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“Land-grabbing” in Africa (2)

John Vidal

Readinch

Even Sudan, emerging from civil war, is not off-limits to investors seeking land and profits, John Vidal writes. Ethiopia, too, is a land-rush centre where many deals are condemned as “new colonialism”.

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Nowhere is now out of bounds. Sudan, emerging from civil war and mostly bereft of development for a generation, is one of the new hot spots. South Korean companies last year bought 700,000 hectares of northern Sudan for wheat cultivation; the United Arab Emirates have acquired 750,000 hectares and Saudi Arabia concluded a 42,000-hectare deal in Nile province in February.

The government of southern Sudan says many companies are now trying to acquire land. “We have had many requests from many developers. Negotiations are going on,” said Peter Chooli, director of water resources and irrigation, in Juba recently. “A Danish group is in discussions with the state and another wants to use land near the Nile.”

In one of the most extraordinary deals, buccaneering New York investment firm Jarch Capital, run by a former commodities trader, Philip Heilberg, has leased 800,000 hectares in southern Sudan near Darfur. Heilberg has promised not only to create jobs but also to put 10% or more of his profits back into the local community. But he has been accused by Sudanese of “grabbing” communal land and leading an American attempt to fragment Sudan and exploit its resources.

Devlin Kuyek, a Montreal-based researcher with the NGO Grain, said investing in Africa was now seen as a new food-supply strategy by many governments. “Rich countries are eyeing Africa not just for a healthy return on capital, but also as an insurance policy. Food shortages and riots in 28 countries in 2008, declining water supplies, climate change and huge population growth have together made land attractive. Africa has the most land and, compared with other continents, is cheap,” he said.

“Farmland in sub-Saharan Africa is giving 25% returns a year and new technology can treble crop yields in short time-frames,” said Susan Payne, chief executive of Emergent Asset Management, a UK investment fund seeking to spend US$50 million on African land, which, she said, was attracting governments, corporations, multinationals and other investors. “Agricultural development is not only sustainable, it is our future. If we do not pay great care and attention now to increase food production by over 50% before 2050, we will face serious food shortages globally,” she said.

But 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.

We met Tegenu Morku, a land agent, in a roadside café on his way to the region of Oromia in Ethiopia to find 500 hectares of land for a group of Egyptian investors. They planned to fatten cattle, grow cereals and spices, and export as much as possible to Egypt. There had to be water available and he expected the price to be about 15 Ethiopian birr (US$1.10) per hectare per year – less than a quarter of the cost of land in Egypt and a tenth of the price of land in Asia.

“The land and labour is cheap and the climate is good here. Everyone – Saudis, Turks, Chinese, Egyptians – is looking. The farmers do not like it because they get displaced, but they can find land elsewhere and, besides, they get compensation, equivalent to about 10 years’ crop yield,” he said.

Oromia is one of the centres of the African land rush. Haile Hirpa, president of the Oromia studies’ association, said in a recent letter of protest to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that India had acquired one million hectares, Djibouti 10,000 hectares, Saudi Arabia 100,000 hectares, and that Egyptian, South Korean, Chinese, Nigerian and other Arab investors were all active in the state.

“This is the new, 21st-century colonisation. The Saudis are enjoying the rice harvest, while the Oromos are dying from man-made famine as we speak,” he said.

The Ethiopian government denied the deals were causing hunger and said that the land deals were attracting hundreds of millions of US dollars of foreign investments and tens of thousands of jobs. A spokesman said: “Ethiopia has 74 million hectares of fertile land, of which only 15% is currently in use – mainly by subsistence farmers. Of the remaining land, only a small percentage – 3 to 4% – is offered to foreign investors. Investors are never given land that belongs to Ethiopian farmers. The government also encourages Ethiopians in the diaspora to invest in their homeland. They bring badly needed technology, they offer jobs and training to Ethiopians, they operate in areas where there is suitable land and access to water.”

The reality on the ground is different, according to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition (ILC). “If land in Africa hasn’t been planted, it’s probably for a reason. Maybe it’s used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land in Ethiopia that has no owners and users.”

