The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) | 31 July 2009
By Zephania Ubwani, Arusha
Tanzania's huge land mass could be eyed by multinationals intending to lease it for bio fuel production.
Already five regions; Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Coast, Tanga and Mbeya have become centres of land grabbing involving the multinationals.
An official of the Eastern Africa Farmers' Federation cautioned here yesterday that smallholder farmers could become the main victims to land grabbers.
Mr Philip Kiriro, EAFF president said land grabbing threatened several other countries in the region such as Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.
But he stressed; "The most endangered countries in the region because of their huge land mass are Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)."
He said EAFF was not opposed to investment on land but was calling for a policy framework fully negotiated with all the stakeholders, mainly farmers to ensure that the process is guided by a policy.
"We also view food deficit country as a market and regional governments should support our farmers to produce surplus for these markets," he said.
Mr Kiriro from Kenya, further cautioned the EA states that leasing farmland to multi nationals could precipitate food crisis in the region.
Foreign governments and multinational corporations currently buying or leasing farmland could be doing so to grow their own food.
He singled out biofuel production, which, according to him, was not bound to solve African food crisis immediately despite many countries being convinced to accept it.
He said countries with shortage of land such as China, South Korea, Malaysia, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have acquired large chunks of land in foreign countries to grow their own food.
Elsewhere, companies from Europe and North America have acquired land for biofuel production, often cheating that they intended to grow sugarcane.
Turning to food crisis, the official said the majority of people in the region, especially the small-scale farmers, were increasingly falling under the food aid bracket.
"The current food crisis demonstrates how food insure the region is. We witnessed a food crisis that even threatens our regional integration as movement of food across borders becomes restricted," he said.He called on the regional governments to formulate properly focussed interventions to the agricultural sector by increasing financial support.