Kenya evictions: foreshadowing future World Bank forest work?

23 January 2014

Burning of Sengwer homes in Embobut evictions in January 2014 (credit FPP)

In mid-January the World Bank’s forestry record again came under scrutiny when 7,000 members of the Sengwer indigenous communities were in the process of being forcibly evicted from a Bank-funded conservation area in the Embobut Forest in western Kenya. UK-based NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) argued in early January that the Bank-funded Natural Resource Management Project (NRMP) is implicated in the eviction which violate Bank safeguards and international law. FPP says the project failed to realise its original 2007 objective of securing community land tenure and that the Kenyan government should return the $68.5 million loan to the Bank.

Reports from local sources and Kenyan news media said several hundred houses with families’ possessions were burnt. A Sengwer woman whose home and possessions were burnt told FPP she is hungry because they came to her home while she was making the morning meal and she and her children had to run. She said, “the children are very upset because we have lost everything. The children and elderly people will end up getting pneumonia because we don’t have anything to cover ourselves at night”.

In early January, 40 civil society organisations, including the Global Forest Coalition and Greenpeace Africa, signed an urgent appeal to the Kenyan government and UN bodies calling on them to stop the evictions and respect the right of the indigenous communities. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged the Kenyan Government to protect the rights of the Sengwer indigenous people and quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples said: “indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories”.

In January 2013, representatives from the Sengwer indigenous group submitted a complaint to the Inspection Panel, the Bank’s accountability mechanism, claiming the Bank had violated its policies on indigenous peoples and involuntary displacement. They argue the NRMP project changed the border of the Cherangany forest reserve so that it included areas where indigenous peoples live. This automatically made them a target for eviction by the Kenya Forest Service, who according to FPP burned houses and food stocks in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

Sengwer communities evicted from Embobut forest (credit: FPP)

Sengwer communities evicted from Embobut forest (credit: FPP)


New forests action plan delayed

The World Bank’s new forests action plan covering 2014 to 2016 was due to be signed off in early 2014. However, senior Bank management postponed approval until later this year to allow time to first implement institutional changes as part of the World Bank Group’s new strategy including 14 global practices (see  Observer Winter 2014Autumn 2013). The Bank is not preparing a new strategy and will build on the much criticised 2002 strategy. Civil society groups, and the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), the Bank’s arms-length evaluation unit, have faulted the 2002 plan’s continued support for industrial logging in tropical forests (see Update 84, 29). In February 2013 an IEG evaluation of the 2002 strategy concluded its goals, including forest protection and poverty reduction, had not been met (see Update 84).

A leaked November 2013 draft of the new forests action plan reveals it will take a “landscapes approach”, which according to the Bank “embraces activities such as protecting forests and other critical natural habitats, restoring degraded forest land [and] boosting agricultural productivity”. As part of this landscape approach there is a strong emphasis on supporting natural capital accounting in the forestry sector by developing tools and data with the aim of “leveraging the concept of natural capital for creating ‘net positive’ impacts” (see Update 81).

The draft plan focusses on five goals: linking stakeholders to markets, facilitating nonfarm income generation and jobs, reducing risk and vulnerability, raising farm and forest productivity, and enhancing environmental services. New areas of emphasis will include “climate-smart” land management, illegal logging, and local rights of ownership, use and access to forests. Annual Bank investments in the forests sector are projected to increase to around $800 million by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2016 compared to $100 million in FY 2002 and $500 million in FY 2013. The draft action plan makes reference to the IEG evaluation and other internal assessments “particularly in the areas of addressing poverty and vulnerability, and in performance monitoring”. In response it proposes to make efforts to assess the risks of deforestation and forest degradation, give more focus to the forests-livelihood-poverty nexus in its portfolio and factor in gender considerations.

REDD decisions at COP19

While there was little achieved at the UN climate change conference held in Warsaw in November 2013 (COP19) in terms of binding commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, there was progress on setting up reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Agreements were reached on clear rules for establishing forest and emission reference levels, how to measure, report, and verify changes in carbon stocks, safeguards and access to results-based payments. The decisions on reference levels are particularly significant because they will enable calculations on carbon emissions avoided by REDD+ initiatives.

The international network Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA) said the REDD agreements threaten indigenous livelihoods because “governments will ensure that the safeguards simply appear to be followed”. IPPCA argued “the drivers of forest loss and forest land grabbing will not be addressed by REDD+” and will instead block “access and customary use of indigenous peoples and local communities to their forests”. The World Bank has consistently promoted REDD+and carbon markets as policies to deal with climate change (see Update 85, Climate Investment Funds Monitor 8).

Landscapes and climate

The increasing focus on landscapes in the mitigation of climate change is an important trend that emerged at the COP19  in Warsaw. It has broadened the discussion from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) to integrate forests with agricultural management. The key announcement was the launch of the Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL), which has $135 million in contributions from Norway, $120 million from the UK and $25 million from the US, though the majority of this money had already been committed. The ISFL will be managed by the BioCarbon Fund which was created in 2004 as a public/private trust fund housed within the Banks’ Carbon Finance Unit (see Update 79, 77, 59). The BioCarbon Fund mobilises finance from governments and companies to help develop projects that sequester or conserve carbon in forests, including afforestation, reforestation, REDD+ and soil carbon. Overall, the Bank has shown strong support for forest and agricultural carbon markets.

The ISFL will focus on the sub-national level with an “emphasis on crowding in private companies that source commodities in countries with tropical forests”. According to the Bank such public-private partnerships could take various forms, including technical expertise, investments, or agreements to purchase carbon credits that the programmes will generate. The ISFL will initially select four to six jurisdictions, starting with Ethiopia’s Oromia state, and allocate between $30 million and $50 million once reference levels are established.

FCPF methodological framework criticised by civil society

At the eighth meeting of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), in December, a methodological framework was approved releasing $390 million, that was held in escrow in the Carbon Fund, to now be used for pilot REDD+ forest conservation projects in developing countries. The approval could prompt new donor commitments to the Carbon Fund. Norway committed an additional $100 million in December and new funding proposals could be submitted by ten countries.

In late November UK NGOs, including the Rainforest Foundation UK, complained to the Carbon Fund that the methodological framework “does not require progress on securing equitable land tenure reform” which “creates serious risks of negative impacts, on-going tenure insecurity, land theft, further land and resource conflict.” The letter states the framework “currently allows countries to establish a new right or title to carbon that could be transferred or sold in clear violation of customary and statutorily held rights to land, territories and resources” including the right to free, prior and informed consent. The letter concludes that the framework “threatens both the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities as well as the very success of achieving climate objectives, like REDD+, among forest peoples, civil society and the private sector alike.”

The FCPF is a Bank trust fund which supports developing countries’ national REDD+ plans and in future could “provide carbon payments to countries that meet certain targets”. Concerns have been raised by civil society groups in the past over the FCPF for not adequately consulting with indigenous peoples and for focussing on facilitating the sale of carbon credits instead of addressing the drivers of deforestation (see Update 84, 81).

In September, Costa Rica became the first country to agree a deal with the FCPF to sell carbon credits worth up to $63 million for conserving forests, restoring degraded lands and scaling up “agro-forestry systems for sustainable landscapes and livelihoods.” In December, Burkina Faso agreed with the Bank to join the FCPF to help operationalise REDD+ in the country. Finally, in late December the CPF agreed to purchase carbon credits generated by World Bank-funded small hydropower plants in Vietnam.