New Forests Company announces suspension of tree planting in Uganda

Mubende in August 2007

Mubende in 2007. (Image via Wikipedia)

British New Forests Company (NFC) has announced that it has suspended tree planting in Uganda for 2012. The company says that will “result in 560 job losses in the Mubende, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi and Bugiri districts.”

The decision to suspend planting and lay off workers follows the outcry caused by an Oxfam report released September 2011 attacking the eviction of “illegal squatters” by the Ugandan government from NFC’s plantations.

The UK based New Forests Company is the biggest forestry company in Uganda and one of the biggest foreign investors in Uganda’s agri-business sector. The company has planted 27,000 acres (42 square miles) of pine and eucalyptus trees in Mubende, Kiboga and Bugiri districts and has invested more than $23m in Uganda since 2005.

Julian Ozanne, chief executive of NFC said in a media release, “Having planted millions of trees every year for the past six years and led the creation of a modern Ugandan forestry industry, we are very sad to have to suspend planting and lay off workers, forcing people back into poverty. Job creation is critical to poverty alleviation in Uganda and losing jobs is a negative development for Uganda economic growth. We very much regret this but have been put in a position where we had no alternative.”

For its part, Oxfam is calling on NFC and its investors to investigate the events in Kiboga and Mubende, make its findings public, and pay compensation and damages to the affected villagers.

NFC hopes to resume planting next year if they receive a favorable outcome in the International Finance Corporation mediation process.

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