AFRICA.— Farmers in Africa are being driven off their traditional lands to make way for new industrial farming projects backed by European hedge funds seeking profits, and foreign countries looking for cheap food. The “land grab” is leading to the potential displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers
The Oakland Institute, says investors have bought u to60 million hectares (148 million acres), land equal to the size of France, in what is commonly being referred to as a “land grab”. Anuradha Mittal, executive director of Oakland Institute, explained, “The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply.”
“It’s kind of shameful that while we in the Western world paint Africa as a basket case — we talk about its hunger, we talk about its corruption — but we are responsible for trying to steal the land and turn it into a breadbasket for the North” said Mittal.
European and U.S. agribusinesses are the primary buyers of hundreds of thousands of hectares for future biofuel development.
The “land grabs” are also supported by China, Libya and other Mideast and Asian investors seeking to secure food resources and farming for their growing populations.
Reports say investors are being promised cheap land with no questions asked while the hedge fund buyers are searching for ways to displace traditional farms (that have no clear formal ownership) for small fees and promises of employment.
In Ethiopia, hundreds of thousands are being driven off their traditional lands and placed in new government-planned villages, while foreign investors claim the land to start new export-driven farms.
Many investor groups claim that the projects it backs are boosting income and providing jobs for hundreds of people. Anthony Poorter, Africa director for EmVest Asset Management, stated, “We’ve really created something out of nothing in Africa.”
However, Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, explained, “The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”