Investor seeks probe into Uganda forest ‘land grab’ accusations

Response to Oxfam allegations against New Forests Company

The World Bank’s private finance arm the IFC has called for an investigation into ‘land grab’ claims involving one of its investee companies.

It’s in response to accusations from Oxfam that the New Forests Company is implicated in the forcible evictions of some 22,500 residents to make way for its forestry plantations.

The IFC is an investor in the company via Sanlam Private Equity’s Mauritius-listed Agri-Vie Fund. Other investors include Sanlam Life, the philanthropic Kellogg Foundation, Norwegian development finance institution Norfund and the European Investment Bank. The fund is focused on food and agribusiness in Sub-Sahara Africa and aims to demonstrate socio-economic development impacts. The IFC said in a statement it wanted New Forests to undertake “an independent and transparent review” into the claims.

New Forests has said the resettlements were “legal,voluntary and peaceful”, which had been confirmed by the Forest Stewardship Council and the IFC itself.
London-based New Forests says it has an impeccable track record in community investment and development.
The issue comes as responsible agricultural investment is rising up the agenda. Just this month a group of institutional investors managing $1.3trn in assets launched the Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland. And the United Nations is working on a seven-point set of ‘Responsible Agricultural Investment’ (RAI) Principles.

New Forests is headed by CEO Julian Ozanne, a documentary filmmaker and chaired by Virgin Group co-founder Robert Devereux. According to Agence France Press, its shareholders include HSBC and has been loaned €5m by the EIB. Directors include Man Group Chairman and former Goldman Sachs investment banker Jon Aisbitt and Sajjad Sabur, head of Principal Investments Africa at HSBC. Oxfam YouTube clip