From November 6 to 18 2022, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties 27 — Cop27 — is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. All indicators point to the fact that African governments are positioning themselves to demand that African countries are allowed to exploit their coal, oil and gas resources. African leaders claim that Africa needs to address energy poverty and promote socioeconomic development, hence the need for the continent to exploit its coal, oil and gas resources.
It should be noted that corporations such as South Africa’s Standard Bank have also refused to rule out financing of oil and gas activities because they say that Africa needs to exploit these resources to address energy poverty and promote economic transformation.
However, as a project-affected person in Uganda whose land is being acquired for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) project, I wonder whose socioeconomic transformation these corporations and governments speak about.
I live in Hoima district in western Uganda, where the country’s oil and gas resources are concentrated. About 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day at peak production will be produced from oil fields in western Uganda. Some 216,000 barrels of this oil will be exported via the Eacop at peak production per day.
To develop the Eacop, land is being acquired from over 3,000 households in Uganda. I head one of these households. In 2018, I was informed by TotalEnergies, which is one of the developers of the Eacop project, that my land was going to be acquired for the Eacop.
In June 2019, TotalEnergies informed my family and others whose land was being taken for the Eacop project in Western Uganda that a cut-off date had been placed on our property. We were told not to use our land to grow perennial crops including cassava and others. Cassava is both a staple food and a cash crop for us.
Before being informed that my land would be taken for the Eaco, I had cleared it to grow cassava. I couldn’t grow cassava and, to date, I cannot use my land. I have lost income as a result. On average, I used to earn over $236 per year from my cassava. This money used to help me to meet my family’s basic needs and to pay school fees for my two children.
I lost part of my earnings because some of my land is being taken for the Eacop. This makes me wonder: considering I and others have been deprived of income by the Eacop, for whom is it creating socioeconomic transformation? Every dollar that I used to make matters to my family.
Many families in my district and nine other districts where land is being acquired for the Eacop in Uganda are like me. They were stopped from using their land to grow perennial food and cash crops. This means that these families are also suffering income losses and increased poverty.
I have heard that families in southern Uganda — which the Eacop will cross before going to Tanzania — cleared their land to grow coffee. They could not grow this coffee when a cut-off date was placed on their property. Their neighbours, whose land is not being acquired for the Eacop, planted their coffee, which matured, and they are now earning income from it. The Eacop is also not creating development for these families.
In addition, we are being paid low compensation for our land and because of this, it is unlikely that we will be able to replace all the land that we lose. This will affect our productivity because we are farmers whose livelihoods are land-based. This leads us to ask again: for whose development is the Eacop if the affected people’s lives have been destabilised?
Many pro-oil and gas developers have cited that the Eacop will address energy poverty in Uganda. However, the pipeline will be used to take away Uganda’s oil. How does that meet communities’ energy needs? Moreover, energy products are often too expensive. The majority of people in my village do not have access to grid power. We use off-grid solar.
My final message is that we are farmers and we are already suffering climate change impacts. Projects that stand to worsen climate change can never be for our development.
This article was first published in Daily Maverick.
Get the FoodForAfrika.com newsletter: Your bi-weekly take on the news, inspiration and agri innovation from the united voice of Africa’s food producers.