Northern Food Security: The Real Reason Behind African Land Grabs

African Soil Land Grab
Foreigners have been buying up huge sums of African land

AFRICANGLOBE – The global north is unable to feed itself. This explains the “land acquisition” (sounds better than land grab) for food crops in Africa. The UN body, the ‘Food and Agricultural Organisation’ (FAO) published a report on this trend in December 2009.The writer/researcher, Thembi Mutch from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, documented in the London based news magazine, NewAfrican, “Rural land grabs in Africa force peasant farmers into ghettos in cities where jobs are scarce — which will only contribute to further food shortages and crisis in the future.”

Such ruthless foreign land grabs cause imminent abject poverty and starvation of continental proportions.
Mutch observes further, “In many African countries there are no mechanisms to monitor land appropriation. Although there are public protectors, an auditor general, anti-corruption units and other controlling mechanisms in place, it is easy to bypass them: they monitor only government and donor money, not private investment.”

It means, the purchase of land in Africa will not end. This will lead to further disenfranchisement of already disadvantaged Africans in their own land on their own continent. They remain hopeless, starving third-class citizens.

In her article on “land grabbing” in Africa in NewAfrican, Mutch writes, “A whole new industry has sprung up, including commodities and futures trading on African land and water rights, and with it, there has been a concomitant rise in investment firms, many based in the UK, who actively promote partnerships between private companies and brokers based in Africa.”

“The British firm, Silverstreet Capital, boasts about its ability to buy up African farms and ‘boost productivity’ by, among other things, abandoning ‘till’ farming — i.e., farming by hand. Smallholding African farmers are at the bottom of the pile. Land acquisition is attracting new players. For example, the Rockefeller/Gates Foundation/USAID partnership is working with Monsanto — US$150 million will be invested by them into an ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ (AGRA) project,” Mutch explains.

Global land grabbers of huge tracts of African soil include the likes of US, British and European billionaires, the Saudi Arabian government and the Sultan of Brunei for their private use only and without access for the local population. They do not carry Africa’s interests. Those well-heeled foreigners arrange themselves through their elites on the ground.

They receive tax breaks and exemptions, repatriations of profits, additional free land and water concessions.

As Mutch documents in her research, “The issue is not necessarily the purchasing. It is the levels of secrecy, the lack of templates or agencies monitoring how the (indigenous) people who already live on the land, will be dealt with.”

It gets worse. “Numerous ‘pioneering’ Dutch and Swedish farmers are keen to use areas in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda for biofuels experimentation. The needs of smallholders are sidelined. They are viewed only as potential cultivators for an industry that is still trying out seeds, growing methods and approaches,” as observed by Thembi Mutch.

The above documented research should be one of the priorities of the African Union (AU), Ecowas and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in order to stem the resultant high unemployment, abject poverty, starvation and the destabilisation of a whole continent.

Farayi Nziramasanga in Harare, Zimbabwe, summed up the actions of the new breed of African leadership writing in NewAfrican, “Over the past couple of decades, nationalist leadership with a pan-African,  perspective has been replaced by ‘new democrats’ supported by the (international) West.

These donor-funded client-leaders have a local focus and dare not annoy their funders. They owe their elevation and sustenance to foreign interests, who in turn dictate policy.”

Addressing the role of the AU, Nziramasanga, writes, “Our power as a continent lies in us being able to speak with one voice and act in unison on issues of (African) continental interest. And, Nigeria and South Africa have to shed the illusion of continental giants — they are not and never will be.”

It is important for Africa to understand its position and the foreign interests, the real role, for example, of the US’s continental Africa Command (Africom) and its proxies. This should also mean, the role of South Africa’s former cabinet minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma occupying the chair of the African Union, is to understand and accept it as her primary task “to pull the Africa-wide power into a continental force for the advancement of Africa-wide interests.”

Leaders, who secretly sell the birthright of their supporters for a bowl of soup, commit the serious crime of high treason and should be held accountable by the structures of their countries, their regions and finally, the AU. Africa should view the outsourcing of its land as a criminal offense.

“Western capitalism arose through strong government for the economy and for accessing the resources in the global South (which continuous to this day),” are the final words of Mutch.

Forget the European ICC in the Netherlands. Cut ties with it. Africa has no option, but to re-establish itself, its land, its wealth and its own souvereign courts.


Udo W. Froese is an independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.