UNDP stop the involvement with Bidco Group!
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In a press release issued on 15th January 2016, UNDP claimed that its partnership with Bidco Africa will integrate “an additional 30,000 smallholder farmers into its agriculture value chain and create 60,000 entrepreneurs and jobs by 2019.”
Further, BCtA Acting Project Manager Sabha Sobhani lauded Bidco Africa’s “growth with development goals – especially entrepreneurship and job creation and food security.”
For those who know the real business practices of Bidco Africa and its CEO Vimal Shah, the embrace by UNDP/BCtA of Bidco Africa is a tragedy for smallholder farmers and a major stain on the reputation of UNDP.
The real business practices of Bidco Africa and Mr Shah are well documented and include:
Land Grab & Deforestation
· Bidco Africa have taken land from smallholder farmers in Kalangala District, Uganda (Bugala Island, Lake Victoria) and offered little or no compensation to families who have subsisted on the land for decades. Since 2011, Bidco has used heavy-handed tactics to thwart challenges by the farmers, who in February 2015 took the company to court. Against the odds, 100 farmers obtained an injunction against Bidco’s further land-grabbing, as the case makes its way through court.
· Bidco Africa has embarked on one of the largest deforestation projects in African history. Since 2004, under the guise of a partnership with the Government of Uganda, Bidco Africa has deforested more than 7,500 hectares of rainforest and ecological areas on the Victoria Lake island of Bugala in order to make way for Bidco Africa’s oil palm plantation. The deforestation has become so bad that the World Bank, originally a sponsor of the project, had to withdraw its support.
Poor Employment conditions
· Opul, the Bidco-owned company that operates the oil palm plantation, has a policy of employing workers from the Ugandan mainland, a strategy which allows it to bypass the natural anger of Bugala locals toward Bidco’s land-grabbing in favour of more “docile” mainland workers, whose identification documents are confiscated in order to create leverage over the workforce.
· Ugandan farmers dependent on palm oil production, are facing financial ruin due to the unfair contracts they signed with Opul (Bidco Africa).
· In Kenya, Bidco has been exposed as a serial violator of the labour code. The company employs thousands of casual workers, whose shifts are limited in order to deprive them of social benefits. Workers repeatedly complain about poor working conditions and workplace injuries, for which they are given paid sick leave. Those who protest are terminated immediately and/or threatened with harm.
· For some, working at Bidco is a deadly job. Albert Zedi was killed while working at Bidco in 2002. His widow sued Bidco for negligence and, only in 2015, succeeded in obtaining a court order for Bidco to pay Ksh1.1 million ($10,000) in compensation, a demonstration of how little the company values human life.
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