News / Africa

Activists, Researchers Raise Alarm on Africa's 'Land Grab'

Activists worry Africa's land grab will hurt local farmers
Activists worry Africa's land grab will hurt local farmers

Multimedia

Audio
Nico Colombant

Activists and researchers in the United States are raising the alarm on what they call the "land grab" in Africa.  Outside governments and foreign corporations have been turning increasingly to African countries to purchase large areas of land, to the dismay of activists, who say economic mistakes of the past should not be repeated.

Oakland Institute executive director Anuradha Mittal recently co-authored a report called "The Great Land Grab."

"Land grab is the trend of buying up farmland by private investors from food-insecure, but rich nations in third world countries, especially in Africa, which is displacing people," said Anuradha Mittal. "But more important, it is called 'land grab' because it is the grabbing of resources, which are absolutely essential for ensuring food security in these countries."

From mid 2008 until late last year when its report was released, the Oakland Institute recorded 180 such land transactions, many of them in Africa.

In New York, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century recently organized a round-table discussion called the "New Scramble for Africa."

The group's president, Ron Daniels, explains.

"The first scramble for Africa was the carving up of Africa in the Berlin Congress of 1884 by various European powers," said Ron Daniels. "This looks like the new scramble, the 21st century version of it with nations like China, obviously leading the way because it has a tremendous appetite and then of course India, and Korea, and even some of the European nations, also, and some of the Arab nations."

Big contracts for land have been made across the continent in the past two years.  Sometimes these were accompanied by celebrations, such as in January 2009, when the European multi-national Addax International partnered with Sierra Leone's government to make ethanol from sugar cane on thousands of hectares.

Qatar recently gained access to 40,000 hectares in Kenya for crop production, while China bought more than 100,000 hectares in Zimbabwe.

On the other side of the debate, investors, foreign buyers and local leaders say such long-term land leases will create thousands of jobs and bring in much needed revenue.

But Daniels says the types of jobs which would be created, such as day labor, security and local management, are not worth it.  He says African governments should resist the initial temptation to sell away land and instead encourage local production and long-term welfare.

"That is a no-brainer," he said. "I would trade ownership and economic infrastructure for jobs any day, because if you own and you create infrastructure, you can generate jobs."

Investors also say better farming techniques will be brought to Africa, and that much of the food will be sold locally.  Mittal does not believe these promises.

She points to the history of fruit plantations in South America and south-east Asia.

"We know when countries have given up the principles of food self-sufficiency, when they have forgotten to promote the interests of small-scale farmers, who are the producers of food in third world countries, we have only seen hunger grow," she said. "So it is not about whether we believe the corporations or not, we have to believe the evidence and the past experience that exists for communities around the world."

Oregon-based environmental journalist Bryan Nelson wrote a recent article in which he called the current African land grab "neo-colonial."  But he believes it is still possible for local farmers to defend their rights.

"These farmers need to be organizing at a grass-roots level so that it is not just every individual farmer against these large multi-national corporations," said Nelson. "They need to make sure that they are going to benefit on a local level and that there are programs in place that are going to share the profits and the benefits of developing this land with that local community."

He also says foreign exports should be stopped whenever there is a food crisis in the country from which a company is operating.
Mittal is much more worried.  She says African countries which have brought in massive investment for extracting oil, rubber and diamonds, despite some infrastructure also being built, have been marked by high levels of unrest, and that the same could happen for land.

"It is the next blood diamond," said Mittal. "We are going to see more political instability, we are going to see more rioting, as people say enough is enough, this land is ours."

She also warns of environmental degradation when large scale, industrial farming practices will be brought to unpolluted areas.

Activists and investors do agree that after the world housing market collapsed, African land became a widely-sought cheap commodity. 
What they clearly disagree on is whether this trend is good or bad for local populations.

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid