Thursday, June 16, 2011

Harvard (et al) in Africa

The Oakland Institute is publishing a series of reports showing, among other things, that the "land grab" in Africa is not just about Middle Eastern countries, India, and China. US Universities are speculating that the value of land in Africa is going to go up, so they are buying low and selling high. Land is being bought at 1/2000th the price of land in Iowa and 1/1000th the price of land in Brazil. Note please that this is not a "market" price -- it is negotiated between government and (government, firm, institution, investor), usually with no input from or repayment for the people currently living and working the land. Eminent domain indeed: "a foreign investment group was able to acquire 100,000 hectares of fertile land in Mali for a 50-year term for free."
Researchers at the California-based Oakland Institute think that Emergent's clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.
Emergent claims that it's not speculation or land grabbing, but that real investments are being made to make the land more valuable, and more productive to the extent it helps with it being valuable.
In Ethiopia, a process of "villagisation" by the government is moving tens of thousands of people from traditional lands into new centres while big land deals are being struck with international companies. [Ethiopia map source]

The largest land deal in South Sudan, where as much as 9% of the land is said by Norwegian analysts to have been bought in the last few years, was negotiated between a Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development and a local co-operative run by absent chiefs. The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 (£15,000) allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil and timber. The company, headed by former US Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas, says it intends to apply for UN-backed carbon credits that could provide it with millions of pounds a year in revenues.
Meanwhile the Republic of Congo (not the DRC) is giving 80k ha to 40 of the white farmers ousted from Zimbabwe a few years back:

Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Rigobert Maboundou. "This is why we are giving over these lands, to employ local labour and benefit from the South African expertise." He said it was essential to surrender the farmland to those who could invest in it....

[The representative of the farmers said] "Our understanding with the government is that we are here to help the country's food production - we plan to set up an agricultural college and train local farmers. "Our priority is to help produce enough to feed the country - we are not looking at exports for at least two or three years and then only if we produce a surplus which we cannot sell to the domestic market," he said. "If we do end up producing more than we can sell here then we might consider selling to neighbouring Gabon and the Central African Republic."
Then there's Tanzania:
AgriSol plans large-scale commercial farming and beef and poultry production on land it bought in western Tanzania. To avoid foreign land ownership limitations, AgriSol works in league with a Tanzanian consulting firm.

Oakland Institute explains that while AgriSol said it wants to work in cooperation with local farmers, up to 325,000 hectares of land it purchased is occupied by Burundian refugees who have farmed the land since 1972.

Oakland Institute said those people are being pushed out in favor of white South African farm managers.

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