The Silent Land Grab: Dubai Firm Buys Up African Forests, Displaces Indigenous Communities


JF-Expert Member
Jul 24, 2018

A not well-known environmental company based in Dubai is ferociously striking deals across Africa to control African forests. According to the UK magazine, 8% of Tanzanian forests are now owned by it, and including over 20 per cent of Zimbabwe 10 per cent of Liberia! The scramble for African forests is now on, and as is usually suspected, affected Africans are not sitting on the high table to determine their collective future. This article peeks at the ramifications of Africa handing over her jewellery to aliens for pittance compensation and recommends the way out of this self-inflicted poverty.

What is Blue Carbon?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—defines blue carbon as “biologically driven carbon fluxes and storage in marine systems that are amenable to management.”

Another definition states: “Blue carbon refers to organic carbon captured and stored by the oceans and coastal ecosystems, particularly by vegetated coastal ecosystems: seagrass meadows, tidal marshes, and mangrove forests.”

Coastal blue carbon focuses on “rooted vegetation in the coastal zone, such as tidal marshes, mangroves and seagrasses”. Seagrass, salt marshes and mangroves are sometimes called “blue forests” in contrast to land-based “green forests”.

Deep blue carbon is located in the high seas beyond national jurisdictions. It includes carbon in “continental shelf waters, deep-sea waters and the sea floor beneath them, ” making up 90% of all ocean carbon. Deep blue carbon is generally seen as “less amenable to management” and challenging due to the lack of data “relating to the permanence of their carbon stores”.

Dubai-Based Blue Carbon Company is Targeting African Forests for Pecuniary Reasons
Blue Carbon, a carbon trading company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has emerged as a major winner at the global climate change conference (COP28) in Dubai in 2023. It has struck deals across Africa that give it the right to control forestry activities previously controlled by local communities!

Blue Carbon has been buying up forest lands that can absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuels. It hopes to sell the rights to “protect” these forests from logging or other extractive industries to wealthy countries like Germany or the UK. The idea is that the buyers, who typically produce a large amount of greenhouse gases, will pay top dollar to offset their carbon footprint under future international climate agreements.

“They’re buying a license to pollute. And that licence to pollute is called the carbon market,”

Fadhel Kaboub, a senior adviser with Power Shift Africa, told Middle East Eye. “[But] what happens is that communities on the front line are frequently displaced. We’re talking about pastoral communities… communities with ancestral land that they no longer have access to, and these are not the communities that cause or contribute to climate change.”

Dubai-based firm Blue Carbon has signed a framework of collaboration (FOC) with Kenya’s State Department of Environment and Climate Change that would concede “millions of hectares” of its territory to produce carbon credits.

The credits would supposedly be generated from restoring and protecting the land, and the company would then sell them to major polluters to offset their emissions.

This follows a slew of similar contracts with Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which conceded 7.5 million hectares, a fifth of its landmass, to the company.

Cumulatively, the deals concede near blanket control over a total area of 24.5 million hectares, encompassing land inhabited and used by local communities. In the case of Liberia, this would override Liberian land laws that oblige developers to obtain free prior consent from communities.

The FOC with Kenya follows a $1.5 billion memorandum of understanding signed by Blue Carbon’s parent company, Global Carbon Investments, with Harare, which, according to a press release, is “pre-financing for carbon credits in Zimbabwe.”

Indigenous Evictions from Their Ancestral Lands are Very Much in The Equation!
The ongoing evictions of indigenous communities from their ancestral lands are very much linked to creating a conducive environment for the extraction of top carbon dollars from sales of rights to pollute. Paradoxically, the affected communities are the least polluters and will be least compensated for their eventual displacements!

In fact, the indigenous communities will be punished for their way of life, which conserved those forests that now have a monetary value sufficient to attract international investors. Nobody consulted the affected communities about whether the interference with their way of life was acceptable. More telling, nobody considers that they, too, could be owners of those forests who are capable and willing to determine the future of those prime natural forests.

Part of the problem is that African land policies and statutes are programmed to ensure the president owns that land on behalf of the populace. Indigenous rights to land ownership are not in the African constitutions, and efforts to craft them there are met with resistance and animosity.

As a result, authorities can displace indigenous communities from their ancestral lands without being reprimanded by courts. Courts, too, like in the case of Liberia, are too weak to rescind land expropriations by the government to enrich aliens and senior public servants at the expense of affected communities.

Who Are The Real Beneficiaries of This?
Like all foreign investments, locals bear the sociocultural and economic brunt of externalising local resources without enjoying perpetual benefits from such international agreements. Well-placed politicians and civil servants benefit the most, directly and indirectly.

Whatever revenue generated from the blue carbon deals will add hard cash to the Treasury, pressure higher wages for public servants, and not necessarily benefit the displaced commission in the long run. Indigenous communities may be paid upfront some compensation, but the real cost of being uprooted from their ancestral lands is perpetual and cannot be satisfied with a one-time payment.

This is similar to the owners of lands and buildings in commercial areas like Kariakoo. The smart people got deals that ensured they would benefit perpetually through owning stories in the newly constructed plots. Their sources of income continue even today and thereafter.

In Tanzania’s constitution, Indigenous communities should be declared owners of their ancestral lands. Adopting colonial administrative structures should not proffer leeway to diminish those divine rights. This is how the US resolved her relationships with Native Indians, and Africa should take a leaf from that.

It is a human right to respect the existentialism of ancestral lands and those who live there to sustain themselves. Handing over prime lands to aliens, in the long run, will pose national security issues as the landless masses decide to reclaim their lost lands through violent means. It is not too late to correct such a policy mistake.

Top Bottom