Nelly Bassily | February 22, 2010
Over the past two years, the growth in commercial demand for farm and forest land has been undeniable. According to Michael Taylor, Programme Manager for Global Policy and Africa at the International Land Coalition (ILC), ILC members are concerned because they see that, as foreign investors express more and more interest in acquiring arable land, African governments are willing to meet their demands. Mr. Taylor adds that, generally, investors do not approach local people who make their livelihoods on the land – and that is the real problem.
However, according to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), measures could be put in place to ensure that land transactions are beneficial to everyone, including local people. IFPRI recommends the following: transparency in negotiations; respect for existing land rights; equitable sharing of benefits; environmental sustainability; and abidance to national trade policies. The IFPRI report, entitled: “Land grabbing” by foreign investors in developing countries: Risks and opportunities, is available online, here: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/bp/bp013.asp.
The following questions may serve as a starting point for investigating cases of foreign investment in farmland in your area:
-Who are the investors (company, government, or other) who have leased or bought land (or are interested in leasing or buying land)?
-Did the national government consult local small-scale farmers about the negotiations? If yes, what was the process? If not, what was the outcome?
-What sort of agriculture (e.g. subsistence, commercial) is being practiced on the land in question and what sort of crops are being grown? What type of agriculture do the foreign investors wish to practice?
-Who will control the land? Who will profit?
-Will the local community benefit from the land investment? What guarantees do they have that the investors will deliver any benefits they promise?
-If rural people have been or will be displaced by the land grab, where will they go? How will they meet their food needs?
-Are there alternatives to permitting the sale or lease of local land that would be more beneficial for rural communities?
The following resources may help you in your research into the purchase or lease of arable land in Africa:
-Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa, a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development: http://www.iied.org/pubs/display.php?o=12561IIED.
-Second wave of Colonialism in Africa, an article first published on Znet: http://mostlywater.org/second_wave_colonialism_africa.
-Seized: The 2008 landgrab for food and financial security, a report by the NGO GRAIN: http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212.
-A map produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute indicating countries in which land transactions have taken place: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=100237997621038330776.000468b0a95f89721a96e&ll=18.646245,15.820313&spn=120.933723,198.632813&z=3&output=embed
-A website created by GRAIN to provide daily updates on cases of land grabbing: http://farmlandgrab.org/.