Over Twenty African countries are selling or leasing land for intensive agriculture in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era. Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13-million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 7.5 million acres of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food. Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. Any land there, which investors have not been able to buy, is being leased for approximately $1 per year per 2.5 acres.
Ethiopia is only one of 20 or more African countries where land is being bought or leased for intensive agriculture on an immense scale in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era.
An Observer investigation estimates that up to 125 million acres of land — an area more than double the size of the UK—has been acquired in the last few years or is in the process of being negotiated by governments and wealthy investors working with state subsidies. The land rush, which is still accelerating, has been triggered by the worldwide food shortages which followed the sharp oil price rises in 2008, growing water shortages and theEuropean Union’s insistence that 10% of all transport fuel must come from plant-based biofuels by 2015.
The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands. In many areas the deals have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of “land grabbing”.
Leading the rush are international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds as well as UK pension funds, foundations and individuals attracted by some of the world’s cheapest land. Together they are scouring Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania,Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, along with other Middle Eastern emirate states such as Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, is thought to be the biggest buyer..
Many of the deals are widely condemned by both Western non-government groups and nationals as “new colonialism”, driving people off the land and taking scarce resources away from people.
Title: Food, water driving 21st-century African land grab Mail & Guardian / March 7, 2010
Author: By John Vidal
Fuculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips
Sonoma State University