agriculture


Satellite view of a portion of the Nile flowing through the rich land of South Sudan

Here are two noteworthy stories about water and water rights. In summary, growing food or commercial crops in one country to transfer to another country also constitutes a transfer of water from the first country to the second, usually a transfer of water from a poorer country to a richer country. Two scientists have diagrammed and analyzed global water transfers which increasingly benefit the already rich countries. Africa has been a popular target of land grabs that are also water grabs. The second article discusses how the World Bank, often using the IFC, is working to privatize water rights into the hands of a few large corporations. Those corporations are mostly concerned with maximising short term profits, with no interest in infrastructure, conservation or development.

African land grab could lead to future water conflicts
New Scientist | 26 May 2011
by Anil Ananthaswamy

IS THIS the face of future water conflicts? China, India and Saudi Arabia have lately leased vast tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa at knockdown prices. Their primary aim is to grow food abroad using the water that African countries don’t have the infrastructure to exploit. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. But it is a plan that could well backfire.

“There is no doubt that this is not just about land, this is about water,” says Philip Woodhouse of the University of Manchester, UK.

Take Saudi Arabia, for instance. Between 2004 and 2009, it leased 376,000 hectares of land in Sudan to grow wheat and rice. At the same time the country cut back on wheat production on home soil, which is irrigated with water from aquifers that are no longer replenished – a finite resource.

Meanwhile, firms from China and India have leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland in Ethiopia. Both China and India have well-developed irrigation systems, but Woodhouse says their further development – moving water from the water-rich south to northern China, for instance – is likely to be more costly than leasing land in Africa, making the land-grab a tempting option.

But why bother leasing land instead of simply importing food? Such imports are equivalent to importing “virtual water”, since food production accounts for nearly 80 per cent of annual freshwater usage. A new study into how this virtual water moves around the world offers an explanation for the leasing strategy. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe of Princeton University and Samir Suweis of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have built the first mathematical model of the global virtual water trade network, using the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s data on trade in barley, corn, rice, soya beans, wheat, beef, pork, and poultry in 2000. They combined this with a fine-grained hydrological model (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL046837).

The model shows that a small number of countries have a large number of connections to other countries, offering them a steady and cheap supply of virtual water even if some connections are compromised by drought or political upheaval. A much larger number of countries have very few connections and so are vulnerable to market forces.

Most importantly, the model shows that about 80 per cent of the water flows over only about 4 per cent of the links, which Rodriguez-Iturbe calls the “rich club phenomenon”. In total, the model shows that in 2000, there were 6033 links between 166 nations. Yet 5 per cent of worldwide water flow was channelled through just one link between two “rich club” members – the US and Japan.

The power of the rich club may yet increase. The model allows the team to forecast future scenarios – for example, how the network will change as droughts and spells of violent precipitation intensify due to climate change. Predictably, this will only intensify the monopoly, says Suweis. “The rich get richer.”

China and India are not currently major players in the virtual water network on a per capita basis, and as the network evolves they could find themselves increasingly vulnerable to market forces and end up paying more for the food they import. Leasing land elsewhere is an attempt to secure their food and water supply in a changing world. But it could be a short-sighted move.

Last year, Paolo D’Odorico of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville showed that a rise in the virtual water trade makes societies less resilient to severe droughts (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010GL043167). “[It] causes a disconnect between societies and the water they use,” says D’Odorico. The net effect is that populations in nations that import water can grow without restraint since they are not limited by water scarcity at home.

Although this could be seen as a good thing, it will lead to greater exploitation of the world’s fresh water. The unused supplies in some areas that are crucial in case of major droughts in other areas will dry up. “In case of major droughts we [will] have less resources available to cope with the water crisis,” says D’Odorico.

In the end, then, the hunt for water that is driving emerging economies to rent African land to grow their crops could come back to haunt them.

Although the next story is not as specifically about African land and water, it has huge implications for Africa. Africa is a favorite target of water grabs.

