Africa urged to set farmland rules

African nations may have to institute a code of conduct for farmland purchases by foreigners seeking to secure their own food supplies, according to a World Bank official, Reuters reported. To protect themselves from possible exploitation, the countries would need to set up rules to govern land buys, said Marilou Uy, of the bank’s Africa financial and private-sector development department.


"It is quite apparent that the upsurge in interest, especially among foreign investors and large-scale enterprises in land acquisition, might need a code of conduct,” Uy said at an agribusiness forum in Cape Town. “This code of conduct might need to bring a clear understanding on a wide range of matters from land policy, social development … governance and transparency.”


Idit Miller, managing director of the European Marketing Research Centre (EMRC), said a code likely would be the only way to ensure that the benefit from farmland deals was mutual for governments and investors alike.


Countries in Asia and the Persian Gulf have been at the forefront of farmland purchases in Africa, in an effort to overcome their reliance on food imports. But these “land grabs” have drawn sharp criticism from land activists and some international donor agencies, as well as the African Union and the European Union.


Since 2004, say international agencies, about US$920 million has been spent to buy or lease nearly 2.5 million hectares of farmland in five sub-Saharan African countries. Lobby groups have urged more caution from African governments and warned that some land-purchase deals could lead to social unrest on the world’s poorest continent.


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