions on priorities for the development of peasant agriculture; and to design the project on the basis of a truly open and transparent process.

To justify their hurry, the noblest of reasons will be invoked, such as the urgent need to support the development of the peasantry, given their evident poverty and vulnerability. Obviously, old and less noble arguments – which, truth be said, are nothing but mere distractions – will also come back, like accusing those who question the project of being against development and/or unpatriotic.

Interestingly enough, the World Bank and other similar agencies are far more influential in deciding what may or may not happen in Mozambique than the Mozambican people. And although, as we have said earlier, we know nothing about this project yet, we risk guessing that the role of the World Bank is not limited to financing it. They have certainly been involved in the project’s conception, ensuring that their altruistic support goes mainly to what interests them most: agro-business and forest plantations – monocultures of exotic species – they call reforestation.

“More than 5,000 jobs will be created by forest plantations, through the reforestation of more than 1600 hectares of degraded lands.”

According to information in the media, this project was conceived by MITADER and will be supported by the World Bank! The perfect wedding!

In other words, we owe a great debt to our government (and no, it is not that hidden and illegal debt we talking about)! We are deeply grateful to them for granting us another ready-made project to reduce poverty. Free from burdens such as having to think about development issues, about inclusive and participatory strategies, about how to ensure that the priorities of the peasantry are properly included, and even about how we want to manage our resources and how we want to see our country in the coming years.

For now, let’s wait for the enthusiasm to fade so we can then try to understand how this mega project is supposed to work and, above all, how will it – unlike the many others in the past just like it (loaded with the same promises and the same rivers of money to implement) – finally get Mozambicans out of poverty?

Who has left poverty behind thanks to the fantastic green revolution? Who has left poverty behind growing jatropha or other biofuels? Who will benefit from Prosavana? Someone always profits, but who? And at what cost? How many hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans’ well being will these ready made projects with incognito beneficiaries “cost”?

And while misunderstandings and failures in communication are, unfortunately, too often invoked to justify civil society’s opposition to so many mega-projects, – even though they are never the main reason – people insist on doing things behind closed curtains. Where is the official information about the project? It has already been inaugurated; it is already being advertised in the media; but it is not available on the websites of the entities involved and all we know about it is what is being reported by the media.

We would also like to believe and share their enthusiasm, but skepticism has taken over us long ago. Now we prefer a “seeing is believing” approach, and we have not seen anything yet …

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: