“The value of the land which was given was very little and could not enable me to acquire one piece of land that was taken by the project. That is not development. If the land was taken and valued at USh 6-million and an acre is valued at over USh 10-million - I cannot buy land; that is poverty and not development,” Joyce Kyalisiima, a women farmer in Kijumba, Uganda told Climate Justice Central (CJC).
Kyalisiima’s story is the legacy of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP); a project planned to run across Uganda into Tanzania. The 1,433km pipeline, which is still seeking financial close - is expected to create environmental destruction in its path; running across homes, from which Kyalisiima has been removed from, across land, biodiversity hotspots and water sources.
“When the project was being introduced to the community, they promised it would bring good changes; development and prosperity. Now we are seeing the reverse of what they promised,” said the small-scale farmer.
“...Job creation, national content, new infrastructure, logistics, skills and technology transfer and enhancement of the trade corridor between Uganda and Tanzania,” are some of the promises made by the EACOP project whose partners include TotalEnergies, the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments, Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation.
Local communities whose homes sat along the route of the pipeline and were evacuated from their properties were promised better homes, improved livelihoods and a better quality of life - this alongside fitting financial compensation.
Communities in Kijumba, in the central region of Uganda, had been told to stop farming their land to make way for compensation and the evacuation. The community had been given until April 2021 to stop farming particular crops - a date two years out from the financial compensation date, leaving them without financial gains for over two years.
Some of the community members were relocated and built new homes. However, the homes built were rushed and left with leaking roofs and broken doors. They were also much smaller than the several homesteads on a single property and cannot fit the multigenerational families. The community has also been left with unreliable electricity. And more pressingly, the financial compensation arrived years late.
“EACOP has brough domestic violence onto the lives of women - some families have even been broken since this project started. The compensation was delayed and in the process of delaying, my husband decided to take a loan from a local money lender knowing that after compensation he would pay back the money.
“As the compensation was delayed, the loan accumulated a lot of interest and when the compensation arrived, most of it was taken by the money lenders, leaving us with a small amount of money. That brought a lot of tension and domestic violence at home. Some wives fought with their husbands while some homes were left broken. This was minimal before the project came in,” said Kyalisiima, through the intermediary of an English translator over a phone call.
Her husband was given USh 80-million ($21,175,69) to compensate for the land that is to be incorporated into the EACOP. While the money may seem to be much, it fell short of reflecting the value of the couple’s property. Instead of using the money for his family and the family’s progress, he used it to open a bar at the local trading centre.
An EACOP provisional Human Rights Impact Assessment report notes that Ugandan customary law does not allow for women to own orr inherit property or allow for controlling of the produce of the land they work on. In order to shield themselves from the inferior land rights bestowed on them and the impacts that this may have on them upon talks of compensation, women raised the issue and alternatives to addressing concerns around compensation.
Said the report: “Based on past experiences with compensation processes and other similar processes, women spoke of other concerns regarding the nature of the process. Women noted that it is useful to have a requirement for both the husband and the wife’s signatures on a compensation form, but that this has been easily bypassed in the past in various processes requiring the woman’s signature.”
The small-scale farmer was hoping to use the money to acquire more land as it would better benefit the family and would last for generations; a longer lifespan than a bar. More land would also mean more income for the home and she would be able to plant more of what she already farms: maize, beans, Irish potatoes and cassava.
However the inadequate financial compensation and loss of land has left Kyalisiima with much less produce than she would usually have. Prior to having her land taken, she would harvest four sacks of beans and three bags of cassava. But now, her farm only allows her to harvest one sack of beans and two bags of cassava.
TotalEnergies recently wrote on their company’s website that “close attention” was paid to the rights of the communities concerned. He continues to say that there had been consultation and consensus-building with all stakeholders, and discussions with several NGOs to pave the way for a sustainable collaborative process.
“For four years, the affiliate has been in close contact with the local people and has been striving to minimize (sic) the projects’ impact on the local community. We are proud to be a part of these major developments for the Company that promise to transform their host countries,” said TotalEnergies’ Nicolas Terraz, President, Exploration & Production, on the company site.
Means from agricultural work trickles down into the household and provides basic essentials and needs such as food, children’s school fees and sometimes keeping the lights on. The latter was something the community was told not to worry about when solar panels were installed in the community.
Each home had solar panels at 200 W and batteries installed as part of the promised development. However the power at times does not last beyond midnight. Communities are left asking themselves what the use of the power was and whether the products they have been provided with are fake; this is particularly frustrating when the relevant companies are called to fix it but take a week or two to respond, leaving residents in the dark.
Addressing such energy issues has not been a priority for the government and partners involved in the project. Instead, they have built a police station in the area instead of the requested healthcare facility. Women and their children are now left to travel between 20 to 30 km to the nearest healthcare facility. For some community leaders, this has shown that the government is more concerned with controlling those against the pipeline, and not with addressing the needs of the community.
For some of the women in the community, meaningful consultation, adequate compensation and financial literacy to aid in handling the large amounts of money received by their husbands, would’ve gone a long way to address the challenges they face. But of course, the sense of wishing the project away, or wishing it never had been, lingers.
Said Kyalisiima: “We were living in peace and harmony before this project came along. When we got a bit of money coming into the home from the farming, we would plan for that money as a family; as wife and husband.
“But when the project came in, my husband was not used to seeing that amount of money in bulk. When the money came in, it changed my husband’s mind; he started doing this secretly and hiding crucial information. That alone violated my rights in participating and decision-making at home.”
This article is part of our current reporting project "Dismantling the Fossil Fuel Industry".