“Now we are facing the food crisis. Madagascar can have a lot to offer on this: we have land, we are using less than 10% of arable land in Madagascar. The big foreign investors can come in, work together with us. They will get good return on investment and we will get food for the population."
Just how much security the new land investments may provide countries and corporations remains uncertain, experts say. Future governments in countries now renting or selling land may well fail to abide by deals their predecessors cut, particularly if they face food or land shortages at home.
The Ethiopian government’s ambitious target of harvesting 28 million tonnes of cereals in the first three quarters of the 2007/2008 budget year has failed. Authorities seem determined to change this situation by leasing huge chunks of land to other sovereign states for mechanised farming.
Stephen Marks looks at the latest rush by China and countries in the middle east to sign lease agreements in poor countries for agricultural production, and what this trend means in terms of food security and access to arable land for local populations.
Nomadic herders, rarely a priority for governments, are being dispossessed by bioethanol developments in Kenya, says Michael Taylor of the International Land Coalition (ILC), and they also depend on the “unused” land that Madagascar offered Daewoo.
Colombian indigenous took their protest to Colombia’s capital Bogotá this weekend. Their struggle is about controlling the land in which they have lived and taken care of for hundreds of years, the latest culprits being irregular armed groups controlled by the traditional landowners and foreign companies (Chiquita Brands being the best example).
Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.
Pirates are not the only source of concern off the African coast. The deal South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics is negotiating with the Madagascan government looks rapacious. Alas, it is but the latest brazen example of a wider phenomenon.