African Dictators almost giving land away, says UN – ByJavier Blas in London(FT)

May 25th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

African countries are giving away vast tracts of farmland to other countries and investors almost for free, with the only benefits consisting of vague promises of jobs and infrastructure, according to a report published on Monday. (more…)

African countries are giving away vast tracts of farmland to other countries and investors almost for free, with the only benefits consisting of vague promises of jobs and infrastructure, according to a report published on Monday.

“Most of the land deals documented by this study involved no or minimal land fees,” it says. Although the deals promise jobs and infrastructure development, it warns that “these commitments tend to lack teeth” on the contracts.

The report – “Land Grab or development opportunity?” – is written jointly by two UN bodies – the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – and the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based think-tank.

It is the first major study of the so-called “farmland grab” trend, in which rich countries such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea invest in overseas land to boost their food security. The investors plan to export all, or a large share of, the crops back to feed their own populations.

The trend gained notoriety after an attempt by South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics to secure a large chunk of land in Madagascar, which contributed to the collapse of the African country’s government.

Some critics, including Jacques Diouf, head of the FAO, warn against “neo-colonialism” but others say the investments can boost economic growth in Africa.

The report, seen by the Financial Times, concludes that “virtually all the [farmland] contracts” were “strikingly short and simple compared to the economic reality of the transaction”. Key concerns such as “strengthening the mechanisms to monitor or enforce compliance with investor commitments” on jobs or infrastructure, “maximising government revenues”, or “balancing food security concerns . . . are dealt with by vague provisions if at all”, it says.

The report, which studied cases in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar and Sudan, uncovered farmland investment in the past five years totalling about 2.5m hectares – equal to about half the arable land of the UK.

Other estimates, including one from Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestlé, put total farmland investments in Africa, Latin America and Asia above 15m hectares, about half the size of Italy.

Also raised in the report was the risk that poor people will lose access to farmland and water.

“Land allocations on the scale documented in this study do have the potential to result in loss of land for large numbers of people,” the report states. “Long-term land leases – for 50 or even 99 years – are unsustainable,” it adds.

Lorenzo Cotula, one of the report’s authors, says new research indicates that farmland deals could be “structured much better”. In particular, it proposes giving host countries more resources to negotiate the deals.

“As pressure grows, the deals will start to be done in a different way,” he adds.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Dear friends: I agree with the head of FAO- which states that this is a form of neo- colonialism. Countries like Ethiopia where more than 12 million of its people do not have enough to eat has to give opportunities to Ethiopian investors to produce food instead of feeding the rich (like Saudi arabia) or atleast 30% of what they produce has to be for Ethiopia and a good agreement about infrastructure development and job opportunities.with out this the only profiters are the saudies and the leaders who sell their own country for their personal interest.

  2. tewbel
    | #2

    In Ethiopia it is estimated that about One Hundred Thousand Gashas (1 Gasha = 40 hectares or 88 acres) of the best fertile has been sold to India, China, Saudi Arabia, Quatar, Dubai. Djibuti, UK Jatropha (Biofuel) TPLF owned foreign companies, and this vanadalism still continues under the guise of investment.
    Soon Ethiopians will be slave labor and refugees in their own land.

  3. milat
    | #3

    sush kind of act encourage meles to stay on power definately.
    I am not sure for his two consecutive stay on power but he almost paved the way to stay the next term on power already.

  4. Mes
    | #4

    It is so sad. Now a day if you are Ethiopian wants to do something like farm, they see you first what tripe you are. For those foreign is everything is possible, they are all welcome any to all region. What the other thing I saw is people are happier when they work to foreign company but they don’t even see it that the owner of the land is himself or herself. አሁን እኔ ግብርና ልስራ ብል ክልሌ የቱ ይሆን? ወይስ ፊቴን ላስቀይር! ከምሬ ነው በተለይ በተለይ ህንዶች በታሪክ አፍሪካን ሰብ ኦሎናይዘር ሆነው እንደዚህ ወደ ሁዋላ ያስቀሩዋት እነሱ ናቸው:: አሁን ኤርፖርትም በየመንግስት መስራቤቶችምየየበዙ ያሉት ህንዶች ናቸው:: ኢትዮጵያዊነት አይሰማው ግን ለምን እንደ አፍሪካነት እንኩዋን አይሰማቸውም እንደ ህጻን ቂም ቁዋጥሮ አገር ማፍረስ::

  5. hahahhh
    | #5

    woyane has to be dimantled or up-rooted.
    so all opposition has to come together and find the solution as quick as
    possible,let’s promise to ourselves and our people that the up coming
    election be the end of EPRDF. let’s put them out of bussines as they are
    cancerous to ethiopian unity and integrity.

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