We’ve received some great news from Kisarawe,Tanzania where a community we’ve been working with who had their land grabbed for a biofuels plantation have just won back some access rights. Back in 2006 UK company Sun Biofuels took land the size of 11,000 football pitches to grow jatropha - a crop grown for biofuels. The community received none of the promised investment in terms of clinics and schools, few were compensated for land they lost, and they lost access to the graves where their ancestors are buried.
The situation seemed to get worse in August 2011 when Sun Biofuels went into administration and was taken over by a new owner, Lion’s Head Global Partners. Most of those who had managed to secure jobs on the plantation were fired and promises of investment in the community and compensation for land were thrown into even more doubt.
But finally after sustained pressure by the communities and ActionAid supporters the new owners, Lion’s Head, have granted villagers access to their wells and graves. This was a key demand of the villagers – you can see how much the issue means to them by watching this video of Seleman Pazi from the community - and represents an important victory.
Sun Biofuels' letter (in Swahili) to Mhaga village granting access to ancestral land;
But the fight for justice is far from over. The plantation is still shut meaning the only jobs are for the handful of security guards. This seems to be because Lion’s Head Global Partners are having problems securing any new funding. So not only have villagers lost their land, but also their hopes of future income from jobs on the plantation. And with the plantation closed, the promised investments in new clinics and schools looks evermore unlikely.
ActionAid is continuing to work with the community and their campaign for compensation from the new owners and we’ll keep you updated with any news.
In the meantime, you can help end the UK government’s support for biofuels and their devastating impact on communities such as those on Kisarawe by signing the petition here.