1. Republic of the Congo: Land deals on hold (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)

| June 22, 2009

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Thousands of South African farmers thought they had a great deal coming. The Republic of the Congo was offering land free of charge. Commercial farmers from South Africa planned to establish crop and livestock farm and enjoy many tax breaks offered by the Congolese government. But the government has put the deal on hold.

Earlier this year, the Congolese government began recruiting South African farmers. They wanted skilled commercial farmers to take over millions of hectares of land. South African farmers began booking tours to visit farmlands.

The Congolese government presented the plan as an opportunity to improve local food security. South African farmers were to receive 99-year leases and other incentives. In exchange, they would produce food for the local market and train local farmers. According to the government, only about ten per cent of arable Congolese land is farmed. Nearly all of the country’s food is imported.

The land deals raised concern. They were perceived as a form of land grabbing and a threat to local farmers. For the time being, the government has put the deal on hold. According to the Congolese Minister of Agriculture, no land deals will be finalized until after the Congolese election in July of this year.
For more information on the issue of land grabbing, and a discussion of how local resistance helped stop a proposed land grab in Madagascar, see the Notes to Broadcasters from a previous issue of FRW: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/06/08/notes-to-broadcasters-on-farmland-grabbing/