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February 01, 2012

British forest firm that evicted Ugandan peasants closes shop

A British firm accused by Oxfam International of illegally evicting some 20,000 Ugandan peasants from arable land to plant trees suspended operations in early January, a decision it said stemmed from the withdrawal of $14 million in needed new investment funding.

In a statement e-mailed from London, the New Forest Company (NFC)’s Anthony Silverman claimed they 'lost' an additional $1 million of financing from the World Bank.

Oxfam, an aid and development charity, caused ripples last September when it alleged that NFC forcibly evicted poor villagers in Kiboga and Mubende districts, depriving them of livelihood and money to send their children to school.

Oxfams’s Executive Director Jerry Hobbs at the time said the Ugandan case “clearly shows how land grabbing is slipping through the net of existing safeguards, which are intended to ensure the protection of vulnerable people.”

In response, NFC promised to investigate the allegations it described as “extremely serious” but made no reference to outcomes of the probe, if it ever occurred, in its recent statement.

“Having planted millions of trees annually for the past six years and led the creation of a modern Ugandan forestry industry, we are sad to suspend tree-planting and laying off workers, forcing people back into poverty,” NFC Chief Executive Julian Ozanne was quoted as saying.

more...The Monitor

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