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Reflex Eco Group – Africa news

by Paul Frimpong (Ghanaian Economist)

This Blog is sponsored by http://www.reflexecogroup.com

Land grabbing is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, communities have been intimidated to abandon – or have been forcibly removed from – their land. However we are now witnessing a new aggressive land grab, driven by high food prices and growing global consumption, with multinational corporations, often in partnership with governments, seizing the land.

 

High food prices, combined with growing demand for land and for other natural resources and a financial crisis that forced investors to look for new speculative investments, have triggered a new global land grab. Only now, it is multinational corporations, often in partnership with governments, which are taking the land, frequently depriving local communities of critical resources. These companies often secure long leases to exploit the land for profits, extracting natural mineral resources, or growing crops for food, fuel or carbon credits.

Over the last couple of years, large-scale acquisitions of farmland in Africa, Latin America and Asia have made headlines across the world. Africa is in the period of witnessing one of the biggest transfers of lands in its history. Foreign investors are leasing hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm lands to giant business enterprises of agricultural nature–billions of dollars are been invested, so are a number of questions being asked.

Is this really a new form of neo-colonialism? Is there really the incidence of large land grabs? Who actually plan these mega deals? And who actually benefits from them?

Let’s remember that, land is very essential to the survival of people; without lands many will starve and die. The land acquisition in Africa is not by only investors from within Africa but also from foreign government, individuals and companies.

Land grab in Africa basically emanates from three sources; first of all by governments, especially those in the Middle East, Asia looking at their food security initiatives. Land and resource rich but cash poor governments are seeking foreign direct investment in land and agriculture. While many of the governments involved are seeking to expand their domestic production of food crops and crops for fuel, agribusiness is seeking to expand its operations and boost profits, growing more, more cheaply; growing new crops for new markets, particularly for agro fuels – as well as gaining access to new markets in rapidly developing economies. Investors and speculators are looking for good investment returns.

 

Secondly, institutional investors who have diversified away from the equities market to longer term investment such as in land perhaps as inflation hedge. Private companies are both keen to gain access to fertile land at a low cost. Countries such as China, India and Egypt want to ensure they have access to rice and grain. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia have recognized that the changing climate and limited water supplies mean that some crops can no longer be grown at home. Instead they are looking to outsource production to areas where fertile land and water are in greater supply. A lot of these multinational and private equity investors who are doing the land deals are using the land to farm for their own food security.

Lastly, we are looking at the previously small scale farmers within Africa also scaling up as a result of the attractiveness of the agricultural sector.
This incidence of land grab has led to a lot of uproar on the continent. I think that what the up roar is arising from is the fact that people want to see a lot more openness and a lot more benefits and even perhaps the method of engagement with the people interested in the land acquisition in Africa perhaps more participatory enough. For instance, no information is given to local owners while taking up their lands depriving them of the opportunity to feed themselves whiles at the same time, exposing them to negative environmental implications of the activities on such lands.

Government policies are very critical in this regard; to what extent is government policies directed towards attracting systematically the institutional investors in such way that there are long term sustainable benefits to both investment companies and also to the host countries? This is where a number of the engagement methodologies need to change to a more transparent ones. This again will require that government policies are geared towards addressing the social implications, environmental implications and also the engagement with the local partners.

Land grabbing leads to some level of local or domestic discomfort. For instance; the lack of adequate and secure access to land and natural resources by the rural and urban poor is a prime cause of hunger and poverty across the continent. In addition, inequalities in land contribute directly to inequalities in health and quality of life. These inequalities cannot be reduced without addressing the overconsumption that lies behind this growing demand for land.

The traditional users lose their land and access to water and other resources—and so lose their livelihood. Sometimes entire villages are displaced. Land grabbing again undermines food sovereignty. The farming taking place on these lands is not for local consumption but for ex-port.
Practices of industrial agriculture are geared to quick profits. They endanger biodiversity and water resources and damage the quality of the topsoil.

 

In addressing the issues of scramble for Africa lands, governments and stakeholders on the continent must ensure they respect constitutional provisions on land tenure. Thus move quickly to design, move a bill, enact and enforce a law to protect citizens who own land under customary tenure system

Measures must be put in place to stop the grabbing of land for agro-fuels, carbon credit trading and other monoculture systems and instead support policies and laws that promote agro-ecological farming systems and practices. Target public investment towards peasant agriculture, family farming, artisanal fishing and indigenous food procurement systems that are based on ecological methods

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Frimpong CEPA

Chartered Economist (ACCE-Global) who writes on the macroeconomy and global affairs. He is also an African Affairs Analyst

Tel: +233 -241 229 548

Email: py.frimpong@yahoo.com

py.frimpong90@gmail.com

Please kindly send all feedback, queries and comments to py.frimpong@yahoo.com

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