‘Carbon colonialism’: Concern Welsh Government tree planting project could displace Ugandan farmers
The Conservatives have expressed concern that a Welsh Government tree planting project could displace Ugandan farmers, accusing them of possible “carbon colonialism”.
They said that some subsistence farmers were being forcibly removed from their land in Uganda to provide space for tree planting, that in turn can be used for the selling of carbon credits and offsetting carbon emissions of other countries.
The Welsh Government has spent millions of pounds planting trees in the Mt Elgon region of Mbale through its Size of Wales project, currently chaired by former First Minister Carwyn Jones.
But speaking in the Senedd, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Social Partnership, Joel James MS, asked the Welsh Government to confirm that they were not using the forest planted in Uganda to also offset Welsh carbon emissions.
Responding to the question, the Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said that the project was a pioneering initiative in terms of the Wales and Africa programme and spent £450,000 a year from Wales in Africa.
She said that “what we do in terms of supporting this initiative is to provide funding and expertise to local and indigenous communities in tropical regions, and it’s helping to support them to secure and sustain their precious forests, grow more trees and establish sustainable livelihoods”.
“And that’s about education, community engagement and advocacy, and Size of Wales does raise that awareness in Wales of the importance of tropical forests and trees in tackling climate change with local people and with local governments.”
A spokesperson from Size of Wales responded to say that they rejected the Conservatives’ claims.
“The Mbale Trees Programme works extremely closely with the local community and farmers and runs a large network of community tree nurseries across the Mount Elgon region,” they said.
“These nurseries grow and distribute seedlings for free to local farmers and schools who voluntarily grow trees on their land.”
“Farmers have benefited greatly from tree planting which has improved soil quality and crop yields and led to more sustainable livelihoods. The trees also help protect local communities from the impacts of climate change, such as soil erosion and deadly landslides. The programme is delivered by local organisations with our support and is focussed on improving local livelihoods, as well as the environment. “
“The Mbale Trees Programme is not part of a carbon offsetting scheme, and no carbon credits are generated by the planting of trees.”
But the Welsh Conservatives claimed that the Welsh Labour Government’s policy of reforesting the entire Mt Elgon region with fruit, shade and fuel trees could call for the removal of local farmers who operate on deforested land.
Joel James MS said: “Yesterday’s response – or lack of response is highly worrying. This should have been very easy for the Minister to rule out if it was not going to use the Mt Elgon forest in Uganda to offset Welsh carbon emissions and the Welsh Labour Government weren’t going to be displacing Ugandan farmers in the process.
“Jane Hutt’s lack response in the chamber just encapsulates the Welsh Governments approach to policy, they say one thing and do another or in this case, they ignore questioning all together.
“Carbon colonialism is a major concern and has a drastic effect on local farmers in Uganda. It’s high time the Welsh Labour Government stopped dodging questions and started providing some concrete answers.”