Africa is “almost giving land away”

In the first major study of the “farmland grab” food-security trend, two United Nations organisations say African countries are giving away vast tracts of farmland to other countries and investors nearly for free, the Financial Times reported. The only benefits to the African nations were vague promises of jobs and infrastructure, according to the study, Land Grab or Development Opportunity?


Rich countries, including Saudi Arabia and South Korea, have been investing in overseas land to boost their domestic food security. “Most of the land deals documented by this study involved no or minimal land fees,” the report says. It warns that although the deals promise jobs and infrastructure development, “these commitments tend to lack teeth” in the contracts.


According to the newspaper, the study concludes that virtually all the farmland contracts were “strikingly short and simple compared to the economic reality of the transaction”. Key concerns, it added, were “dealt with by vague provisions if at all”.


The report was written jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, along with the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based think-tank.


Cases in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar and Sudan were studied, and farmland investment totalling about 2.5 million hectares in the past five years was uncovered. (Other estimates provide higher figures.) “Land allocations on the scale documented in this study do have the potential to result in loss of land for large numbers of people,” the report says. “Long-term land leases – for 50 or even 99 years – are unsustainable.”

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