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World bank hints Africa is ‘quick win’ for land grabbing investors

Ecologist

14th September, 2010

Report on land-grabbing reveals large-scale farmland deals amounted to 45 million hectares in 2009 alone with 6 million hectares expected to be added every year in less industrialised countries

Activists have criticised the World Bank for effectively ignoring the harsh reality of land grabbing being faced by local populations and instead, showing the way for investors.

The World Bank's long-awaited report on the controversial issue of land grabbing in less industrialised countries looks at the scale of the situation and the risks to local populations. It also makes recommendations for how investors and governments should act in the future to ensure more responsible investments.

As part of its detailed analysis of 14 countries, the report highlights Africa’s ‘large amounts of suitable but currently uncultivated land’, together with its history of weak governance.

It states more than half the land that could potentially be used for expansion to meet commodity demands is in just ten countries, of which 5 are in Africa - making it a potential target for investors.

Campaigners said the World Bank was effectively promoting Africa as a 'quick win' for investors and that there should in fact be a moratorium on all land grabbing.

'What we are already seeing in many African countries is Neocolonialism; the land is being carved up,' said Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Chandrasekaran said local communities were not benefiting from land grabbing and the report showed there was no sustainable land model. She also accused the World Bank of ignoring the importance of strengthening governance and protecting the rights of local populations.

'A lot of people are losing land and their means of livelihood with no compensation… It’s illogical,' she said.

While the report does stress the importance of respecting land rights it doesn’t appear to state how this should be enforced, nor how best to approach those local populations or farmers who are without, or who are unlikely to be aware of, such rights.

Jodie Thorpe, Policy Advisor at Oxfam said it, 'glosses over what needs to be done in order to ensure rights of local populations.'

'Laws on paper can be good but the ability or capacity to enforce these laws is often lacking,' she added.

Useful links
World Bank report 'Rising Gobal Interest in Farmland'
Friends of the Earth’s report ‘Africa up for grabs’
FIAN’s campaign to ban land grabbing

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