Notes to broadcasters on land grabs

    | April 15, 2013

    Download this story

    This story takes a different perspective than the usual stories about land grabs. Often, land is appropriated by large corporations to grow commercial crops on a large scale, or for mineral prospecting. In this case, we have a situation where traditional pastoralists will be excluded from their grazing lands to promote conservation efforts. Thus, it has been called a “green grab.”

    To complicate the issue, the involvement of a foreign tourism and hunting company has raised concerns that government authorities are more concerned about income from foreign investment than land conservation or the rights and livelihoods of local people.

    Elirehema Saakai, a Maasai elder from Ngorongoro, was quoted as saying: “…  The contract was renewed, allowing this Arab man to stay for many more years. Other local leaders say that when they tried to question the government about this, the government said that it’s because they collect a lot of tax from him … they have extended the exclusion area for Maasai so the Arab man can own the areas where the Maasai are living. The Arab man is running a hunting company, and also transports the wild animals to Arab countries.”

    For more background on this story, please go to the following webpages: ; ; and

    African farmers would feel more secure if they knew that the land they live on and work could not be taken away from them. Yet this is just a dream for many. Farmers without a and titles face many forms of insecurity. Many are reluctant to invest time and effort on improving their farm, particularly on long-term projects such as tree planting or actions to control soil erosion. Many believe that secure access to land is the biggest challenge faced by Africa’s small-scale farmers. In May 2012, a UN committee endorsed voluntary guidelines on land investment ( Many international organizations welcomed the guidelines as a step in the right direction.

    Here are some key websites where you can find out more about current issues and news related to land: − The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, researching and promoting debate on key environmental, social and economic issues. It has done extensive research on the purchase and lease of land from developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors. The Institute aims to increase transparency about land deals. They document impacts on farmers, and the long-term impact on development in several African countries. − This website gathers news reports in various languages about “land grabs,” which they define as “the global rush to buy up or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy to secure basic food supplies or simply for profit.” It is a comprehensive resource for social activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists. It is updated daily. You can subscribe by weekly email or through an RSS feed. − The international Land Coalition is an alliance of organizations that work together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men. On this site, you can find news from Africa, background documents on land, and links to many related websites. − This is an online community for people interested in land governance issues. You can join, access information, and interact with other users.

    Listen to a recent BBC World Service debate entitled: “Is land grabbing good for Africa?” In the debate, farmers and other speakers discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of large-scale land leases by international companies in Africa, including a recent case in Sierra Leone:

    Many international NGOs campaign on the issue of land. In September 2011, Oxfam released a report examining land investments, with case studies from Uganda and Sudan:

    Since the Oxfam report was released, the United Nations has finalized and proposed a set of voluntary guidelines on land governance. See this report:

    The UN Food and Agriculture Organization published a comprehensive review of land investment issues in 2012, with case studies from six African countries:

    -Benin: Small-scale farmers denounce land acquisitions (FRW 203, June 2012)
    -Congo-Brazzaville: Farmers ousted by urban development seek new land (FRW 222, October 202)

    In April 2012, Farm Radio Weekly published a special issue on land deals, which you can revisit here: The accompanying Notes to broadcasters provide many links for further information:

    In November 2010, Farm Radio Weekly ran a series of stories reporting on an IDRC research program on women and access to land: ( Browse the stories here:

    And in 2009, Farm Radio Weekly published a series on international land grabbing and investment. Issue 69 was the first in the series:

    Has the “land investment” issue reached your country or broadcast area? It is a topic of great importance to farmers. Though governments and large investors may be reluctant to talk, you could start examining land ownership issues by researching the following questions:

    Are there any local or national laws which govern land ownership or inheritance?

    Do these contradict or are they different from traditional or customary rules?

    How do the two systems interact?

    How do both systems affect women?

    Is it common for farmers in your area to own land, or are they more often tenants?

    How does this affect their daily lives and the decisions they make?

    Try to get a variety of views and quotes from men and women farmers, government officials and local advocacy organizations.