Sunday, May 26, 2013

Farmland - the New "Blood Diamonds" in Sierra Leone?

Joan Baxter
May 23, 2013.
It's March 2013 and Sierra Leone has just celebrated 11 years of peace following a horrific decade-long civil war that was fueled by blood diamonds. Vast amounts of donor money, US $2.5 billion from the United Nations alone, were spent restoring the peace and billions more have been spent consolidating it. While Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in the world, recently it has been experiencing high GDP growth linked with iron ore and diamond mining. Since 2002, the country has undergone three largely peaceful elections. In 2011, at great expense and with great fanfare, it celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from Britain.

But in Kpaka Chiefdom, and elsewhere in the country where large foreign investors are moving in, the mood is not all that celebratory. District authorities in Pujehun express concern that the seeds of the next conflict are already being sown. This time it is not diamonds at the heart of the matter; it's something far more valuable to local people - farmland.

The Sierra Leonean NGO Green Scenery calculates that in the past three years in Pujehun District, large investors, primarily representing foreign interests, have taken out long-term leases on at least 248,219 hectares [613,362 acres] - more than 60 percent of the total area of and 81 percent of all the arable land - in Pujehun District.

While food production has been steadily rising in the years since the war ended, Sierra Leone remains a low-income, food-deficit country that relies heavily on small family farms for its food production. Most of the investors that have leased farmland in Pujehun District plan to use it not for food production, but for industrial plantations of oil palm. Annual rents vary from about 23 US cents to US $12.35 per hectare [9 cents to $5 per acre). In a press statement, Green Scenery warns that the poor compensation rates and the concentration of land in the hands of a few corporate investors will leave local farming communities with very little to live off after their land is converted to giant plantations and they've lost their farm fields, forest fallows and valuable economic trees.
Read the rest here.
Comment: This is the recolonization of Africa.  Sierra Leone is not a unique case on the continent.

So much for Africa Day and that sellout organization of fat ass comprodors, the African Union.

And we are not free.


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