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Ugandan farmers petition UNDP to cut ties with Bidco

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A Ugandan Farmers Association has appealed to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to break ties with Bidco Africa, a Kenya-founded edible oil producer.
The Bugala Farmers association says that more than 100 farmers lost their land to Bidco when, in partnership with the local government, the company deforested more than 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) of rain forest and smallholder farms on Bugala Island on Lake Victoria to set up one of the largest palm oil plantations in Africa.
In a petition delivered to the UNDP Kampala office, the Association called on the UNDP to investigate the organisation’s recent announcement that Business Call to Action (BCtA), a UNDP offshoot, concluded an agreement with Bidco Africa.
“For those who know the real business practices of Bidco Africa and its CEO Vimal Shah, the embrace by BCtA of Bidco Africa is a tragedy for smallholder farmers and a major stain on the reputation of UNDP,” the petition said.
In the petition
The petition cites Bidco Africa’s failure to comply with court orders to compensate the farmers for their land; the company’s labour practices in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya; alleged tax evasion in Kenya; and the deforestation of land for its palm oil production in Uganda.
“The Bugala Farmers Association calls on UNDP and its senior leadership to examine the morally questionable association of such a distinguished U.N. organisation with such a blatant violator of human rights that is Bidco Africa,” the petition said. “The evidence of Bidco Africa’s poor business practices is well documented, and UNDP must immediately disassociate itself with such a company.”
The petition further read: “Bidco Africa, which claims to adhere to the U.N. Global Compact, is in fact in violation of all U.N. Global Compact principals, from human rights to protection of the environment. Against the backdrop of such repeated violations, the UNDP/BCtA’s partnership with Bidco Africa is a violation of UNDP’s core mission and principals.”
The petition, delivered end of January, was officially received by a UNDP receptionist in Kampala.
The project was supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank, with Bidco Uganda Ltd and Wilmar Plantations playing a major role as the private investors.

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