Indigenous community alarmed over a Swiss company's large land deal for carbon plantations in Gambela, Ethiopia
Anywaa Survival Organisation | 16 February 2024

Indigenous community alarmed over a Swiss company's large land deal for carbon plantations in Gambela, Ethiopia
Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) has been following the signing of a land acquisition contract that will allow the Swiss-based multinational ASC Impact to acquire an estimated 22,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia’s remote Gambela state along the border with South Sudan for large-scale tree plantations, carbon credits and agriculture. The targeted land belongs to the Nyikani sub-clan of the Anywaa indigenous people and has been an important source of livelihoods for generations. ASO is concerned that the deal threatens the indigenous people's culture, identity and source of livelihoods.
The targeted land across the Gilo River is one of Ethiopia's marginalised and neglected areas without basic social infrastructures. We are concerned that the Swiss-based corporation is capitalising on the vulnerability and desperate state of the local community to hand-pick some community leaders from a handful villages to support the project, with promises of investment that are unlikely to be kept, in particular, the promises of a road and bridge construction, hospital and a college. This was apparent at the official launching of the Ojotti Forestry and Agricultural Enterprise, a subsidiary of ASC Impact, at Pinyudo town where a senior state official in charge of investment office turned out as the master of ceremonies.
ASC Impact claims to have 300 years of experience in forestry and agriculture, but the corporation has so far failed to undertake due processes and steps such as participation of the affected communities or a social and environmental needs assessment to at least understand the ecology, biodiversity, and the alternative land use to the local communities. Furthermore, the company’s complicity with state authorities that fragrantly breaches the human rights of community members has already compromised international norms and standards, such as corporations' due diligence requirements under several international and regional legal frameworks. Over the past few days, state authorities have arrested and threatened community members and banned the provision of medical and educational facilities that the government has failed to provide for years.
As a marginalised community, the Nyikani community has traditionally used the targeted land rich in fish stocks, rare and protected trees and fertile arable land along the Akobo River for farming, hunting, grazing, and fishing grounds. But this will be threatened by the company’s tree plantation activities that would also sacrifice the local trees with non-indigenous trees.
ASC Impact also emphasis the employment its 22,000 ha project will generate for locals. But these jobs will mainly be for seasonal, daily labour. Moreover, the project will also displace the locals from lands that they currently use for many economic activities, including farming and fishing. 
With the official launching of the project on 30th January, 2023, the project was already generating tensions among the local community members opposed to the project and those involved in the project, particularly a Canada-based, South Sudanese national. The area has seen an escalation of violence in recent years, and ASO understands that there is concern that this project could lead to attacks on foreign nationals operating in the area. This could raise wider security concerns in targeted areas, where innocent lives are often taken without government protection mechanisms in place. It can also create the conditions for the arrest of innocent citizens, and further distract locals from the key issues they demand from the authorities.
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO therefore reiterates its strong opposition to this controversial project which will further disadvantage local communities and violate their fundamental human rights, freedoms, and land rights.
For more information contact: 
Nyikaw Ochalla, Anywaa Survival Organisation
+44 7405 681820
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