WATCH OUT: THE WORLD BANK IS QUIETLY FUNDING A MASSIVE CORPORATE WATER GRAB
March 10, 2011
Scott Thill, AlterNet

Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it’s been tried. But don’t tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe’s water resources.

“Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment,” Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. “Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That’s why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank’s private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It’s further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world’s water crisis.”

All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light’s water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That’s just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.

“It’s outrageous that the World Bank’s IFC would continue to invest in corporate water privatizations when they are failing all over the world,” Maude Barlow, chairwoman of Food and Water Watch and the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water, told AlterNet. “A similar IFC investment in the Philippines is an unmitigated disaster. Local communities and their governments around the world are canceling their contracts with companies like Veolia because of cost overruns, worker layoffs and substandard service.”

The World Bank has learned nothing from these disasters and continues to be blinded by an outdated ideology that only the unregulated market will solve the world’s problems

But asking the World Bank to learn from disaster would be akin to annihilating its overall mission, which is to capitalize on disaster in the developing world in pursuit of profit. Its nasty history of economic and environmental shock therapy sessions have severely wounded more than one country

“In the past, the World Bank pushed privatization as the way to increase investment in basic infrastructure for water systems,” said Gelbspan. “But since then bank officials have admitted that the transnational corporations don’t want to invest in infrastructure, and instead want only to pare down operations and skim profits. The World Bank has lowered the bar, satisfied with so-called ‘operational efficiency,’ that cuts utility workforce, tightens up bill collections and shuts off people who can’t pay.”

That’s been a recipe for failure and protest

… the World Bank is simply spinning off its compromised philosophy to the IFC. So while the World Bank may be torn in its endorsement of water privatization, the IFC has no such reservations, in hopes of dodging the slings and arrows of public outcry, and perhaps legal liability.

“What’s really scary,” O’Callaghan added, “is that we are increasingly seeing the International Finance Corporation pick up where the Bank has left off in water privatization. The IFC is a Bank-sponsored institution whose goal is to promote the private sector, and because their financing also comes from the private sector, they can be more difficult to hold accountable. Worse yet, according to our 2000-2008 stats, 80 percent of IFC loans had gone to the four largest multinational water companies, further concentrating the global water industry.”

“Droughts and deserts are spreading in over 100 countries,” Barlow said. “It is now clear that our world is running out of clean water, as the demand gallops ahead of supply. These water corporations, backed still by the World Bank, seek to take advantage of this crisis by taking more control over dwindling water supplies.”

Which is another way of saying that, regardless of the refreshing trend toward re-municipalization, no one should expect the World Bank or its IFC untouchables to give up the privatization and deregulation ghost anytime soon. That means that every city, and citizen, is due for a day of reckoning of some sort, and should fight back against the bankrupt privatization paradigm with everything in its arsenal.

“Get involved at the local level,” O’Callaghan said. “Know where your water comes from. Fight against privatization schemes. Promote conservation. Don’t drink bottled water.”

And Barlow adds, “The only path to a water-secure future is water conservation, source water protection, watershed restoration and the just and equitable sharing of the water resources of the planet. Water is a commons, a public trust and a human right and no one has the right to appropriate for profit when others are dying from lack of access.”

I can only second these sentiments, and repeat: Water is a commons, a public trust and a human right and no one has the right to appropriate for profit when others are dying from lack of access. All of us in every community everywhere should be watching where our water is coming from, and stay involved in questions of water management in our home communities.

Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land …

No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security

Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa’s largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.
… Emergent’s clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.

Africa land grab and hunger map (click to enlarge enough to read)

“These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

“The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking”, said Mittal. “The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.

Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of France – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in the past three years.

“Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms,” says the report.

“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at Oakland, said: “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.” (The Guardian)

Africa biofuels land grab map (click to enlarge enough to read)

THIS NEW scramble for African land has visited a multitude of problems on ordinary Africans and set the stage for ecological crisis and widespread hunger.

