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Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Publications

Reports

"The Struggle for Nabi Salih" report cover

Palestine: For Land and Life offers a glimpse of everyday life for the people in Palestine and the monumental issues that stand in the way of peace and justice in the region. The series began as a project examining the impact of the occupation on agricultural livelihoods, with a special focus on land, water, and seeds. But the research quickly became about everyday life under occupation, the use of laws and military orders which subjugate Palestinians, and the struggle to sustain livelihoods in this context. Palestine: For Land and Life shares stories of marginalization and struggle, but it also documents resistance, perseverance and innovation and shows how hope and resilience, just like homes, can be rebuilt and revived—even after 70 years of occupation and displacement.

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Briefs

Iowa-based Summit Group and Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group, in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, are developing a large agriculture enterprise in Tanzania. The site encompasses three “abandoned refugee camps”– Lugufu in Kigoma province (25,000 ha), Katumba (80,317 ha), and Mishamo (219,800 ha), both in Rukwa province.

The World Bank Group (WBG) promotes large-scale land investment in developing countries as a “win-win” situation where investors profit and “host” nations benefit from economic development, improved agricultural infrastructure, and employment opportunities. Since the 2008 food and financial crises, the number of land investment deals in developing countries has skyrocketed, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Oakland Institute’s (OI) investigation into over 50 land investments deals in seven African countries highlights the role played by a wide range of international development agencies, multilateral institutions, and so-called “socially responsible” investment funds. While using the language of aid organizations these institutions speak of “helping Africa feed itself,” “improved food security,” “livelihood creation,” and “sustainable environmental policies.” However a closer look at their agenda and policy prescriptions, and an investigation into the reality on the ground reveals otherwise. Even with growing evidence that the current African land grab is displacing small farmers, indigenous communities, and threatening food and water security, US and international development agencies continue to push for foreign agricultural land investment. This brief explores this issue further.

The promise of job creation has been put forward by investors, governments, and international institutions to convince local communities of the benefits of foreign investment in agriculture. For instance, the Sierra Leonean president, claimed in March 2011, “Huge investments in the [agricultural] sector will definitely translate into hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for our youths.” Several countries studied by the Oakland Institute reveal that many locals thus welcome land investment with the hope that such projects will bring jobs and wages.

The belief that large-scale land investment in Africa will result in much needed economic development is strongly promoted by foreign investors, government officials, and international institutions. As a result, many African governments fervently encourage foreign investment in agricultural land and offer what some have called “mouthwatering” incentives to investors. Officials trust that land deals will spur growth with incoming capital, assist with infrastructure, and create employment for local people. On their part, investors reinforce these ideas with bold promises of economic development, “modernization” and numerous jobs. AgriSol Energy Tanzania LLC, for instance, claims they will transform Tanzania into a “regional agricultural powerhouse” using genetically modified crops and other technologies to increase yields.

Cheap land and fairly easy access to water make Africa attractive for industrial agriculture. Investors see Africa as an “uncrowded space of opportunities,” and the prospect of accessing abundant water resources is a focal point in business plans. Some firms are explicit that they are as much agricultural land investors as they are investors in water supplies. Others say that they only select land which has access to water for large-scale irrigation and that land only has value if water is available. The availability of water gains further meaning as estimates show that the increased requirements for food to feed the world’s population – exceeding 7 billion – will outpace existing water resources by 40 percent by 2030.

In the trend of large-scale agricultural land acquisitions in Sub-Saharan Africa “green investments” such as the production of agrofuels and agroforestry developments, are upheld as climate solutions, and are being used to justify, promote, and accelerate massive land grabs. Yet, even as research indicates that the expansion of industrial agriculture on African soil is likely to aggravate the heating of the planet, market mechanisms like carbon trade and carbon credits are providing a “green cover” for current land grabs.

The largest land deal in South Sudan to date was negotiated between a Dallas, Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development Inc. (NTD) and Mukaya Payam Cooperative in March 2008. The 49-year land lease of 600,000 hectares (with a possibility of 400,000 additional hectares) for 75,000 Sudanese Pounds (equivalent to approximately USD 25,000), allows NTD full rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land.

Since 2003, Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, one of the most culturally and ecologically unique areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, has been thrust into the international spotlight due to the launch of the controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project. Unfortunately, the massive commercial agriculture developments and resulting state-sponsored human rights violations – all made possible by Gibe III – have escaped international attention.

 

Factsheet cover

Emergent Asset Management (Emergent), a private limited liability company based in the UK and minority owned by Toronto Dominion Bank, claims to be managing the largest agricultural fund in Africa. Using private equity to invest in industrial agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, Emergent is however, a prime example of the troublesome rise in speculative funds that are investing in African agricultural land.

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