The “land grab” of fertile farmland in Ethiopia was the subject of a recent post, but is not the only area of Africa that is being made available for foreign countries to buy up, sometimes with the blessing of the international community. The New York Times recently detailed the scope of land grabs across the continent:
A World Bank study released in September tallied farmland deals covering at least 110 million acres — the size of California and West Virginia combined — announced during the first 11 months of 2009 alone. More than 70 percent of those deals were for land in Africa, with Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia among those nations transferring millions of acres to investors.
The article describes how the United Nations and World Bank do not oppose such sales because the investments made by outside countries should, in theory, improve commercial farming in these countries. This would, in turn, increase the host country’s ability to produce food for its own people.
Countering this theory, the article quotes a Malian activist protesting a large tracts of land to the Libyan government,
“The Libyans want to produce rice for Libyans, not for Malians,” said Mamadou Goita, the director of a nonprofit research organization in Mali. He and other opponents contend that the government is privatizing a scarce national resource without improving the domestic food supply, and that politics, not economics, are driving events because Mali wants to improve ties with Libya and others.
A U.S. government development plan offers to pay farmers for small parcels of land, with the idea that over time, prosperity will lead farmers to sell the land on their own terms as they move to cities or different jobs.
Posted by Michael Lucivero.