As many critics have pointed out, African governments have falsely claimed that land available for sale is unused. As journalist Joan Baxter writes:

Some defend the investors’ acquisition of land in their countries, saying it is “virgin” or “under-utilized” or “uncultivated” or “degraded” land…This suggests they know precious little about the importance of fallows and the resilience and diversity of agroforestry systems, or about sustainable agriculture and the knowledge base of their own farmers.

Communal land, small farmers and even entire villages are often displaced in the drive for land purchases. The Oakland Institute think-tank released a report on the African land grab, which points out:

Experts in the field, however, affirm that there is no such thing as idle land in…Africa…Countless studies have shown that competition for grazing land and access to water bodies are the two most important sources of inter-communal conflict in [areas] populated by pastoralists.

According to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition, “If land in Africa hasn’t been planted, it’s probably for a reason. Maybe it’s used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land…that has no owners and users.”

In other words, as activist Vandana Shiva puts it, “We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline.”

In fact, because much of its food is produced for export, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where per capita food production has been declining, with the number of people that are chronically hungry and undernourished currently estimated at more than 265 million.

Nations with large amounts of land sold or leased to foreign owners are often food importers, and their inability to feed their own populations is exacerbated by the displacement of food producers who grow for local use. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that Africa has lost 20 percent of its capacity to feed itself over the past four decades. Ethiopia alone has 13 million people in immediate need of food assistance, yet its government has put over 7 million acres of land up for sale.

And worsening hunger is still to come. …

Large-scale land acquisition poses massive ecological threats to the African environment. The dangers are numerous: hazardous pesticides and fertilizers cause water contamination from their runoff, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and other problems. Land previously left to lie fallow is now threatened with overuse from intensified agricultural development, a trend further exacerbated by speculative investment and the drive for short-term profits.

Yet deals transferring vast tracts of land are typically taking place far removed from local farmers and villagers with virtually no accountability. As Khadija Sharife writes on the Pambazuka Web site:

The deals involving these concessions are often cloaked in secrecy, but African business has learned that they are usually characterized by allowing free access to water, repatriation of profits, tax exemptions and the ability for investors to acquire land at no cost whatsoever, with little or no restriction on the volume of food exported or its intended use, in return for a loose promise to develop infrastructure and markets

In many cases, farmers and pastoralists have worked this land for centuries. However, governments are claiming this land is idle in order to more easily sell or lease it to private investors. (New African Land Grab)

I found this a particularly telling passage from (Mis)investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation In Global Land Grabs (PDF) a publication of the Oakland Institute.

Proponents of the land deals will dismiss my concerns and claim that this type of foreign investment will benefit the local people by providing jobs and creating infrastructure. They will also say that the land being offered is “unused.” These are hollow arguments. Investors have been quoted as saying they will employ 10,000 people and use high-tech, high-production farming techniques. The two promises are completely incongruous. As a farmer, I can tell you that high-tech, high production devices are appealing precisely because they reduce labor. Investors will not hire significant numbers of people and simultaneously scale-up their production techniques. And if they choose the former, they are likely to create low-paying jobs and poor working conditions. I may be making assumptions, but they are based on history—a history dating back to colonialism and one that has exploited both natural resources and people.

Particularly disconcerting is the notion that the “available” land is “unused.” This land is in countries with the highest rates of malnutrition on the only continent that produces less food per capita than it did a decade ago. In most cases, this land has a real purpose: it may support corridors for pastoralists; provide fallow space for soil regeneration; provide access to limited water sources; be reserved for future generations; or enable local farmers to increase production. The fact that rich and emerging economies do not have or do not respect pastoralists or use land for age-old customs does not mean we have a right to label this land unused.

