Land grabbing in Africa: A threat to peace and social tranquility
The 2012 Conference organized by the Pan African Parliament under the theme "investments and the farmland rush in Africa: parliamentarians respond " in Cotonou, portended the future of African farmers, driven by the continent’s economic and social development.
On the occasion, Moussa Djiré, a Lecturer at the University of Bamako made a presentation which left a deep impression on the participants. In fact, he presented a snapshot of the phenomenon by elaborating on its driving forces and impacts, its characteristics and trends, as well as relevant and effective regulatory mechanisms, which all go to foster African producers’ interests as well as the continent’s development.
It came out from his analysis, that the phenomenon of land grabbing in Africa, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas is not new. Already the colonial settlers in their day acquired huge tracts of agricultural and forest land, a trend which intensified with the onset of independence as land was also acquired for purposes of investment into the tourism industry.
In 2012, out of nearly 1,217 property transactions covering a total area of 83.2 million hectares of land in developing countries, 754 land transactions were done in Africa which makes up a surface area of 56.2 million ha. This land grab trend enacted mainly by investors from developed countries, targets the poorest countries, which account for only a small share of international trade and have weak tenure security systems coupled with high investor protection levels. This sets them in competition against family owned and community operations which are sometimes evicted from the farmlands. Nearly 24% of land transactions involve forest areas, accounting for 31% of land acquisitions.
It has been proven that land investments including large scale land acquisition come with a host of risks and negative impacts for family farms, food security, the environment and future generations. Large scale land transfers and leases carry a range of socio-economic risks, such as displacement of local populations, increased land conflicts and rural exodus. Moreover, this phenomenon leads to further marginalization of weaker groups, especially women who are not "landowners" in the customary sense, are not entitled to possible damages and lose various forms of income they derive from the forest: picking, medicinal plants, etc...
In the face of the current situation, leaders of countries involved must take measures to safeguard the rights of family farms, establish mechanisms to ensure transparency in contract negotiations and accountability to all new actors, so as not to jeopardize the fate of future generations.
The presentation by Moussa Djiré, Lecturer at the Bamako University of Law and Political Sciences, is available below: