Friday, August 06, 2010

"Land Grab"

I am in the throes of thinking through the term "land grab" and the human rights issues it presses for indigenous and minority groups across the African continent.

The term is so defined by The Oakland Institute:
The term land grab refers to the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land by wealthier food-insecure nations and private investors from mostly poor, developing countries in order to produce crops for export.
There is, of course, more to the practice.

It should come as no surprise that Africa is the most sought after destination for "land grabs" followed by Asia and then Latin America.

On the continent the World Bank has noted that Sudan attracts the most attention for what is called "investment prospects" aimed at food production and livestock husbandry for export.

Ghana is the second most sought after "investment prospect" with Madagascar being the third.

Prospecting for farmland in Africa has become a hotbed for the high powered finance industry.

You may think that what is often called the "new scramble for Africa" is led solely by former colonial masters along with the US but you would not be entirely right.

It appears more complicated.

At one level there is the complicity of the governments of various impoverished nations who seek to draw dollars into their economy by offering huge tracts of land for lease or even purchase.

These offers are not usually pitched at the governments of dominant Western states but rather at investment arms that combine prospecting capital from places like Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Singapore, India, Mauritius, among others.

The prospecting part is about turning "idle land" into huge export facilities of food, mostly mono-crops.

The promise is that such ventures create jobs and bring in foreign reserves.

The problem is that the ventures deepen the impoverished condition of local communities who are pastoral/peasant farmers because they are essentially kicked off the land.

The promise of employment becomes moot when mass mechanization is introduced into a capital intensive investment intended for profit through export and not producing food for the local market.

What ensues is not poverty alleviation through sustainable development by any imagination.

The fate of indigenous and minority groups in places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, etc, are sacrificed.

Often the state apparatus just removes these groups to make way for agro-business interests.

This is a 'new' form of colonialization but not knew in consequences.

See for more information.

See also Innovations in Access to Land: Land Grab or Agricultural Investment? posted at Nourishing the Planet.

What are your (constructive) thoughts?


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