Here are AGRA’s agents in Ghana. The result of their efforts, if they are successful, will be small farmers crushed by debt and forced off their land, the land will be depleted by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and new super weeds and insect pests will flourish. As a friend who has worked with AGRA in Ghana says, if they give you 2000, they make sure to get 4000 back from you (in dollars, cedis, or any currency you name).

AGRA Watch researchers have mapped AGRA grant recipients and some alternatives to AGRA. The map, which is linked below, covers all of Africa, this is just the Ghana section.

AGRA Watch Resources

These are the organizations and individuals in Ghana, marked on the map, who are developing and promoting AGRA’s GMO seeds and chemical agriculture:

AGRA Grants (blue markers):
Category: Seed Production for Africa


Alpha Seed Enterprise
About, Personnel, Linkages, Approach
Last Updated on May 26, 2009
Principal Investigator: Mrs. Felicia Ewool
Purpose: To provide seeds of newley released hybrid and open-pollinated maize varieties to poor smallholder farmers of the forest and forest-transition maize growing regions of Ghana, as well as educate them on the importance of using improved seeds in an effort to enhance their productivity.
Amount: $150,000
Projected Duration: 10/1/2008 — 9/30/2010

M&B Seeds and Agricultural Services Ghana Limited
Last Updated on May 26, 2009
Principal Investigator: Mr. Benjamin Anani Kwaku Kemetse
Purpose: To enhance farm productivity and increase incomes of smallholder farmers of the Volta region of Ghana through provision of high yielding improved seeds of maize, soybean, cowpea, rice, groundnut and vegetables; and education on the use of these seeds.
Amount: $149,765
Projected Duration: 5/1/2009 – 4/30/2012

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Their website, www.csir.org.gh is not working today; find some CSIR info here.
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Mr. Isaac Kofi Bimpong
Purpose: For use by its Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) to improve drought tolerance of rice through within-species gene transfer.
Amount: US$35,200
Projected Duration: 9/1/2007 – 4/30/2009
AGRA Grants (turquoise markers) :
Category: Education for African Crop Improvement

Savanna Seed Services Company Limited
Last Updated on May 26, 2009
Principal Investigator: Mr. Patrick Adingtingha Apullah
Purpose: To avail seed of maize, soybean, sorghum, cowpea, rice and groundnut at an affordable price to resource-poor farmers in three administrative regions of northern Ghana.
Amount: $149,973
Projected Duration: 6/15/2008 — 6/14/2010

University of Ghana
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Dr. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Ph.D.
Purpose: To establish a West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Legon.
Amount: US$4,922,752
Projected Duration: 6/1/2007 – 6/30/2012

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Dr. Richard Akromah
Purpose: To catalyze the development and adoption of improved crop varieties and production of good quality seed adapted to smallholder farmer conditions in the West Africa sub-region, through supporting ten M.Sc. level training in plant breeding and seed science.
Amount: US$387,000
Projected Duration: 9/1/2008 – 8/31/2010

University of Ghana
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Dr. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah
Purpose: To provide supplementary funding toward the Establishment of a West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Legon (UGL).
Amount: US$859,107
Projected Duration: 6/1/2007 – 5/31/2012

Cornell University, United States
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Professor Margaret Smith
Purpose: To facilitate the start-up and development of WACCI at the University of Ghana, Legon, to train African agricultural scientists and address critical food security issues facing the region.
Amount: US$1,696,756
Projected Duration: 6/1/2007 – 3/31/2012

AGRA Grants (yellow markers):
Fund for the Improvement and Adoption of African Crops

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Dr. Hans K.Adu-dapaah
Crop: Cowpea
Purpose: To improve cowpea yields among poor smallholder farmers by introgression of genes for flower thrips and Cercospora leaf spot-resistance in farmer-preferred varieties.
Amount: US$184,860
Projected Duration: 7/1/2008 – 6/30/2011

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Dr. Mashark Seidu Abdulai
Crop: Maize
Purpose: To develop maize varieties suitable for use by poor smallholder farmers of the Guinea and Sudan savanna zones of Ghana.
Amount: US$184,480
Projected Duration: 3/1/2008 – 2/28/2011

