New Embezzlement Scandal Strikes WWF

WWF is currently embroiled in a two-part scandal over its work in Tanzania. In October 2011, thousands of villagers were evicted from a WWF project area in the Rufiji Delta. This year WWF Tanzania staff were caught embezzling funds.

On 28 October 2011, forestry officials protected by armed police burned down hundreds of farm huts and cut down villagers’ palm trees. The huts were used to plant and harvest rice. The government had announced the planned evictions in January 2011. One of the people affected, was Bakari Wanga, chairman of Kiomboni village, one of three villages in the Rufiji Delta. “What is happening here is absolute madness, our huts are being torched and coconut trees felled by a group of natural resources officials escorted by the police,” Wanga told the Daily News.

The discussion about WWF and the “REDD menance” in Tanzania has been overshadowed recently by the embezzlement scandal. Less than two weeks after co-signing a letter denying involvement in the evictions to the editor of Global Environmental Change, WWF’s country director in Tanzania, Stephen Mariki, had resigned. Once again, he denies any wrong-doing. “I have not done anything wrong myself,” he told AlertNet, “but since this scandal happened under my leadership there was no option than to step aside.”

In a March 2012 statement, WWF confirmed that so far, “13 employees have left the organization, along with two managers who had oversight responsibility.” An initial report produced by auditing firm Ernst and Young found that a total of US$1.3 million had disappeared from a Norwegian funded WWF project, “Strengthening Capacity of Environmental Civil Society Organizations”. WWF estimates that the total is US$200,000. It seems that the money was pocketed through inflated “per diem” payments.


On 23 June 2011, the German TV station ARD broadcast a documentary highlighting WWF’s cozy relationship with distinctly unsustainable companies like the genetically modified giant Monsanto and the rainforest-destroying palm oil company Wilmar. (Click here for more)

In the article, “Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?“, Jonathan Latham, takes on big conservation’s role in setting up certification schemes for commodities, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Better Sugar Cane Initiative (Bonsucro). He points out the low and ambiguous standards, such as the request for companies to “volunteer to obey the law”, under the RTRS. (Click here for more).

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