Millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money has been spent on a scheme aimed at reducing the flatulence of Colombian cattle, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. A £15million grant to ranchers and other organisations in the South American country was part of a £2.9billion package of ‘climate aid’ to developing countries which critics called ‘ludicrous’.
The initiative aimed to improve animal diets by cultivating trees and plants on their grazing lands – in doing so reducing the amount of methane escaping through belching and flatulence.
As well as being seen as a waste of money, the scheme has darker undertones, with The Mail on Sunday learning that the recipients, Colombian ranchers’ organisation Fedegan, has been linked to a murderous paramilitary group.
Our investigation unearthed:
- A total of £14million of climate aid finance to projects in Uganda, despite the Government recently stopping all aid to the country because of corruption.
- £31million of British money going to Turkey – a middle-ranking economy – to help develop geo-thermal and wind power.
- The Department for International Development (DFID) funding meetings between tribal ‘rain-makers’ and meteorologists in Kenya.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘After an Autumn Statement where people are making significant cuts, to have a £2.9billion budget for a random collection of projects which have questions hanging over them as to whether or not they are corrupt is just an extraordinary waste of money.
‘The Government does not exist to make charitable donations – that’s something people should do privately. We’re looking for a further £10billion of cuts and this seems to me the easiest place to start.’
Fedegan was one of three bodies sharing £15million to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The group has long been linked to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a collection of far-Right paramilitary groups designated a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.
Hundreds of Fedegan’s farmers have been accused of helping to fund the AUC. Though supposedly demobilised in 2006, the paramilitaries have held on to their weapons and now operate as criminal gangs responsible for hundreds of assassinations and kidnappings.
Former Fedegan president Jorge Visbal Martelo was arrested in March over his alleged links to paramilitary groups. He is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges. Current president Jose Felix Lafaurie has denied the paramilitary links.
But in an article published this year, the respected Colombian weekly Semana asked: ‘How deep-rooted is corruption in Fedegan?’
The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) left such questions to the World Bank, which concluded that Fedegan was a ‘suitable partner’.
Another recipient of UK climate funding is Uganda, where £14million went to ‘small-scale projects’, mainly to generate hydro-electricity.
The country was recently placed top of the East African bribery index – and 40 per cent of its citizens are said to have experienced bribery in dealings with the police, the judiciary, tax and land authorities.
One of the biggest recipients of Government climate finance is the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF), to which the UK has given or pledged £620million.
The CTF bankrolls projects from Thailand to South Africa, and spent £155million on renewable energy schemes in relatively wealthy Turkey.
Another recipient of UK taxpayers’ money was a £25million research study, part of which involved teaming meteorologists with ‘rain-makers’ in western Kenya.
They make their predictions by watching the movement of ants and the measuring the wind using the tops of earthenware bottles.
Last night DECC said that supporting developing countries in cutting emissions was a ‘sensible investment’, and added that ‘turning our back’ could ‘cause a range of impacts including conflict over resources, political upheaval and more extreme weather events’.
Questioned on Fedegan, it said it was ‘satisfied’ with the World Bank’s ‘thorough assessment’ and that the tree-planting idea had been shown to be successful.
Turkey, the DECC said, was a ‘middle income country’ and so eligible for funding, while the money for Uganda was not passing through the country’s government, but through the private sector, with protocols in place to prevent corruption.