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Mr. Manfred B. Ewool
Crop: Maize
Purpose: To develop higher-yielding, improved hybrid maize varieties for the forest and forest-transition zones of Ghana, for use by poor smallholder farmers.
Amount: US$185,000
Projected Duration: 5/1/2008 – 4/30/2011

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: Joe Manu-Aduening
Crop: Cassava
Purpose: To develop improved cassava varieties resistant to common pests and diseases and possessing the main farmer-preferred traits.
Amount: US$179,845
Projected Duration: 3/1/2008 – 2/28/2011

AGRA Grants (red marker):
Category: Agro-dealer Development

International Fertilizer Development Center
Last Updated on May 23, 2009
Principal Investigator: J J Robert Groot
Purpose: To create a well-functioning and sustainable input supply system in Ghana in order to increase productivity and incomes of rural food producers in Asante, Brong Ahafo, northern and central regions who account or more than half of the country’s poor.
Amount: US$2,500,000
Projected Duration: 10/1/2008 – 9/30/2011

The result of AGRA’s alien hybrid seeds, alien chemical fertilizers and alien pesticides, will be:

… smallholders will buy the new hybrid seed, fertiliser and pesticide on credit, eventually be forced off their land to repay their debts and end up in the cities, while large corporate style farms will consolidate smallholder land. (Food First)

For more information and links on this subject you can read these previous posts:
Why is Kofi Annan Fronting For Monsanto? The GMO Assault On Africa
AGRA & Monsanto & Gates, Green Washing & Poor Washing

I had wondered exactly where AGRA is operating in Ghana and who is involved. This list should provide a start. Here is this list of grants from the AGRA site.

Those doing the research claim great successes for their products. Most often, the research on effectiveness is funded by the same international corporations that are profiting from the products being researched. All tales of success should be regarded as highly suspect without independent research and verification. Generally the independent research has shown the company funded research and success tales to be highly questionable. Toxic effects have gone unreported and ignored

AGRA Watch Resources provides much more than this map. They provide a list of links to other organizations watching AGRA, and working for food and trade justice, and an excellent targeted reading list. On the map there are green markers for alternatives to AGRA. Unfortunately, there are not many marked, and none are in Ghana. Readers from other countries in Africa can identify who is AGRA in their own countries using this map.

In the quest for biofuel plantations, and for export food crops, foreign countries and corporations are grabbing land, “using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism” in Ghana and throughout Africa.

Foreign companies now control 37 percent of Ghana cropland. The spread of jatropha is pushing small farmers, and particularly women farmers off their land. Valuable food sources such as shea nut and dawadawa trees have been cleared to make way for plantations.

A total of 769,000 ha has been acquired by foreign companies such as Agroils (Italy), Galten Global Alternative Energy (Israel), Gold Star Farms (Ghana), Jatropha Africa (UK/Ghan), Biofuel Africa (Norway), ScanFuel (Norway) and Kimminic Corporation (Canada). According to the CIA World Fact Book Ghana has 3.99 million ha arable land with 2.075 million ha under permanent crops. This means that more than 37 percent of Ghana’s cropland has been grabbed for the plantation of jatropha.

Large-scale jatropha plantation with forest in background, Brong Ahafo region,Ghana. Photo by Laura German

What is worse in most cases the companies involved in the production of the biofuel import labour from outside the communities where production sites were located, and “there were drastic lay-offs as the project progressed from land preparation and planting stages.”

Friends of the Earth published Africa: up for grabs: The scale and impact of land grabbing for agrofuels PDF describing the problem throughout the continent. It contains maps and tables showing more detailed information about specific countries.

With its relatively stabile political situation and suitable climate, Ghana is an apparent hotspot for acquiring land to grow jatropha.

