Swedish development assistance millions to new land grab


Swedish development assistance millions to new land grab

Originally published in Swedish in Expressen, Sweden Dec 11th 2011 at http://www.expressen.se/debatt/1.2648564/bistandsmiljoner-till-nytt-markrofferi

This is a free English translation by the author, with references to the most important public sources.

The organization Grain was last week awarded the alternative Nobel prize Right Livelihoods Award for their work for small holders globally and for their struggle against land grabbing. In his acceptance speech in the Swedish parliament house, Henk Hobbelink, one of the founders of Grain, brought attention to large Swedish land acquisition in developing countries and pointed out that such large projects tend to lead to the eviction of small farmers and to poor food security. The best thing to do would be to restitute the lands to the affected rural communities.[1 ]

During the same week we were reached by the news that the investment fund Swedfund, owned by the Swedish state and seen as one important means of Swedish development assistance, has invested 10 million euro in the largest private agricultural investment ever in Sierra Leone: 10 000 hectares of sugarcane for biofuel on land in twelve different villages with smallholders. [2]

Another Swedish project is the large forest company, which in northern Mozambique has been developed with capital from, among others the diocese of Västerås through the Global Solidarity Forest Fund. When the Swedish minister for international development cooperation Gunilla Carlsson visited the area in mid November, she listened to the local farmers and their story about the Swedish company.

The farmers said: They don't keep promises, they plant pine in the fields of the farmers and they have put villagers in jail during the conflict. This was reported in the blog of Kajsa Johansson, who is working with development assistance in Mozambique.[3] The Dutch civil service pension scheme ABP has recently conceded that their investment in the same forestry project has failed to meet the environmental, social and governance standards. [4]

Such large-scale projects, driven under time pressure by powerful external interests, regularly create problems in relation to those who currently farm and utilise the land. It does not seem as if the investors have time, knowledge and interest to find out which farmers and herders, that with good reasons can claim customary rights to the farmland and to the natural resources in the forests and in outlying village lands.

Right now, on the desks of Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) there is the background material for an application of credit guarantee for an 8000 hectare large sugar plantation and a refinery in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. [5]


The plans for sugar plantations in Bagamoyo and in the Rufiji delta in Tanzania, were initiated by the company Sekab, based in the north of Sweden and owned by the municipal electricity works of three municipalities.

During 2008 and 2009 their plans for sugar cane ethanol produced in Tanzania were presented as green environmentally friendly investments.[6] The project was sharply criticised. The way they got access to land in the villages in the Rufiji delta can best be characterised by the Swedish word baggböleri (see note).[7] WWF-Sweden showed that the company did not respect the Land Use Village Plans.

Furthermore, the project was also criticised from the owners of the company, municipalities in the north of Sweden. In October 2009 Sekab sold all their Africa projects to their former CEO Per Carstedt for the sum of 400 SEK (c. 40 Euro) and the same month it was announced that Sida would not issue credit guarantees for the project. [8]

Now the project is revived, but not as green environment investment, but as a commercial sugar company, with ethanol as a byproduct, owned by Carstedt through a parent company in the tax haven of Mauritius.

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals in Tanzania is positive to the project, but also makes clear that their guidelines limit the investment area to not more than 20,000 hectares. If the company needs more raw materials they can use outgrowers, said their Biofuel Project Co-ordinator in July 2011. [9]

This restriction does not seem to bother the CEO of the company Anders Bergfors. Over phone from Tanzania he told me that, if they succeed in Bagamoyo, they will at a later stage proceed with the much criticised project in the Rufiji delta with up to 200 000 hectares. Will Sida, with a credit guarantee, give green light to such a development?

Tanzania just now experiences the aftermath of two large failed biofuel projects by Dutch and British interests. The government has begun to address the discontent of the cheated farmers. Anna Tibaijuka, minister for land, housing and settlements, said in October that all the land the companies usurped illegally should be returned to the owners. [10]

Africa needs investments in health, education and infrastructure. Farmers and herders need secure access to markets for their products and that their customary rights to land are respected, so that they dare to invest in their land and thereby increase production.

MATS WIDGREN, professor in Geography at Stockholm University

1 http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4422-grain-calls-for-end-to-land-grabbing-at-swedish-parliament

2 http://www.swedfund.se/?artikel=swedfund-har-tecknat-avtal-om-en-investering-om-10-miljoner-euro-i-addax-bioenergy-sierra-leone

3 http://kajsajohansson.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/bonder-i-samtal-med-svenska-bistandsministern/

4 http://www.ipe.com/news/abp-concedes-african-forestry-investment-failed-to-meet-esg-criteria_43295.php

5 http://openaid.se: ”TZA - EcoEnergy 110519 Agri project for production of sugar and as bi-product ethanol. Eventual guarantee to be extended to financer for cost overruns and/or delay in production start/JESS” Local newspaper Örnsköldsviks Allehanda 29 oktober 2011 : Thomas Izaias Englund: ”Socker nya profilen – etanol biprodukt. Carstedt vill satsa i Tanzania. SEKAB kan få tillbaka pengar.”

6 http://www.dn.se/debatt/svenskt-bistand-ska-radda-miljofarligt-etanolprojekt

7 Baggböleri according to Swedish Wikipedia ”Baggböleri, formerly an expression to illegally harvest Crown forest (forest owned by the state), or with questionable business practices purchasing forest property or timber of other landowners. Nowadays, the term is used to describe questionable business practices in general” (google translate). The word emanates from a famous court case in mid 19 th century concerning illegal logging by a company that had a sawmill in the village Baggböle.
http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/OI_country_report_tanzania.pdf , se page 27ff

8 SEKABs development in 2008-2009 is describe in the chapter by Kjell Havnevik and Hanne Håland ”Biofuel, land and environmental issues – the case of SEKAB’s biofuel plans in Tanzania” in the book Biofuels, Land Grabbing and Food Security in Africa (2011).

9 http://dailynews.co.tz/home/?n=20682&cat=home

10 http://dailynews.co.tz/business/?n=24391&cat=business
Original source: Expressen.se


  1. Bo Lagerqvist
    09 Jan 2012

    The County Court of Härnösand, Sweden, stated in dec 2011 that the municipal funding of SEKAB by the City of Ornskoldsvik has been illegal, according to the "municipal law"(Swedish: Kommunallagen). (totally around 1.700.000.000 SEK = 160.000.000 Euro, have been ventured so far by the three municipal owners.)

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