Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEAfrica) on Saturday 18th June 2022 called on the ECOWAS Parliament to intervene in the exploitative activities and human rights violations by industrial plantation companies whose operations in the region is causing untold impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities with increased climate and biodiversity crisis.
In a presentation made before the ECOWAS Parliament at the 1st Ordinary ECOWAS Parliamentary Session held in Abuja Nigeria, Rita Uwaka FoE Africa/ERA FoE Nigeria Forest & Biodiversity Programme Coordinator who spoke on behalf of the organization said:
“Our struggle against the corporate takeover of our forest and land for industrial plantation expansion by corporations is not a fight against development but a struggle to prevent further human rights violations, environmental damage, biodiversity and livelihoods loss; as well as promote the development of millions of indigenous peoples and local communities, with a focus on women and youths, who depend on forests and farmlands for their day-to-day well-being’’
Apart from exposing the adverse social, environmental, and gender impacts of agribusinesses on African communities. It also highlighted the role of some Governments in promoting the private interests of corporations over the public interest in Africa.
In 2020 Lagos Nigeria, Friends of the Earth Africa organized the First African Peoples Tribunal on Industrial Plantations on Industrial Plantations. The Tribunal recognized how deforestation and the rush for African land for large-scale agro-commodities expansion is causing systemic oppression, human rights violations with devastating impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities, including women who depend on forest and land for wellness, food, income and spiritual connection.
There were ten cases of industrial plantation company’s human rights abuses across Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, and West Africa. The ten countries were Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Almost two years after the first African Peoples Tribunal, we still witness land grabbing and violations associated with the activities of industrial plantation companies in West Africa and community territories across the continent. Breaches like the militarization of communities that play host to these companies, the use of slap suits to silence the voices of environmental human rights defenders, intimidation violence and harassment of community rights activists, pollution of surface and underground water bodies as a result of the over-reliance of these companies on agro-toxins, more cases of labour exploitation and workers’ rights violations, accident and death of workers including pregnant women that were transported in open trucks to their workplaces in these plantations.
As part of policy recommendations to the ECOWAS Parliament during the face to face session with the parliamentarians in June, 2022, FoE Africa requests the parliament to:
1. Support Economic Partnership Agreements that respect the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples in Africa and protect and restore the environment.
2. Build policies and finance that promote people-powered solutions like Community Forest Management & Agroecology, which are built on peoples sovereignty and participation in decision making.
3. Reject false solutions such as voluntary certification schemes and nature-based solutions for the climate crisis, that commodity nature greenwashes bad practices, license forest destruction, and violate human rights.
4. Halt the criminalization and harassment of environmental human rights defenders and provide access to justice for defenders and affected local communities.
5. Support policies that install a moratorium on expanding monoculture industrial plantations.
6. Redirect investments from large-scale agro-commodities expansion in Africa by shifting government and private finance, research, and technical support towards community-based forest management and agroecology.
7. Stop trade deals that empower companies to influence legislation through special rights and provisions at the detriment of the public interest.
8. Work with foreign governments and institutions to halt the international trade and finance of forest and ecosystem risk commodities, including the recent European Commission anti-deforestation proposal.
9. Promote access to justice with a strong UN Binding Treaty for business and human rights.
10. Protect women’s rights and access to land.
11. Ensure to have a periodic forest dialogue with forested countries on policy intervention they can take to halt deforestation and land grabbing for large-scale plantation expansion in Africa, especially within the ECOWAS member states.
In 2021 FoE Africa had organized a pre-lobby visit to the ECOWAS Parliament and was received by the Secretary General of the ECOWAS Parliament Mr. John Azumah as well as the Director of Parliamentary affairs Mr. Betim Some.
The aim of the first visit was to help the regional body understand FoE Africa thematic work areas, its campaigns against land grabbing, deforestation for agrocommodities business in West Africa as reflected in the outcomes of the African Peoples Tribunal on industrial plantations in 2020 held in Lagos Nigeria. It also highlighted the role of international financiers, investment and pension funds in controlling and financing controversial oil palm, rubber, eucalyptus and timber plantation companies.
These policy engagements including the presentation before the ECOWAS Parliament have strengthened FoE Africa’s relationship with the ECOWAS institution for future lobby, advocacy and collaborative work as well as in upcoming parliamentary sessions. The ECOWAS parliamentary session was facilitated by A Speaker of the parliament Hon. Adja Satu Camara Pinto (Mrs).
FoE Africa advocacy materials including the APT publications were handed to the ECOWAS Parliamentarians, officials and journalists during the session.
Meanwhile, FoE Africa delegation to both engagements included Sustainable Development Institute SDI/FoE Liberia, Environmental Rights Action/FoE Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Togo. Others include allies and community representatives from: JVE Ghana, MALOA (SOCFIN impacted communities) Sierra Leone, SIAT impacted communities in Ghana and Nigeria, Wilmar impacted communities in Nigeria, plus a representative of Association of Women Farmers of Nigeria.
The delegation had a press conference with media professionals across the region.
At a Press conference with community representatives from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.