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Who Owns Africa? The Accelerating Large Scale Land Grabs Across the Continent April 16, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...

Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecological break that defines the sub-Saharan area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eK2eKJGmaM&feature=youtu.be

‘Large-scale land acquisitions by foreign governments and investors – a phenomenon termed “land-grabbing” by activists – peaked following the 2008 global food price spikes. Governments and venture capitalists from the Gulf States, Asian tiger economies, EU and US rushed to acquire large terrains in developing countries to grow and secure food supplies for their populations and biofuels for expanding markets. But the practice has been increasing for at least a decade. The Land Matrix Partnership estimates that 227 million hectares of land have been ‘grabbed’ worldwide since 2001. And according to the World Bank, 70% of the current demand for forest and arable land is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, with its vast parcels of “cheap” and “unoccupied” terrains. Liberia, for example, has reportedly sold off three-tenths of its territory in five years. “Once seen as marginal, this issue has emerged as one of the development priorities of our different governments”, Cameroon’s Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Philip Ngole Ngwese tells Think Africa Press. Indeed, across West and Central Africa, an escalating number of poverty-stricken men, women and children in rural areas are being chased off ancestral lands they have relied on for generations for farming, grazing and hunting. They are increasingly squatters and low-paid labourers for the incoming foreign investors and local elites. “When the government takes this land and gives it out in a lease for 40, 50 or up to 99 years, the people often lose access to these commons resources”, Michael Richards, Natural Resources Economist with the UK-based Forest Trends, notes. “In some cases, they do allow access for the extraction of certain products. But in other cases, they put great fences which stop communities having access.” Land grabbers also usually obtain unlimited rights to water use, Richards adds, implying curtailed availability for downstream users. Other experts warn of looming threats of hunger, stalled investments and political instability should the land deals continue to be shrouded in secrecy and corruption, lack of accountability and transparency, or negotiated without the informed consent of local communities.On the other side of the argument, advocates of the large-scale land transactions claim they have the potential to improve local infrastructure and services, boost governmental tax revenues, create jobs, and enhance food and energy security. According to them, activists have been exaggerating the negative outcomes of large-scale deals and, by dominating coverage of stories around large-scale land deals, have given a false impression. “There could be a reporting bias in that many of these reports are put together by advocacy groups who want to show the negative effects”, says Richards. However, even if this is the case, it does not explain away instances of human rights violations and the mass displacement of local communities and indigenous peoples.  One group at the forefront of a worldwide campaign to reverse recent land grab trends is Rights and Resources Initiative. The organisation has been pressing for government forest land policy reforms that recognise and restore land ownership rights of local communities. RRI warns the tenure crisis is worst in Africa, where only 0.4% of forest land is formally owned by local people, as opposed to around 24% in Asia and Latin America. In 2009, the group summoned stakeholders from across the globe to rethink and propose better tenure rights governance for West and Central Africa at a conclave in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé. Participating government representatives, related sub-regional institutions, NGOs and civil society organisations declared their commitment to lobby and double forest land areas under community ownership by 2015. “We identified problems of deforestation, lack of respect for human rights and the crisis that was unfolding across the region. The meeting generated a lot of recommendations and governments made a lot of commitments about what to do”, says Andy White, RRI Coordinator. But four years down the road, and only two years before the Objective 2015 deadline, not much has been achieved. Reports presented at a follow-up regional dialogue in Yaoundé in March indicate that only half of the 26 West and Central African countries revisited their tenure systems. And those that did only ceded feeble secondary rights to indigenous people, granting them access and usage privileges, but maintaining tight grips on stronger rights to exclude intruders or transfer ownership to a third party. “There’s been some progress. Some governments in the region have initiated new land reforms, but the laws and policies they’re proposing are really inadequate”, says White. “The crisis has become much greater over the last four years than we expected and there’s been far too little action. [There is a] crisis in terms of loss of life, crisis in terms of the systematic destruction of the culture of the forest peoples like here in Cameroon. It’s just alarming.” New recommendations therefore stipulate fast-tracking the implementation of previous policy reform commitments, embracing the full bundle of rights of local communities in land tenure negotiations, and reinforcing the lobbying power of NGO and civil society organisations. “We are calling on the support of RRI and other partners because we want to build a network of traditional rulers to constitute a lobby to defend our rights”, says HM Bruno Mvondo, bureau member of the Council of Traditional Rulers of Cameroon. “For us traditional rulers, the land belongs to the community. But in front of modern law, our customs don’t have any strength. We’re begging the authorities to take into account our traditional law.” For displaced communities and global activists, the fight goes on and debates regarding who owns Africa’s lands are gathering momentum. But at the same time, fresh findings suggest wealthy nationals and elites are keeping busy too and increasingly joining the rush for land.’ http://thinkafricapress.com/cameroon/who-owns-land-cameroon-large-scale-land-grabs

http://www.oromostudies.org/OSA_Apeal_letter_on_landgrab_2013final.pdf

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1y5fssKiTw&feature=share

What is happening in Omo valley is also happening in Oromia and Gambella.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eK2eKJGmaM&feature=youtu.be

http://www.southerntimesafrica.com/news_article.php?id=8174&title=Land%20Grab%20%20African%20Dignity%20Under%20Attack%20&type=80

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