Financial backers – including U.S universities and pension funds – are lured by high returns and turn a blind eye to theft of land, displacement of people.
Hedge funds and other foreign speculators are increasing price volatility and supply insecurity in the global food system, according to a series of investigative reports released today by the Oakland Institute. The reports are based on the actual materials from these land deals and include investigation of investors, purchase contracts, business plans and maps never released before now.
The “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa” reports also reveal that these largely unregulated land purchases are resulting in virtually none of the promised benefits for native populations, but instead are forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and small, local food farms in order to make room for export commodities, including biofuels and cut flowers.
“The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. “In Africa this is resulting in the displacement of small farmers, environmental devastation, water loss and further political instability such as the food riots that preceded the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”
Mittal added that for people living in developed countries, the conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.
“The research exposed investors who said it’s easy to make a land deal – that they could usually get what they want in exchange for giving a poor, tribal chief a bottle of Johnny Walker,” Mittal said. “When these investors promise progress and jobs to local chiefs, it sounds great – but they don’t deliver, which means no progress and relocating people from their homes.”
New reports and materials on these deals examine on-the-ground implications in several African nations including Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Sudan – and expose contracts that connect land grabs back to institutional investors in these nations and others. In addition to publicly sharing – for the first time — the paperwork behind these deals, the reports demonstrate how common land grabs are and how quickly this phenomenon is taking place. Investors in these deals include not only alternative investment firms like Emergent Asset Management – that works to attract speculators, but also universities including Harvard, Spellman and Vanderbilt.
Contracts also reveal a bonanza of incentives for speculators ranging from unlimited water rights to tax waivers.
“No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security, Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia said. “These land grab agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”
In 2009 alone nearly 60 million hectares – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in these land grabs. Most of these deals are characterized by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms.
“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as “squatters” are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute. “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”
These reports, as well as briefs on other aspects of land grabs, are available at oakland institute.
India’s land issues
In India, the land grab is facilitated by the toxic mixture of the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the deregulation of investments and commerce through neo-liberal policies – and with it the emergence of the rule of uncontrolled greed and exploitation. It is facilitated by the creation of a police state and the use of colonial sedition laws which define defence of the public interest and national interest as anti-national.
The World Bank has worked for many years to commodify land. The 1991 World Bank structural adjustment programme reversed land reform, deregulated mining, roads and ports. While the laws of independent India to keep land in the hands of the tiller were reversed, the 1894 Land Acquisition Act was untouched.
Thus the state could forcibly acquire the land from the peasants and tribal peoples and hand it over to private speculators, real estate corporations, mining companies and industry.
Across the length and breadth of India, from Bhatta in Uttar Pradesh (UP) to Jagatsinghpur in Orissa to Jaitapur in Maharashtra, the government has declared war on our farmers, our annadatas, in order to grab their fertile farmland.
Their instrument is the colonial Land Acquisition Act – used by foreign rulers against Indian citizens. The government is behaving as the foreign rulers did when the Act was first enforced in 1894, appropriating land through violence for the profit of corporations – JayPee Infratech in Uttar Pradesh for the Yamuna expressway, POSCO in Orissa and AREVA in Jaitapur – grabbing land for private profit and not, by any stretch of the imagination, for any public purpose. This is rampant in the country today.
These land wars have serious consequences for our nation’s democracy, our peace and our ecology, our food security and rural livelihoods. The land wars must stop if India is to survive ecologically and democratically.
While the Orissa government prepares to take the land of people in Jagatsinghpur, people who have been involved in a democratic struggle against land acquisition since 2005, Rahul Gandhi makes it known that he stands against forceful land acquisition in a similar case in Bhatta in Uttar Pradesh. The Minister for the Environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, admitted that he gave the green signal to pass the POSCO project – reportedly under great pressure. One may ask: “Pressure from whom?” This visible double standard when it comes to the question of land in the country must stop.
Violation of the land
In Bhatta Parsual, Greater Noida (UP), about 6000 acres of land is being acquired by infrastructure company Jaiprakash Associates to build luxury townships and sports facilities – including a Formula 1 racetrack – in the guise of building the Yamuna Expressway. In total, the land of 1225 villages is to be acquired for the 165km Expressway. The farmers have been protesting this unjust land acquisition, and last week, four people died – while many were injured during a clash between protesters and the police on May 7, 2011. If the government continues its land wars in the heart of India’s bread basket, there will be no chance for peace.
In any case, money cannot compensate for the alienation of land. As 80-year-old Parshuram, who lost his land to the Yamuna Expressway, said: “You will never understand how it feels to become landless.”
see the original article, from al jazeera – The great land grab: India’s war on farmers