Many deals have little oversight, or regulation; they lack environmental safeguards and they fail to protect smallholder farmers from losing their customary rights to land.
“This is a worrisome trend,” Akinwumi Adesina, of the advocacy group Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, told a science forum in the Netherlands in June. Foreign land acquisitions, he argued, have the potential to hurt domestic efforts to raise food production and could limit broad-based economic growth, he said.
Million of hectares at stake
The sheer size of some of the land agreements has added to the alarm. A deal to allow South Korea’s Daewoo Corporation to lease 1.3 mn hectares was a key factor in the ouster of Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana in March. In Kenya, the government is struggling to overcome local opposition to a proposal to give Qatar rights over some 40,000 hectares in the Tana River Valley in return for building a deep-sea port. Africa is a particular focus because of the notion that plenty of cheap land and labour is available, and that there is a favourable climate. In Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, for example, only some 12 per cent of arable land is actually cultivated.
The Long Night Ahead
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