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Statement from African Centre for Biosafety

Friday, June 10, 2011

The African Centre for Biosafety warmly welcomes the new reports from The Oakland Institute, titled "Understanding land investment deals in Africa', which brings to light further shocking evidence on the widespread hunger, suffering and displacement being caused by massive land grabs in Africa. These reports confirm what many civil society activists in Africa have long suspected: having already caused untold damage to the global economy through speculation in housing and food, the seers of high finance have pounced on land in Africa as the next great get-rich-quick opportunity.

By accessing previously unseen documents, the Oakland institute has meticulously unpacked the web of deceit being spun around just who benefits from these deals. 'Investors' are being offered land at next to nothing, for up to 99 years, unlimited water rights and tax waivers, to grow crops for industrial biofuels and export to Northern markets. Apart from the usual suspects involved in these nefarious deals, such as the large Northern based hedge funds, other institutional investors include the world's prestigious universities, such as Harvard.

The reports show that the scale of the land grabs is phenomenal: involving up to 60 million hectares- an area the size of France-being acquired in 2009 alone. With over 60% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, the impact of this speculation on the economic, political and social landscape of Africa is and will be profound. The ecological impacts of these short term investment plans appear to have been given scant consideration. These transactions are often justified on the grounds they are using 'marginal' or 'unproductive land'. Since over one third of Africa's land is used productively but not permanently by pastoralists represents an astonishing lack of understanding of the complexity of the African agrarian landscape on the part of these investors, and those who are party to their beneficence.