News

Leasing Land, Leasing Water

The Nile River Basin serves many African countries and is at the heart of regional water agreements.
The Nile River Basin serves many African countries and is at the heart of regional water agreements.
Joe DeCapua

A new report says land acquisitions in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America have sharply increased since the 2007/2008 food crisis. Some fear the investments by foreign countries and private corporations could lead to regional tensions over water rights.

The Stockholm International Water Institute released the report at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France. (3/12-17/2012) The study -- Land Acquisitions: How will they impact transboundary waters? -- says there is very little systematic analysis of land investment.

The World Bank estimates nearly 60 million hectares of land in Africa were leased in 2009 – and over 200 million hectares leased in developing countries overall in the past 10 years.

The land is being used not only to grow food, but crops for biofuels as well.

Who’s who?

“There is a range of actors. India and China are big in these land acquisitions, but also European and U.S. companies are making investments. Other big actors are some of the water-short countries in the Middle East – Jordan, Arab Emirates and so forth. Even northern European ones, such as my own country Sweden, have companies that are investing in these African lands,” said Anders Jagerskog, the institute’s director of applied research and co-author of the report.

Since all the leases are not readily available for public inspection, Jagerskog says it’s difficult to know just how many African countries are involved.

“I know that there’s been [a] fair degree of investments in Sudan and Ethiopia, also in Mozambique, Madagascar, Nigeria and a country like Liberia, in relative terms at least, that has been leasing a lot of its land. Some figures say up to 60 percent of its Agricultural land has been leased, although that may be on the high end of the estimates,” he said.

Water rights

The report says land investment is a water investment. So do countries leasing the land automatically have rights to the water?

“Often we have found that water is presumed to be included in the contract without explicitly mentioning it in these land lease agreements. And that has a lot of implications for land and water rights in these areas and these countries, which may have [an] effect on [the] national level, for pastoralists and so forth, but even moreso perhaps on an international level. In river basins, some of these land leases have occurred, and the implications have not been taken into account in river basin organizations or the equivalent of those,” said Jagerskog.

In many cases indigenous people, who’ve lived on these lands for generations, have not been consulted about the land leases.

“There could be a positive spin to all these investments – technological transfer, foreign direct investment that, if managed in a good way, boost the economies of these African countries. But the evidence seems to point in the other direction. That these deals are not necessarily that good for the countries that are seeing these investments,” he said.

The Stockholm International Water Institute report recommends that international principles be followed in land leasing. It says this would help protect host countries and local populations. It says while the land deals could help ensure food security in countries leasing the land, they also run the risk of creating food insecurity in the host countries.

What’s more, a land deal signed by one country could have detrimental effects on the water rights of neighboring countries.

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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs