By Harald Eraker
Shortly before Easter, NorWatch presented the report "CO2lonialism - Norwegian Tree Plantations, Carbon Credits, and Land Conflicts in Uganda". Particularely, the company Tree Farms, owned omong others by the forest analyst Mads Asprem and the multi-billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, is heavily criticised in the report.
Tree Farms' project, which is to plant fast-growing eucalyptus and pine within an area of about 5000 hectares, may result in 8000 farmers and fishermen losing their homes and their means of life (see the report and NorWatch no. 5-2000).
The Uganda project out
In addition to selling timber and wood, Tree Farms' aim has been to sell carbon credits based on its plantations in Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.
When investigating the Uganda plantations, NorWatch found out that Tree Farms already had made an agreement with Industrikraft Midt-Norge, a company in charge of the planned gas power plant in Skogn in Trøndelag (in the central part of Norway). The agreement gave Industrikraft options to buy carbon credits based on Tree Farms' plantations in East Africa.
When "CO2lonoalism" was published and covered by the media, Tree Farms tried to avoid media's attention to the criticised Uganda project by claiming that the agreement with Industrikraft only concerns the plantations in Tanzania.
The unofficial version is quite different, however. NorWatch has recently had a telephone conversation with an upset manager Odd Ivar Løvhaugen. He said that due to the "negative" report produced by NorWatch, Industrikraft demanded that the Uganda project must be taken out of the portfolio of carbon plantations in the agreement betweem the two companies.
Accordingly, the Uganda project is no longer part of the agreement between Industrikraft Midt-Norge and Tree Farms, which is now focused solely on Tanzania. NorWatch is now carrying out a study on the company's plantations in Tanzania, and a report comparing the projects in the two countries will soon be finished.
Meanwhile, Odd Ivar Løvhaugen has spread rumours about NorWatch in the Norwegian local newspaper Trønder-Avisa. On 13 May the newspaper printed an article with the following quote from Løvhaugen as headline: "- Bribes natives with beer".
n the article, Løvhaugen claims that the researcher from NorWatch who was in Uganda to investigate Tree Farms' project bribed "the natives" with beer and money to "get the answeres NorWatch wants about the Norwegian investors". He also claims that it is difficult to verify what has been said in the interviews with the local populations, because "CO2lonialism" is only published in Norwegian.
After the newspaper story, Løvhaugen has admitted - in a letter to NorWatch - that he has been spreading rumours which he is unable to document. It also came as a surprise to him that all NorWatch reports are translated and published in English. This the Tree Farms manager could easily have found out by checking NorWatch's Internet homepage.
"The environmental organisation NorWatch gathers African natives in the bar, buys them beer and gets the answeres NorWatch wants about Norwegian investors, claims managing director of Tree Farms, Odd Ivar Løvhaugen."
Trønder-Avisa, 13 May 2000
Norwatch Newsletter 6/00