Development experts are divided on the benefits of large-scale, intensive farming. Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva said in London recently that large-scale industrial agriculture not only threw people off the land but also required chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, intensive water use and large-scale transport, storage and distribution, which together turned landscapes into enormous mono-cultural plantations.

“We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline,” Shiva says. But Rodney Cooke, director at the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), sees potential benefits. “I would avoid the blanket term ‘land-grabbing’. Done the right way, these deals can bring benefits for all parties and be a tool for development.”

Lorenzo Cotula, senior researcher with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), who co-authored a report on African land exchanges with the UN fund last year, found that well-structured deals could guarantee employment, better infrastructures and better crop yields. But badly handled they could cause great harm, especially if local people were excluded from decisions about allocating land and if their land rights were not protected.

Water is also controversial. Local government officers in Ethiopia told the Observer that foreign companies that set up flower farms and other large intensive farms were not being charged for water. “We would like to, but the deal is made by central government,” said one. In Awassa, the al-Amouni farm uses as much water a year as 100,000 Ethiopians.


Part one: A historical land rush

www.guardian.co.uk/

Copyright Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Homepage image from United Nations Photo

 

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非洲的土地争夺战?

没有土地被“霸占”。只是在进行着愿买愿卖的交易。贸易?对于数年租赁期间的使用安排。这不是欧洲“殖民者”在北美,南美,东南亚(如澳大利亚和新西兰)枪口下的强抢,还有在臭名昭著的1885年“争夺非洲”柏林会议后对非洲的瓜分 。 请停止进行反穆斯林式的宣传!公平一点。

" Land-Grabbing" in Africa?

No land is being "Grabbed".It is being bought in a willing-seller/willing- buyer trAnsaction.=Trade?And it is being used in a 'Lease-hold' for a number of years arrangement. It is not being STOLEN at gun-point, as the Europeans "Colonialists" did in North & South America,in SE Asia(i.e. Australia & New Zealand), or as in Africa after the notorious European "Scramble for Africa"(1885). Pls stop carrying anti-Muslim propoganda! BE FAIR.


这不是重点

这与资本主义的邪恶方面有关,而不是伊斯兰教。
被掠夺了土地的当地人往往事先都没有知情同意的自由。他们也没有机会理解夺地产生的影响——如果他们事先知道并理解的话,他们会先准备好枪。

Missing the point

It has much more to do with the worst aspects of capitalism than Islam.

The local people whose land is being grabbed tend not to have been given their prior free and informed consent. They have also not yet had a chance to appreciate the implications of the land grab - guns will be primed when they do.


如果土地被合理利用

他认为,结构良好的土地交易能够确保就业、改善基础设施,并且还能提高作物产量。——非洲有大片的可利用土地,而且人口不多,所以为什么不能租给其它国家种粮食?如果其他国家对非洲土地的利用不造成土地退化和环境破坏,又能增加当地就业的话,何尝不是一种很好的合作方式?在非洲进行土地贸易的公司可以将土地种植的成果以较低的价格卖给当地人民或者以补贴的方式给他们粮食等等。非洲的饥饿史由来已久,原因大家自然明白,并不是“新殖民主义”造成的吧?

If the land were wisely used

Land transaction within a sound structure may ensure good employment status,better the infrastructure and improve the crop production.----There is a wide range of utilizable territories and little population in Africa, so why can't they rent the land to other countries?If the utilization wouldn't cause land degradation and environmental demage,and add profit to the local employment, then it will be a great approach to cooperation.The land-trade companies in Africa sold the grain at a lower price to the local people, or give them grain as a subsidy.We all know the reason why Africa has struggled with hunger for so many years.I don't believe that the "New colonialism" is the one to be blame.

