Monday, 14 July 2014

A culture of extraction and exclusion: How philanthropy impoverishes the vulnerable

Maintenance crew, Zambia by Merlin on Flickr (cc-by-nc-2.0)
Well-intentioned people the world over see transformation to green ways of doing as absolutely essential. Many argue that by switching to green ways of doing, we can have win-win situations in which we tackle both environmental degradation and poverty, through innovative projects and by conserving wild areas where there still exist.

Yet at the Green Economy in the South conference, which took place from 8-10 July in Dodoma, Tanzania, case study after case study has showed how the language and practices of switching to ‘green’ result in the extraction of resources from Africa to the North, from the poor to the wealthy, all under the guise of philanthropy and development. Processes funded by Northern development agencies, such as REDD+, result in capital accumulating more by dispossessing Africans, enclosing African land, and selling ecological services to the wealthy few who can afford the high price tag.
Mining: what counts as development?
In extractive industries like mining, despite using development language, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes are problematic. For example, regarding mining companies in Zambia, Tomas Frederikson argued that while CSR models were changing to become more than just public relations exercises, and while CSR projects were ever more complex, employing many staff in development projects, projects were still counting and costing development in controversial ways.
For example, when mines build roads to improve transport to and from the mining area to enhance extractive activities, they declare this as development; when they upgrade airports to improve their own access to mining areas, this is called development; and when they build schools (but only for the children of their workers) or healthcare facilities (but only for workers and their families) this is also called development, despite the fact that these were not developments identified or chosen by the ‘recipient’ communities, nor necessarily benefitting them. So while they were being displaced from their land, the touted ‘developments’ of CSR never flowed to all the community members, thus ensuring that they are dispossessed with little compensation.
Hope and knowledge in Mtwara
In Tanzania, the newly discovered natural gas boon in Mtwara, is touted to create a ‘boom’ for local communities; the communities themselves have great expectations for this development, and for example, expect that at least one family member per household will be employed in the gas extraction project. Once the gas is extracted, the local community also expects that the power plant for generating electricity from the gas will be located in Mtwara.
However, as Nancy Rushohora pointed out, local communities are not aware of the likely disadvantages and challenges of natural gas extraction, such as adverse environmental impacts. Nevertheless,‘if extracting natural gas will not serve to benefit local communities, local communities feel it would be better not to extract the gas at all’, Rushohora said, and at this stage there is no clear explanation of nor legislation ensuring that benefits will accrue to the Mtwara people.
‘Revenue Sharing’ in Kilimanjaro
Similarly, as described by Hanne Svarstad, in Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, which was extended to cover a greater area in 2005, communities were displaced by extending the conservancy without displaced communities having any guarantee of accruing benefits. However, the Kilimanjaro National Park is held up as a best practice model for other game farms and national parks, because they have undertaken ‘revenue sharing’ with displaced and surrounding communities.
Revenue sharing takes place through several ‘development projects’ like a project giving local communities goats; a calculation of how beneficial the goat project could be calculated that at the current rate of revenue sharing, it would take 17 years for every household to receive one goat. While development agencies and international conservation NGOs involved in the park call it a ‘triple win’ solution (winning for biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and poverty reduction), the main narrative of communities living around the park was one of exclusion, dissatisfaction with the lack of compensation for expropriation of previous commons, and lack of influence and consultation before land was expropriated.
The costs to local communities is more than 10 times higher than the benefits, so in this ‘best case’ scenario there is a marked lack of distributive justice. Despite donors and international NGO rhetoric being pro-people, there has been no effort to look for local solutions to environmental management, but only impositions from outside either from the state or from donors and conservation NGOs.
Limpopo: game theory
In the Greater Limpopo Conservancy, linking South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Francis Massé explained how Mozambican communities are being forcibly removed from their land (albeit with some compensation), ostensibly in order to protect South African rhinos, but in practice to set up private game farms and game lodges for wealthy tourists in Mozambique.
This is argued to philanthropically benefit Mozambicans through the investment of private South African and other foreign countries in Mozambique, but the compensation paid to communities displaced by these processes nowhere nearly makes up for the loss of access to land (the main means by which they secure their livelihoods). Locals are also not even employed in these game farms, as once they have been displaced they are seen as colluding with rhino poachers by providing information about where the animals are, so it is seen as essential to exclude them from the land where they have lived for hundreds of generations.
The securitisation that typically goes along with the creation of conservation areas is escalated and extreme in the Greater Limpopo Conservancy as former apartheid security forces police the South African side of the border, and Mozambicans from far afield police the Mozambican side of the border. Displacing Mozambican citizens is argued to be the only strategy by which South African rhinos can feasibly be protected from Asian syndicates even though no poaching is taking place in Mozambique, and expanded conservancies are encouraged by conservation NGOs who argue such areas contribute to the green economy.
Exclusion in Indonesia
Outside Africa, for example in Indonesia, similar extractive processes are taking place, both in logging and mining industries. Peter Howson described how in international agency discourse the green economy is equated with ‘green growth’; he argued that this invites elite capture and makes exclusion almost inevitable, particularly when programmes such as REDD+ specifically sought private finance funding. He described exclusion as taking place on the level of regulation, force, markets and legitimation and suggested that ‘the uneven distribution of REDD+ benefits intersected with already existing intimate processes of exclusion’.
At the same time, however, Rini Astuti described how notions of indigeneity were being used to produce obedient conservation subjectivities among Bahaneis and on Bahanei forest land, where concessions were also being granted to mining companies. While Indonesia’s indigenous communities had disintegrated through Indonesia political processes, new processes of reclaiming indigeneity and reterritorialising Bahanei land were being supported by planning land use around carbon markets, thus resulting in a carbon marketisation of Bahanei land. By promising carbon payments through REDD+, indigenous REDD+ subjectivities were also be produced inscribing new sets of customary identities with new rules and new ideologies.
Financialising nature
In Costa Rica, Brett Matulis described how REDD+ programmes promoted by the World Bank are also leading to the financialisation of nature, by creating a direct link between ecosystem services “users” and “providers”, so that, for example, water users are taxed, but water polluters are not, and the biggest users receive more, improved ecosystem services, while the most needy receive poorer ecosystem services. These tariffs have mirrored existing inequalities in Costa Rica, perpetuating uneven conservation development because those most in need cannot afford to pay.
by Rebecca Pointer, Information and Communications Officer, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)
The Green Economy in the South conference ran from 8-10 July in Dodoma, Tanzania. This post first appeared on the Green Economy in the South conference blog.