Feb. 14 (GIN) - An Iowa school has backed out of a project that was regarded as a massive land grab in Tanzania. Over 160,000 small farmers would have been evicted under the plan.
In its announcement on Feb. 10, Iowa State University said it was tired of defending its role in the African project and its partnership with AgriSol Energy, a U.S. company run by a major university donor.
AgriSol Energy had called the project involving 800,000 acres ‘an effort to bring modern farming methods, machinery and high quality seeds to the region.' But critics saw it as a plantation-style land grab.
"This land has been feeding many families," said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute which first spotted the controversial deal. "The proposed large-scale commercial agriculture is mechanized - it does not create jobs for these small-holder farmers... At best some might become share-croppers, some might become plantation workers, at most. But it's going to deny them food security," she said.
The Oakland, California-based Institute gave credit to campus and media activism for the turnaround at the university. "I sincerely hope we can keep the pressure on and have a just outcome," Mittal said.
In addition to their Tanzanian partner, Serengeti Advisors Ltd, the project was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador, Alfonso Lenhardt, a retired U.S. major general, graduate of the FBI National Academy, the National War College, and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Supervisors Program.
AgriSol's investor plans show the company and its business partners would invest $100 million over 10 years, and estimate making $350 million the first year, Mittal said.