Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hidden Motives and The Winners and Losers of Global Land Grab

Ethiopia buys military weapons and claims advance on Millennium Goal objectives while India and others gain large scale alternative biofuel crops and claim advance on reduction of fossil fuel dependency.

Ethiopia promises to meet its Millennium Goal objectives of creating a middle class and providing education and health care for its indigenous tribes. India promises to reduce its green house gas emissions from and dependency upon fossil fuels through production of alternative biofuels. Both Ethiopia and India find that leasing or buying large tracts of "fertile basket" land, land traditionally used for herding and small scale shifting cultivation (shifting between small plots that are cultivated then left to revert to nature), facilitates the accomplishment of their promises.

These ofttimes secret land deals, with hidden terms and conditions, that transfer vast sections of land to foreign governments, private investors and land hedge funds, are called land grabs. The inherent problems in this approach to fulfilling millennial and ecological promises produce effects upon local indigenous people, land ecosystems, hydro-ecosystems and upon the long-term outlook for productive modernization, agro-industrialization, food and fuel security.

Ethiopia is a good example of current land grabbing — offering for lease or sale large, expansive tracts of land — because of the upcoming June operational target date for the Gibe III dam built by the World Bank and China on the Omo River. Terms and conditions of land-grab transactions, most often kept secret, are known in a few instances. It is known that land has been sold at between $0.50 to $1.00 per hectare or has been leased at around $1.25 per hectare in 50 to 100 year leases (a hectare is about two-and-a-half acres). It is known that the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had completed more than 800 transactions and that he was proposing twice that number for implementation.

Countries in Africa making land available in land-grabs are Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa, Nambia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania. Other countries, such as Australia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Madagascar and others in South America, are also inviting governments and corporations to participate in land-grab deals. In an ironic twist, the governments are collaborators with the agro-colonists who are taking land while simultaneously representing the peoples victimized in foreign land grabs, such as the Mursi and Anuak of Omo Valley and Gambella.

Ethiopia's hidden motive is that national and local land brokers are reported to receive large payments from sales revenue that they use for military weaponization in order to quell protesting indigenous people not wanting to yield to the imperative of abandoning their land to make way for ecosystem-blighting large scale foreign agro-business.
India's stated motives are to contribute to food production by investing in agro-industry in one of the world's most malnourished countries and to meet its promise to reduce fossil fuel emissions by producing alternative biofuel. Yet linked with these stated motives are the motives of providing for India's own food security and fuel security. With an exploding population and a rapid reduction of arable land not already under cultivation, India opts to outsource it food supply (as does Saudi Arabia and China and South Korea) in order to grab at food security. This means that the majority of what is grown on Indian plantations in Ethiopia is intended for export and as such won't go to offset Ethiopia's food shortages. With its own rising middle class, India foresees the need to ensure fuel security as more and more Indian people demand private cars. Because of the international agreements India has signed to, like the Warsaw agreement in 2013, India needs an alternative biofuel, grown from biofuel crops, that reduce its dependency upon fossil fuel imports. While creating jobs for laborers, mostly migrants and not Ethiopia's indigenous people, India can claim it is helping to provide food while growing large scale biofuel crops exclusively for export to India.

The World Bank plays a controversial role. On one hand, it issues reports about the condition of Ethiopia's population's food security and the arability of the land. These reports advise that agro-industry will relieve hunger, create a middle class through jobs and higher wages and improve agricultural methods through sharing technology. On the other hand, the World Bank funds Ethiopia's villagization program in which indigenous people are removed from their lands, oftentimes brutally, and relocated to purpose built villages that promise schools and healthcare and farmable fields yet deliver much much less than that. The World Bank also funds construction of infrastructure roads and communications that serve the foreign landowners but not the local people who are relocated to villages quite remote from the plantations.

taken from here

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