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A funny place to store carbon: UWA-FACE Foundation’s tree planting project in Mount Elgon National Park, Uganda

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C. Lang
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This report documents human rights abuses at Mount Elgon National Park in east Uganda, where a Dutch foundation plants trees for the purpose of carbon offsetting. The report attests that villagers living along the boundary of the park have been beaten and shot at, have been barred from their land and have seen their livestock confiscated by park rangers guarding the trees inside the National Park.The authors question the validity and logic of planting trees as a long-term carbon storage medium, but more crucially criticise the fact that the project’s trees are planted on land belonging to someone else. The report finds that:claims that the project has provided jobs, especially in planting and the tending of nurseries, are disputedthe project has taken away local communities’ access to forest goods, particularly firewoodthe Dutch foundation is contributing to the tension because the carbon stored in its trees must be protected from damage from local communitiesthe Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), which manages the Park, is accused of violently evicting villagers from Mount Elgon. The tree-planting project is planting in an area of land disputed by local communities, and the he way in which the boundary is determined and by whom is a key factor in the relationship between the park management and the local communitiesthe net climatic benefit of the Mount Elgon project can only be determined by following the thousands of people who have been evicted from the National Park and comparing their carbon emissions before and after the evictions. Some may now be forced to clear other areas of forest to continue farming, which may negate some of the carbon sequestration goals of the project.The report suggests that a way forward would be to address local land rights and acknowledging the boundary of the national park as a highly contested zone. Any top-down solution to the park boundary will result in further conflicts between park management and local people. The key recommendation is that when looking at all of the various stakeholders’ rights, one needs to start from the perspective of the rights of the people living in and around Mount Elgon National Park.