African Farmers Are on the Loosing End

… Their States Are Leasing Farmland to Foreign Investors – people observe with great concern that large tracts of land will be sold or leased to investors

Published on Current Concerns, No 3, February 2011. – (Source: Schweizer Radio DRS Inter­national, by resp. by Neil Mac Farquhar, 7 November 2010).

Soumouni, Mali — The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave.

“They told us this would be the last rainy season for us to cultivate our fields; after that, they will level all the houses and take the land,” said Mama Keita, 73, the leader of this village veiled behind dense, thorny scrubland. “We were told that Qaddafi owns this land.” 

Across Africa and the developing world, a new global land rush is gobbling up large expanses of arable land. Despite their ageless traditions, stunned villagers are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.
Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank say the practice, if done equitably, could help feed the growing global population by introducing large-scale commercial farming to places without it … //

… Bio Fuel Instead of Food – The Ventures Concerning Agricultural Land Are Rampant even in Europe
Wolfgang Beer, is an engineering graduate, he leads the Gerbstedter Agrar GmbH, Gerbstedt, Federal state of Saxoni Anhalt, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in Gerbstedt in 2010. It cultivates 1772 ha of arable land, 23 ha of forest surface and 5 ha of grassland surface. In 2010, it employed 46 persons, of which 4 are farming trainees, one is trained to become an agricultural machinery and building mechanic and one is trained to become an office administrator.

The ground is good – sandy loess silt, land value number from 85 to 88, “so that each farmer knows that it is actually best soil for agriculture”, as Beer explains to a journalist in Swiss Radio DRS. However, he is concerned about the prices for land. Already at GDR times, Wolfgang Beer was the chairman of the local agricultural production cooperative. After the turnaround in Germany, he leased the land from the Treuhand, however, the leasing contracts are running out now. That means that enormous agrarian areas are thrown on the market – and already speculators and investors are emerging in the region driving the prices of land up massively.

“Up to the middle of the year”, explains Beer to Franco Battel of DRS, “the cusual prices in our region were approximately between 9,000 and 10,000 Euros per hectare. This was in commercial terms, and from the view of agricultural production, halfway justifiable.

At present, naturally enormous price changes are in full swing, and prices here in our case, in our region go presently up to 17,500 Euros. That is no longer financially feasible from a purely agricultural view and is therefore also a danger for the entire agricultural development in the region. Everyone must decide, how much he can finance, how far he wants to keep up with these prices, what risk he wants to take and whether he will possibly bring his agricultural production into danger.”

The investors also came to see the Gerbstedter Agrar GmbH and offered Beer and his colleagues best prices. Beer sent them away – to him as a true citizen responsibility for his staff is more important than fast profit: “Of course, today most of the investors want a production of bio energy, that would probably mean that we would have a permanent cultivation of corn or another energy plant. This has already become a large political issue in certain areas: If I repetitively cultivate crops without respecting a functionally good crop rotation, then naturally problems are pre-programmed. I want to cultivate food. After all, we cannot import everything. I can imagine, what this would mean for the food security in European countries: Instability without end. And these things are worrying me as a citizen. (full text).

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