CSO network rejects 'corporate takeover of Africa land'

Capital Ethiopia | 3 December 2009

Gathuru Mburu (ABN), Jennifer Koinante (IPACC), Bern Guri (COMPAS), Anne Maina (ABN), Million Belay (MELCA), Simom Mwamba (ESAFF) and Mariam Mayet (ACB).

As African countries attract foreign investors looking to rent agricultural land, a group of civil societies who met in Addis Ababa this week called on African leaders to reject what they call the "corporate takeover of African land for food production.

"The civil societies, under their umbrella network Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), say some of the positions of the developed countries are calculated to distract Africa from pursuing genuine solutions towards empoweringcommunities towards attaining food sovereignty, and conserving and sustainably utilising their biodiversity.

They say African leaders need to reject false solutions and should champion small family farming systems based on agro ecological and indigenous approaches that sustain food sovereignty and the livelihoods of communities.

Hosted by local NGO, MELCA Mahiber, as part of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), the Pan African Network meeting brought six major networks of civil societies who represent smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and hunter/gatherers.

"We demand that African leaders resist the corporate industrialisation of African agriculture, which will result in massive land grabs, displacement of indigenous peoples, especially the pastoral communities and hunter gatherers and the destruction of their livelihoods and cultures," the civil societies said, at the conclusion of their three day meeting.

They also explained that though it should be appreciated that African leaders are increasingly choosing a common approach, such as to have the continent represented by one voice at the upcoming Copenhagen meeting, there isn't much to praise when it comes to African government's practices at a national level. They called on leaders to bring an end to the continued exploration of African resources for the consumerist demands of the North.

"Leasing or giving away a huge chunk of land to foreigners, who will produce food to be shipped to their own people, and to hope that the money gained in profits will feed the local people is the height of naivete," Gathuru Mburu of ABN said, rejecting the latest effort of East African countries who met in Addis Ababa to sway Saudi investors to lease land.

Million Belay, Director of MELCA Mahiber, has cautioned that arable lands are not excessive resources in East African countries, including Ethiopia, and that leaders need to thoroughly revise the deals they are considering.

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