Social Forum slams Africa land-grab

AFP | 7 February 2011

Photo: Altermundo

DAKAR: The leftist World Social Forum yesterday denounced land grabbing in Africa by foreign groups as a form of neo-colonialism in a day devoted to debates on the continent.

A rush to buy up land in cash-starved Africa and other developing countries amid a growing global food crisis was one of the main focuses among dozens of workshops and debates held on the second day of the Forum.

At a discussion entitled: “Do not touch my land, it's my life” Oxfam and the NGO Enda denounced landgrabbing by “foreign groups, Europeans, Asians” as well as “wealthy Africans.”

Senegalese Lamine Ndiaye with Oxfam mentioned “the case of a Libyan company which acquired 200,000 hectares in Mali, a private British company buying land in Tanzania” and other examples in Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique
and Ethiopia.

“According to a report by the World Bank between August 2008 and October 2009, 42 million hectares had been acquired in countries of the South.”

Ndiaye said northern investors and southern elites invovled in the grabbing were mostly involved in land speculation without investing in agriculture. A report by the International Food Policy Institute in 2009 said the prolific acquisition of farmland in developing countries was “one of the lingering effects of the food price crisis of 2007/8.” The trend has been described as a new “scramble for Africa,” as the 19th century acquisition of territory by European colonial powers was dubbed.

Bernard Pineau of the Catholic Committee against Hunger and Development said the purchases of land were made not only by multinational company such as South Korea's Daewoo in Madagascar, but also by states such as Saudi Arabia, "to the detriment of small farmers."

He said that the message at the Forum “is to reinforce family farming in Africa, the only way to ensure food security.”

He gave the positive example of agricultural trade unionists in Guinea who were able to "impose higher tariffs for imported potatoes from the Netherlands, and enhance the local potato."

The left-wing alternative to the World Economic Forum held in Davos last week hopes to change the world we live in, our society, economy and the relationship with our environment it believes have put civilisation in peril.

The six-day meeting is the second in Africa after Nairobi in 2007 and comes 10 years after the first, held in Port Alegre in southern Brazil in 2001.

The theme of the Forum this year is: “Crises of the system and civilisation.”

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met other leftist leaders yesterday, focusing on the upcoming G20 meeting and finding an alternative model of development.

“To the G20, it seems as if there is no problem, and we never talk about unemployment,” he said before meeting with the head of the French socialist party Martine Aubry. At the opening of the Forum, Tunisia's Taoufik Ben Abdallah, coordinator of the African Social Forum said: "Africa is not a battleground for powerful countries ... It is a rich continent, provided it be allowed to determine its policies, development strategies." AFP

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