GOVERNMENTS and private firms in a number of richer countries are rushing to buy land in developing countries. In the case of Uganda, Egypt has shown interest in acquiring 200 hectares for wheat production.
Bigger purchases or intentions have been reported in other African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Angola, Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mali and Ghana.
This rush is driven by a number of factors. On the one hand under-developed countries, which have plenty of cheap land, are desperate to get in moneyed investors from abroad.
On the other hand the more developed countries are looking for food security and investment opportunities. In light of the growing population and rising food prices worldwide, large-scale agriculture is becoming an attractive business venture.
While some have likened such land acquisition to colonialism, it is not necessarily a bad deal even for the poor nations. Governments in developing countries should negotiate the deals in such a way that they benefit the local people.
Rather than give huge chunks of land to foreign investors, such ventures should emphasise outgrower schemes such that local people get employment but do not lose their land rights.The outputs, both food and income, should be shared equitably between the investors and the host nation. The venture should also give local people an opportunity to learn new technologies. There is always an opportunity to negotiate a win-win deal.