Sale of land intensifies hunger crisis in Africa
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
„The escalating sale of fertile land in Africa to foreign investors undermines efforts to alleviate poverty and establish sustainable small-scale farming“, criticises Hans Rudolf Herren (picture), World Food Prize laureate and founder of the Biovision Foundation for ecological development. He suggests improved provision of information and training for local farmers as a suitable countermeasure. Since the global financial crisis an increasing number of banks, investment funds and private speculators have joined the rush to gain more secure opportunities for their capital. These interested parties negotiate sale of lands or lease agreements for millions of hectares with governments or the local elite, promise investment and jobs; gaining in a countermove tax breaks while exploiting the land often without a thought to its capacity for regeneration.
The World Bank has commissioned a study on landgrabbing that has been expected for months and which states these concerns frankly. The official version of this report has not yet been presented, but in the last few days an internal leak has exposed explosive findings from this research. While representatives of the World Bank praise profit-oriented investment in developing countries as a possible way out of poverty and dependency, the institution must now admit that the acquistion of land through foreign investors only rarely contributes to an improved situation for local people on the ground. The leaked results of the study allow for the conclusion that the rural population seldom profits - more likely that frequent conflicts arise over land use rights and the pressure to exploit prevails, particularly if investors stem predominantly from states with a weak legal system. The Senegalese agronomist Jacques Diouf, director of the UNO World Food Organisation FAO, goes one step further and warns against a new form of colonialism that compromises Africa’s future. In individual countries such as Madagascar and Kenya it has already led to social and political unrest.
Biovision presents alternatives. For over ten years the Biovision Foundation has proven that the productivity of African agriculture can be consideraby increased without the influence of foreign agro-conglomerates. „To achieve this no industrial cultivation with its enormous consumption of fossil energy, water and environmentally damaging chemicals is required, but a strengthening of small-scale structures“, explains Hans Rudolf Herren. Biovision strengthens the position of the small-scale farmer in the project countries of East Africa – together with partner organisations on the ground – by promoting natural cultivation methods, enabling further processing of products and access to markets so that additional income can be generated. The isolated incidences of successful resistance to planned land sales in Africa show that well-informed and organised farmers are best placed to defend themselves against the sale of their foundation for life and the degradation of food production to speculative trading.
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