Kalangala Farmers Petition UN Over Bidco Land Grabbing

Bugala island in Kalangala districts whose residents accused Bidco on land grabbing and poor business practices
Merck, page a leading science and technology company, cheap on Sunday announced the launch of its second “Merck More than a Mother” campaign in Africa for the first time in Uganda as part of the Merck Capacity Advancement Program.

The campaign was first implemented in Kenya in 2015 and will be implemented this year in Uganda, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Africa Fertility Society (AFS) and the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, and progressively rolled-out in more African countries.´

“In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. As such, a central difficulty associated with infertility is that it can transform from an acute, private distress into a harsh public stigma with complex and devastating consequences. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This may result in divorce or physical and psychological violence. Therefore this campaign is very important for Africa since it aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women across the continent,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

The Ugandan Minister of State of Health, Hon. Sarah Opendi emphasized during her speech at the campaign: “We are happy to partner with reputable and innovative companies such as Merck. We believe that improving access to regulated and equitable fertility care is important, but it is even more important to intervene to decrease stigmatization and social suffering arising from this condition”.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation, exposure to smoking and to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants. Hence prevention awareness is very important”, Opendi added.

The campaign will provide training for embryologists and education for healthcare providers and will also support governments to define policies to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, address the need for interventions to reduce stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women and raise awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples.

Themed “Together we can create a culture shift”, the “Merck More than a Mother” social media campaign will challenge the social and cultural perception of infertile women in Africa. Moreover it will raise awareness about male infertility, prevention of infertility and infertility management at large.

Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo, Vice-President of Africa Fertility Society stressed: “Through this historic campaign, “Merck More than a Mother”, we will challenge the perception about infertile women, their roles and worth in society, both within and beyond the medical profession in order to achieve any systemic shift in the current culture of gender discrimination in the context of fertility care.”

Through this campaign Merck, a pioneer in reproductive health, will address together with local stakeholders, the key challenges that are associated with resource-constrained settings such as prevention of infertility, education and self-development, regulation of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF), geographic barriers, reproductive rights and over-population and limited resources arguments.

Dr. Oladapo Adenrele Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society explained: “In Nigeria where I practice, infertility is caused by infections in over 85% of women, like in the rest of Africa, compared to 33% worldwide which emphasizes the importance of prevention programs in Africa. Therefore our partnership with Merck is very essential to address this sensitive topic for the first time in the continent”. “We are going to host this important campaign in Nigeria and many other African countries this year,” he added.

During the event, Merck announced the appointment of Hon. Sarah Opendi, Uganda’s Minister of State of Health, to be the ambassador of “Merck More Than a Mother” in Uganda in recognition for her support and efforts to reduce the stigma of infertility and raise awareness about the condition in the country.

At the launch event, Merck awarded Berna Amulen, a Ugandan woman, who openly shared her story of stigmatization and suffering for being infertile. The award was in recognition of her courage in creating awareness and sharing her devastating experience so that no other woman would suffer the same.

Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament and ambassador of the campaign in Kenya, has joined hands with Uganda Ministry of Health and Uganda Women Parliamentary Association to raise awareness about male infertility. Lay emphasized: “In order to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, a discussion with the relevant authorities will be needed to discuss the strengthening of infertility services, education, auditing, regulation, community awareness and the need to integrate them in programs which already exist in the local health infrastructure.”

Kelej urged the Ugandan stakeholders to join the social media campaign in order to reduce the stigma of infertility, create awareness and define interventions to improve access to better fertility care in Africa. “Let your voice heard and let’s work together to create a culture shift,” Kelej added.


The Bugala Farmers Association has called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to sever its ties with Bidco Africa, shop a Kenya-based edible oil producer accused of land-grabbing, click human rights violations and environmental disasters in Uganda, viagra 40mg Kenya and Tanzania.

Over 100 farmers lost their land to Bidco when, in partnership with 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 make way for one of the largest palm oil plantations in Africa.

In a petition delivered to the UNDP Kampala office on 28 January, the Bugala Farmers Association called on the UNDP to investigate the organization’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 says.

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 deforestation has become so bad that the World Bank, originally a sponsor of the project, had to withdraw its support.

“The Bugala Farmers Association calls on UNDP and its senior leadership to examine the morally questionable association of such a distinguished UN organization with such a blatant violator of human rights that is Bidco Africa,” the petition says. “The evidence of Bidco Africa’s poor business practices is well documented, and UNDP must immediately disassociate itself with such a company.”

The petition continues: “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.”

When the farmers presented their petition at the UNDP office in Kampala, security officers blocked them at the compound gate and confiscated video filmed by accompanying media. UNDP officials refused to meet the farmers, and suggested that the petition – which is addressed to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark – could only be delivered at the organisation’s headquarters in New York City. Only after a four-hour wait was the petition officially received by a UNDP receptionist in Kampala.

In addition to Administrator Clark, the petition is addressed to Peter Liria, Chief Ethics Officer, Director of the Ethics Office; Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director Regional Bureau for Africa; and Mila Rosenthal, Director of Communications; among others.

The UNDP has not responded to the farmers’ petition since it was presented on 28 January.


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