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Press Statement: Lives on Hold

Monday, July 9, 2012

Press Statement from Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, on the Institute’s latest report, Lives on Hold, which documents the impact of AgriSol’s land deal in Tanzania. Released at press call, July 9, 2012


The Oakland Institute (OI) first exposed AgriSol Energy’s land deal in Tanzania in June 2011. Since then, our research and advocacy has generated international attention and mobilized a growing number of people concerned about the downside of large-scale land deals that do not benefit smallholder farmers, respect the environment, or are genuinely pro-development.

As we release Lives on Hold, based on fieldwork carried out in Katumba, Tanzania, in March and April 2012, I’d like to make the following key points:

1. All of our analysis, presented in briefs and reports dating back to June 2011, is based on fieldwork both with the investors (several months of ongoing conversations by phone, email, and personal meetings with Bruce Rastetter and associates between January-June 9, 2011) as well as in Tanzania itself, speaking to the residents of Katumba. The research is also based on AgriSol’s documents, including a Memo of Understanding (MOU), business plans, feasibility studies, communication with the Prime Minister, and other information (available on our website). So though it may be presented as such, it is not a case of our word against theirs.

2. Even though there is a long history of relocation talks (for Burundians) spanning the last 40 years, no concrete plans were ever made. It was only under the leadership of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lawrence Masha (also hired as a legal advisor by AgriSol) that a naturalization scheme was announced amid much fanfare. Following naturalization, citizenship papers dependent on relocation of the residents, made displacement a requirement of citizenship. In April 2011, when I asked Mr. Rastetter about the residents, he was well aware of their presence. He said that it was the responsibility of the government to move them and was one of their requirements as the investor. At the same time, the documents provided by his associates to OI, called the area an “abandoned refugee settlement.”

3. Since the deal was exposed and garnered international attention, AgriSol has ramped up their PR defending the investment as pro-development for Tanzania. They paint it as an effort that will build infrastructure, including schools and a health clinic, and to create jobs.

AgriSol is hoping that the media, policymakers, the Iowa Ethics Commission, and citizens of Iowa and Tanzania won’t read their business plans, MOU, or any other materials because nowhere do they make any of these commitments in writing.

In their presentation to the Prime Minister, however, they demand “strategic investor status,” which would allow them tax exemptions including a waiver of duties on diesel, agricultural and industrial equipment and supplies; exemption from corporate tax; legal certainty for use of GMO and approval for the production of biofuels and biodiesel. They also ask the government to commit to and provide a timetable for the construction of a rail link for Mishamo. The feasibility study suggests that the government commits itself to an irrevocable guarantee to AgriSol for an export license, so it can export produce even in times of national shortages. AgriSol’s feasibility studies also call for it to negotiate with the government for input subsidies, which for now are targeted for the smallholder Tanzanian farmers. If accepted by the government, such a demand will divert scarce public resources from smallholders to agribusiness.

But most importantly, on p. 40 of their presentation, AgriSol demands for “Refugee hosting area evacuation completion.”

Henry Akona, AgriSol’s spokesperson, has said, “AgriSol has absolutely nothing to do with the refugees in Katumba and Mishamo." This is patently untrue as it is a written requirement of the investor.

In regard to job creation and smallholder outgrower schemes, our fieldwork shows that no outreach was done to any villages where such outgrower schemes would be carried out. In fact, the Iowa State University professor, Prof. Kimle, who conducted field visits on behalf of AgriSol, said to me on a Skype call in May 2011 that they were not sure who ISU would do outreach to once the settlement is cleared. In April 2011, I asked Mr. Rastetter whether, in return for all that AgriSol was asking for from the Tanzanian government, they would have to commit to a certain number of jobs; his response was that the Tanzanian government is reasonable and understands that they will need to bring in South Africans. And after a pause, he continued, white South Africans.

4. Our research shows that the area is an environmentally fragile area, protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. AgriSol’s plans to unleash industrial-style agricultural waste based on using GMOs, Roundup, and other chemicals on 800,000 acres of land puts this protected land at great risk for destruction. The environmental impact on Tanzania will not be an easy one to recover from. Well aware of the classification of the area as a protected forest reserve and wetland system, AgriSol’s response is to have the classification changed, instead of respecting the environment and the people of Tanzania.

5. Lastly, it is essential to look at the cast of characters involved in the AgriSol investment.

As mentioned above, Lawrence Masha, former Minister of Home Affairs, was in charge of the refugee camps when the relocation plan was decided. He was hired as a “legal advisor” to AgriSol. In recent years, Mr. Masha has been accused on several occasions of conflicts of interest, including in a multimillion dollar national identity cards (IDs) project, which his ministry oversaw. His law firm, IMMA Advocates, has been linked to a controversial gold-related project, Deep Green Finance, which is alleged to have siphoned $122 million from the Bank of Tanzania.

Another key associate is Iddi Simba, former Director-General of the East African Development Bank and former Tanzanian Minister for Industry and Commerce, a position he had to resign from in 2001 because of his involvement in a sugar scandal. His political career is marked with such scandals, a more recent one involves the sale of the city transport firm Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) to a local company, Simon Group. On May 29, 2012 he was charged with eight counts, including forgery, and abuse of office that caused over Sh 2.4 billion loss to the transportation company and the people of Tanzania.

There is no way that individuals such as these can be expected to protect the interests of Tanzanians.


Remarks by Jeff Furman, member, Board of Directors, The Oakland Institute

Contact information: Jeff Furman, [email protected]

“It is no longer possible for AgriSol or Mr. Rastetter to have 'clean hands' in Tanzania. They have lost that opportunity. They need to formally agree to abandon their efforts, either directly or indirectly, that encourage the displacement of over 160,000 villagers. The best way to do that is to clearly state that they will not proceed in any way with their development plans so that the current residents may continue with their lives in security and peace.”


About the Oakland Institute

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.


Remarks by Larry Ginter, Iowa CCI member

Iowa CCI and I stand in solidarity with family farmers and workers in Tanzania and communities all over the world.

In the 1980s in Iowa we had over 80,000 hog producers, now we only have 8,000. Since the factory farm model came to Iowa, hundreds of small family livestock supply operations have closed. County tax receipts from hog sales have gone down. The diversity of swine breeds has dropped off, good seed stock suppliers have been pushed out, veterinarians have lost lots of business, crop diversity and rotation of crops has declined, and oat production plummeted.

Since 1995, Iowa has had over 750 known manure spills, has over 572 polluted waterways, and many of our streams, rivers, and lakes are polluted as well.

Our state government and the regulatory agencies that protect our air, water and land have been corrupted by cronyism for the support of factory farm agriculture. Rastetter’s agriculture is not sustainable agriculture and will not benefit Tanzanian farmers. It didn’t work here and it won’t work there.

Throwing those refugees off the land is an outrage, and leasing the land for pennies is nothing short of theft. In my county, the cost of renting land is $225/acre. I am sure the land in Tanzania is in pretty good shape, the leaders in Tanzania must be foolish, gullible, or corrupt. Renting the land for $.25 an acre smells rotten, looks fishy, and doesn’t sit right with common sense. It is a windfall for Agrisol. The land of Tanzania should be developed for staple food production use by the people of Tanzania, not for soybeans and corn for export and the profit of Agrisol. This is a classic case of colonialism, and is theft of the highest order.


Read the report, Lives on Hold