Robert Devereux is a co-founder of the Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson’s brother-in-law. According to a 2010 article published in “The Guardian” and” The Observer” he was to donate a major part of his art collection to support struggling African artists.
He attempted to clarify his philosophy by citing the example of New Forests Company, "the largest tree planter in Africa" which he chairs, he explained: "It has a huge community development programme. It's not philanthropy. We go to the community and we say, 'We want to co-invest with you. If you provide what labour and materials you can, we'll provide money for things that you can't get.'"This all sounds very altruistic. However numerous reports of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified New Forests Ugandan Plantation have a different story to tell.
Oxfam has reported that 22,500 people were violently ejected from their villages by government personnel to make way for the New Forests development. These evictions resulted in the death of at least one person, an eight year old boy. Reports were carried in The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.
This excerpt is from The New York Times.
‘ “I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”
Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.
“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”
According to a report released by the aid group Oxfam on Wednesday, more than 20,000 people say they were evicted from their homes here in recent years to make way for a tree plantation run by a British forestry company, emblematic of a global scramble for arable land."'
The report goes on to tell us, perhaps ironically, that
‘in this case, the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming’. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/world/africa/in-scramble-for-land-oxfam-says-ugandans-were-pushed-out.html?_r=0
This project and others run by this company in African countries (including Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda as well as Uganda) are being planted for the purpose of selling Carbon credits.
The company and the government claim that the evictees were squatters. However they had permanent houses and crops including orchards and had been there for generations. Some claim their grandfathers had been given the land for fighting for the British during the war.
Regardless, this sort of unacceptable treatment of vulnerable people in the name of the environment is all too common.
FSC-watch has questioned how FSC, aWWF inspired scheme, can allow a forestry project with such a violent history and which violates its principles, to remain FSC certified.
The display by companies of the FSC logo is claimed to demonstrate to the public that the company displaying it conforms to the highest possible standards of environmental and social responsibility.