BUGALA, Uganda, Feb. 25, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Bugala Farmers Association, which represents over 100 subsistence farmers fighting edible oil conglomerate Bidco’s land-grabbing, has dismissed the company’s attempts to portray its Ugandan palm oil business as “clean.”
Following their recent petition to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to sever its ties to Bidco, the farmers say Bidco has sought to whitewash its tarnished reputation by coercing entities that depend on the company’s largess to issue statements of support.
Reacting to Bidco’s recent statements, the Bugala Farmers Association said: “Bidco and its CEO Vimal Shah are trying to question the legitimacy of our organisation, which is new and relatively small. Once again, Bidco is trying to drown out our message and deflect attention from the facts. It’s clear that the people and entities voicing their support for Bidco will say whatever Vimal Shah wants them to say – they are financially beholden to him.”
“Who are you going to believe,” the farmers’ association continued, “big business and government colluding against us, or the real human beings whose lives they have destroyed?”
In a petition delivered to the UNDP Kampala office on 28 January, the Bugala Farmers Association called on the UNDP to investigate the organisation’s recent announcement that Business Call to Action, a UNDP programme, concluded an agreement with Bidco.
“We express our deep disappointment that UNDP has met our plea for action with silence,” the association said. “After being shunned by UNDP staff in Kampala and not receiving any response to our petition in almost a month, we have no reason but to conclude that Bidco is influencing the UNDP as well.”
The Bugala farmers have taken Bidco to court in Uganda to reclaim 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of smallholder farms the company seized to make way for its giant palm oil plantation on the Lake Victoria island of Bugala in Uganda. The farmers obtained an injunction against any further expansion of the plantation. Throughout the court process, Bidco has refused to comply with court orders and not turned up at hearings, which take farmers 16 hours to reach by foot, boat and bus.
The farmers reject Bidco’s assertion that it is merely leasing the land from the government, because Bidco owns 90% of the company that refines the island’s palm oil. In addition, the farmers insist that Bidco cannot point to government statements that there was no destruction of Bugala’s tropical rainforests to make way for the plantation. In 2004, the World Bank, once a supporter of the project, withdrew its backing because Bidco’s plantation did not comply with the bank’s anti-deforestation policies.
The Bugala Farmers Association has called on “NGOs and environmentalists to join a coalition to expose Bidco’s misdeeds in all the company’s areas of operation.”
Click to watch “The Land Grab”, a documentary about Bidco’s treatment of smallholder farmers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w21NJGbtBuQ
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Bugala Farmers Association.
Media contact: John Muyisa email@example.com +256 775 301 127
Source:Bugala Farming Association