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Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Publications

Reports

Briefs

In recent years, corporate investments in the agricultural sector and skewed land deals have been a source of intense conflicts with farmers, and have resulted in displacement, widespread human rights abuses, and murders. Yet, turning a blind eye to human rights and land rights violations, the World Bank continues to support agribusiness in the country through the provision of substantial loans.

En los últimos años, las inversiones de parte de grandes empresas y las negociaciones defectuosas en el sector agrícola han sido una fuente de conflictos intensos con los campesinos, que han resultado en desalojamientos, violación generalizada de los derechos humanos, y asesinatos. Sin embargo, el Banco Mundial hace la vista gorda a las violaciones de los derechos humanos y del derecho a la tierra y sigue apoyando a la agroindustria en el país a través de la concesión de préstamos sustanciales.

According to the World Bank, Guatemala is one of the countries most open to foreign direct investment (FDI). It is among the top ten global reformers, and the only country in Latin America to appear on the Doing Business 2014’s top reformers list. In the past four years, the government has made significant reforms to attract FDI. In the agricultural sector, increased FDI—due in part to the adoption of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)—has led to land grabs by large sugarcane and palm oil producers, resulting in the massive and violent displacement of thousands of people.

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The Tanzanian government has put agriculture at the forefront of its development agenda through its “kilimo kwanza” (agriculture first) initiative, which was established in 2009. For a country like Tanzania, which is gifted with a rich diversity of natural and human resources and has a population that is still largely rural, investment in agriculture can offer considerable development potential.

From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image. This is supported by an impressive-sounding partnership with an NGO by the name of All for Africa and as a package typifies the kind of convoluted modern-day foreign investment going on in Africa. It is sadly all too familiar to communities on the ground. They are unimpressed with promises of infrastructure and jobs, and angry about their loss of land and livelihoods.

In June 2011, the Oakland Institute (OI) released details of the largest land deal in Tanzania, which had been hidden away from public scrutiny prior to that and obscured from national debate and discussion. The deal involved Iowa-based Summit Group and the Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group working in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The Oakland Institute is proud to have sponsored the first ever assembly of communities impacted by large-scale foreign land investments in Sierra Leone. Between April 1-4, 2012 farmers, small land owners, women, youth, and elders assembled in Freetown to have their voices heard and strategize a way forward. Joan Baxter, Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute reports from the meeting.

In 2011, Socfin Agricultural Company Sierra Leone Ltd. (Socfin SL) secured 6,500 hectares of prime farmland for rubber and oil palm plantations in Malen chiefdom in Pujehun district in the south of Sierra Leone. The firm is now seeking an additional 5,000 ha in expansion plans in the Malen region or neighboring chiefdoms. The initial investment, estimated at $100 million, with promises of job creation, compensation for lost farms, and construction of infrastructures, has enjoyed high-level government support. The 50-year lease was signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Sam Sesay.

In this series of press briefings, Green Scenery examines some key assumptions behind the acquisition of farmland in Sierra Leone, to promote informed public debate. This first briefing note looks into land “availability” in Sierra Leone.

The June 2011 publication of the Oakland Institute’s investigation into AgriSol Energy’s land deal in Tanzania was followed by an indicting televised report from Dan Rather, the involvement of international civil society including the Sierra Club, Tanzanian activists, and a broad array of supporters from around the world. Yet, AgriSol still plans to go ahead with this large-scale agricultural project to produce agrofuel and genetically modified crops for export from Tanzania.

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