Translated by Yaqing


开发者应有道德,造福当地

开发者应该绿色无污染地开发肥沃的土地,以免今后造成土壤贫瘠化;另一方面,也要造福当地人民,回馈当地,寻求共同发展。而非洲当地政府有关单位也应该不能见钱就卖。
开发者和当地政府应各有道德和责任,不引发当地人民和资源的各种危机。

Developers should be moral, for the benefit of locals

Developers should exploit fertile land in an uncontaminated way, in case of impoverishment of the soils in the future. On the other hand, they should benefit indigene, give feedback to local and seek mutual prosperity. The local government in Africa should not sell their lands for only financial interest. Developers and local governments should have ethics and responsibility, in order to avoid various crises to the local people.


评论3:为何非洲当地人民挨饿?

很抱歉,我并不知道为何非洲在饥饿中挣扎。

是因为当地人是非洲人?因为他们政府的土地使用政策很腐败?还是因为超过两代人以前他们的国家曾沦为殖民地?

或者是因为,尽管他们擅长务农,但当地的土地和天气并不利于创造更多可持续的产出?也可能是因为他们认为自己的本土价值比物质享乐主义更高尚?

老一代的人仍记得,许多大型农业项目在七、八十年代以失败告终。而众所周知的是其它国家或地区(特别是中国、欧洲、印度和美国)造成的气候变化正不断增加非洲大部分地区庄稼歉收的风险。

而用农业产业经营化取代当地人民显然不是一个解决方案。工业化也不是——中国将在竞争中胜出。良性的计划生育和给予妇女教育的机会将是一个帮助——然而,援助机构和政客却拒绝提倡。

Comment 3: Why do local people in Africa suffer from hunger?

Sorry, I do not know why Africa struggles to escape hunger.

Is it because the local people are African, their governments' land-use policies are corrupt, because more than two generations ago their countries were colonies?

Or is it because, although they are good farmers, the land and weather are not conducive to greater output on a sustainable basis? It may also be that they feel that their local values are superior to materialism?

As those old enough would remember, many large scale agriculture projects failed during the 1970s and 80s.
It is widely known that climate change caused by others (particularly, China, Europe, India and the USA) is increasing the risk of crop failure in much of Africa.

Displacing local people by agri-business is obviously not a solution. Neither is industrialisation - China would outcompete them. Benign family planning and education for women would be a help - but aid agencies and politicians refuse to promote this.


评论5:你说的对

为什么说你不知道非洲人民遭受饥饿的原因呢?
我觉得你说的每一条都是对的。因为它们是发展中国家,因为它们的政府很腐败,因为上个世纪之前它们是殖民地。因为气候变化加剧了非洲土地耕种的失败。
商业化农业不是解决之道,工业化更不是。但是谁为中国树立了错误的榜样,进行工业化发展?谁又为非洲国家树立了错误的榜样,要进行工业化发展?资本家和政治家是不希望"the proles"变得聪明起来的,他们怎么会愿意提升教育?

Comment 5 : you are right

Why do you say that you don't know the reason of Africans suffering hunger? I think every item that you said is right. Because they are developing countries, their government are corrupt, and they were colony before the last century. Because the Climate change aggravated their failure of land farming.
Neither commercializing agriculture is the solution, nor the industrialization. But who set the wrong model for China, toward the industrialization? Who set the wrong example for Africa, headed to the industrialization still? The capitalists and politicians would never hope the "proles" becoming smarter, so how are they willing to improve the education?
(Translated by margaret.li)


Thought

For some countries this is implicitly about water trading. Saudi Arabia has given up agricultural self-sufficiency as depletion of water resources was unsustainable. For others it is a commercial opportunity. Accusations of new colonialism are misplaced. More to the point is the willingness of governments to engage in meaningful land reform and to give local people a voice in what happens to the land. Commercial agriculture has its place but should not be at the expense of small holders.

思考

对一些国家来说,这其实是一场水资源的交易。沙特阿拉伯由于水资源无法永久持续供给,放弃了自给自足的农业模式。对另外一些国家来说,这是一个商业机遇。谴责这些交易是新殖民主义是不恰当的。关键是,当地政府愿意实行有意义的土地改革,并告知当地人民他们的土地被怎么运用了。商业化农业运作有其一定的意义,但是不应该以牺牲小型土地所有者为代价。


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