Ghana: Sharing experiences with other communities is essential to defending the land

It all began in November 2007 when a team from RAINS discovered
massive destruction of land near a village called Alipe in Northern
Ghana. “Heavy agricultural machinery were systematically pulling down
trees and decimating the area a few metres south of the village. The
land had been stripped bare of all its vegetation cover. Enquiry
revealed that the site was to be the beginning of a large jatropha
plantation developed by a Norwegian biofuel company called BioFuel
Africa – a subsidiary of Bio Fuel Norway (”Sharing our
experiences with other communities may very well be one of the most
vital steps in defending the land, because it offers us a chance to
spare others from repeating our mistakes – and from having to bear the
burden so often associated with its destruction.

Bakari Nyari, Vice
Chairman of the Regional Advisory and Information Network Systems
(RAINS), and a member of the Ghana and African Biodiversity Network
Steering Committee, recently wrote an article in the hopes of
achieving this end. He tells a story “…of how a Norwegian biofuel
company took advantage of Africa’s traditional system of communal land
ownership and current climate and economic pressure to claim and
deforest large tracts of land in Kusawgu, Northern Ghana with the
intention of creating ‘the largest jatropha plantation in the world.'”
(NB the plan pales in comparison to Burma’s “National Cause”)
“Bypassing official development authorization and using methods that
hark back to the darkest days of colonialism,” says Nyari, an investor
claimed legal ownership of lands “by deceiving an illiterate chief to
sign away 38000 hectares with his thumb print.” “This is also the
story of how the effected community came to realize that, while the
promised jobs and incomes were unlikely to materialize, the plantation
would mean extensive deforestation and the loss of incomes from
gathering forest products, such as sheanuts. When given all the
information the community successfully fought to send the investors
packing but not before 2600 hectares of land had been deforested. Many
have now lost their incomes from the forest and face a bleak future.”
Those involved in this struggle want to share their story “as a
warning to other African communities, leaders and policy-makers to be
wary of the promises made by biofuel investors and the disasters that
their land grabbing may bring.”

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Comments (3)

Peter NumenFebruary 20th, 2009 at 4:52 am

I know this Nyari Bakari, he is a well known corrupt person who has printed these false articles because the Biofuel Africa denied to pay him bribe money.

The land they are accused to have cleared witout initital permit was only 67.8 hectares, they have admitted to clear more than the 40 hectares without and EPA permit (that anyone can do without permit).
So the actual violation was for the 27 hectares in The Gonja district.
But now they also have the EPA permit for this land, ref. EPA permit # CA002080104

Because Biofuel Africa does not want any problems, they moved all the operations to the Yendi district where they at peak employ almost 400 workers.
BioFuel Africa train peoples to take tractor driver licensee and safety courses, and even woman’s gets tractor training and driver licensee.
First of all they started to build 3 waterdams for the locals in Yendi district. The dams are now providing clean water through the whole dry season.
Then they built a maize mill where they took the cost and the locals built the housing. Now the locals are running it and make their own income. Then they built a health station, Then helping farmers plowing their own land which saves the farmers for 30% of the farming cost., making land available for intercropping, making road access for the farmers so they can access their farms, clearing new land for the farmers, swapping depleted land for new fertile land for the farmers, etc, etc. From the first day they sat down with the villages and asked for what they needed most. The answer they got was clean water, and the next day the first water wagons was driving from Tamale with 2000 liter of clean water, every day.
The woman’s also get more work by producing charcoal that they can sell alongside the roads. In addition they make additional income by selling food lunches to the workers.
The real fact is that the food production from this area has increased After BioFuel Africa started their operation. This is partially due to the fact that farmers now can afford to stay in the villages, working for the company to earn a steady income and then partially work on their own farm. The alternative for them was to move to a already overcrowded city.

To grab the attention from all kind of young European activists, Mr. Nyari uses word like colonialism, David & Goliat, etc. This definitely touches a nerve in young European that still feel guilt and in debt to the Africans after the colonies period.
He is also well aware that these activist will never go to Ghana to check out by themselves.

I have never seen ANY company in this region who has done so much good for the locals.
The only ones that have criticized this company is some NGO’s because now these NGO’s fears that their role to get money from Europe and USA is eroding, because why should EU and US send aid when locals can make their own income??
When it comes to RAINS Mr. Nyari has NOT received official backing from its management.

But unfortunate BioFuel Africa decided to move away because of this corrupt person.
The village peoples in Gonja begs the company to come back, and the company has responded positively. The chief in Gonja has issued a letter claiming that Mr. Nyary is a selfish person.


CalvinSeptember 17th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

he he.. Yes.. this guy Bakari really has got attention by telling stories.. :) Everybody that has been in the district were Biofuel Africa is located knows the thruth. There is no rainforest or forest in that area. There was never cleared over 2000 Ha.. it was propably not reaching 50 Ha.. and I think actually that is around the legal amount of land you can clear before an EPA permit must be approved. This is also a kind of sad, because this district needs heavily investments! The people are moving to the cities.. there is no future there. Well.. the northern region of Ghana does not need this guy trying to create a name for them selves to make some money legally or illegally.

CalvinSeptember 17th, 2009 at 2:56 pm

by the way.. Calling the chiefs stupid like Nyari is doing is a big dis- respect. Nyari knows that the chief will not go out publicly defending himselves. Many of the chiefs are well educated, even more than Nyari himself :) But they dont want to make a fuss about themselves. They are heavily concerned by the young people moving from the communities because of lack of opportunities..
I belive that this Nyari is not a very popular man in the northern region.. selling off his people this way

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