Nelly Bassily | December 7, 2009
Farm Radio Weekly has been following the issue of farmland grabbing in Africa since November 2008, when it was announced that a South Korean company intended to lease half of Madagascar’s arable land. Since then, there have been countless media reports on the issue of farmland grabbing. It is not uncommon for “land-grab attempts” to be encouraged by local governments, as we saw in this story published in December 2008: “Ethiopia: Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land available for foreign investment, prime minister says.”
Over the same period, there has been a growing protest against farmland grabbing. These protests include local people who will be affected (in many cases, removed from their land), as well as a variety of NGOs interested in farmers’ rights, environmental considerations, and other issues. The following FRW reports describe cases where protests have been effective in halting land grab attempts:
–“Africa: Angola land deal announced; Madagascar land deal on hold” (FRW #52, January 2009)
–“Kenya: Local resistance to land grab captures government, investor attention” (FRW #70, June 2009)
–“Republic of the Congo: Land deals on hold” (FRW #71, June 2009)
There has also been research on how land transactions could be carried out in a way that is beneficial to everyone, including local people. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recommends the following to ensure that local people are protected in land deals: transparency in negotiations; respect for existing land rights; equitable sharing of benefits; environmental sustainability; and abidance with national trade policies. The entire 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 farmland investment 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 (commercial, subsistence, etc.) 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 promised?
-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 benefit rural communities?
You may also wish to review the following FRW articles, published as part of our series on land grabbing. Each of these stories highlights how local people are affected, and how they have mobilized to resist land grab attempts and/or ensure a better deal for their communities:
–“Land grabbing in Africa: An overview” (FRW #69, June 2009)
–“Sudan: Madi community fights land grab attempts” (FRW #69, June 2009)
–“Malawi: Villagers lose land to sugar plantation” (FRW #70, June 2009)
–“Uganda: Urban farmers fight eviction” (FRW#72, June 2009)
–“Ghana: European biofuel company meets resistance after clearing forests” (FRW#73, July 2009)
For regular updates on the issue of farmland grabbing, or to upload your own reports on the issue, visit the following website, created by the NGO GRAIN: http://farmlandgrab.org/.