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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid