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June 22, 2011

Petition calls for halt to new 'land grab' in Africa

by Frank McDonald

Soaring food prices and the demand for biofuels have caused a new “land grab” in Africa – this time involving agribusiness corporations, hedge funds, investment banks, commodity traders and sovereign wealth funds from oil-rich states in the Middle East.

As the G20’s agriculture ministers arrived in Paris for a two-day meeting, more than 500 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the world have delivered a petition calling for a halt to land grabbing under the guise of “responsible agricultural investment.”

The Dakar Appeal Against Land Grabbing, originally drawn up at the World Social Forum last February, claims that “millions of peasant families and other rural and indigenous folk are being thrown off their lands and deprived of their livelihoods” as a result of this policy.

“While agriculture ministers from the world’s 20 richest countries are discussing what to do about food price volatility and the growing hunger crisis, millions of hectares of fertile land, along with their water resources, are being grabbed,” according to the petition.

Lands occupied by “peasants, pastoralists, herders, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and traditional healers” were being “converted into massive agribusiness operations by private investors who want to produce food supplies or agro-fuels for international markets.”

According to a report by the Oakland Institute, a US environmental think tank, “the same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real-estate bubble through risky financial manoeuvres are now doing the same with the world’s food supply.”

The report, Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa, focuses on seven African countries...

Irish Times

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