Harvesting jatropha in Ghana

Examples of land allocated reportedly for biofuel investments in Ghana:

FoE table of examples of land allocated reportedly for biofuel investments in Ghana (click to enlarge)

The following story from Ghana shows how the Europeans, often with the help of some government enablers, trick local communities into giving up their land. The company representatives imply they are bringing jobs and income, but do not contract in any way in which they can be held legally accountable to keep their promises. It is not just Europeans who are siezing land in Africa. The US, China, Brazil, and other countries are involved. In Ghana so far, most of the appropriated land has been taken over by Europeans.

Biofuel land grabbing in Northern Ghana PDF is the story of how a Norwegian biofuel company took advantage of Africa’s traditional system of communal land ownership and current climate and economic pressure to claim and deforest large tracts of land in Kusawgu, Northern Ghana with the intention of creating “the largest jatropha plantation in the world”.

Bypassing official development authorization and using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism, this investor claimed legal ownership of these lands by deceiving an illiterate chief to sign away 38 000 hectares with his thumb print.

This is also the story of how the effected community came to realize that, while the promised jobs and incomes were unlikely to materialize, the plantation would mean extensive deforestation and the loss of incomes from gathering forest products, such as sheanuts. When given all the information the community successfully fought to send the investors packing but not before 2 600 hectares of land had been deforested. Many have now lost their incomes from the forest and face a bleak future.

Land stripped for biofuel production near Alipe, Northern Ghana.

Rural communities who are desperate for incomes are enticed by developers who promise them a “better future” under the guise of jobs with the argument that they are currently only just surviving from the “unproductive land” and that they stand to earn a regular income if they give up the land for development. This argument fails to appreciate the African view of the meaning of the land to the community. While the initial temptation to give up the land to earn a wage is great, it portends of an ominous future where the community’s sovereignty, identity and their sense of community is lost because of the fragmentation that the community will suffer.

The strategy for the acquisition of the land often takes the following course: The imaginations of a few influential leaders in the community are captured. They are told about prospects for the community due to the project and they were swayed with promises of positions in the company or with monetary inducements. The idea is that these people do the necessary “footwork” in the villages where they spread the word about job opportunities. A document is then prepared, essentially a contract, to lease the land to the company. In the event of problems the developer can press their claim by enforcing the ‘contract’ or agreement. When the legality of the process is not adequately scrutinized, the developers have their way but, subject to proper scrutiny, it emerges these contracts are not legally binding as they have not gone through the correct legal channels. This is what happened in this particular case in the Alipe area.

In this community, like in most parts of Ghana, over 80 percent of the land is held under communal ownership and more that 70 percent of this land is managed by traditional ruler-chiefs mainly on behalf the members of the their traditional areas. The chief was very categorical that he had not made such a grant and that he had also been battling with those “white people” to stop them – without much success. He confirmed that he “thumb printed” a document in the company of the Assemblyman of the area which had been brought to his palace by the “white people” but he did not confirm its contents.

The Chief was initially unwilling to go against the wishes of his people as his efforts to stop the developers were being interpreted by the community as driving away opportunities to earn an income during the current dry season”.

The facts began to emerge – a big fish in Government was promoting the project and had deployed his business associates in the Region to front for him. This front man was immediately employed as the Local Manager of BioFuel Africa. The EPA then insisted that they must go through the processes of having an Environmental Impact Assessment made. We then had a public consultative forum in the community where we had a face-to–face confrontation Mr. Finn Byberg, Director of Land Acquisition for BioFuel Africa in the village square in front of the Chief’s palace. The audience and judges were the village communities affected by the proposed project.

The Chief and his elders waiting to hear the presentations.


… the promises of jobs and a new improved life would not materialize because Mr Finn Byberg, the Chairman of BioFuel Africa confessed, during his presentation that he could not state categorically what commitments the company would make He said, “Commitments are not very easy and so when I am required to make these, I need to be very careful. I do not want to be caught for not keeping my word.”. … This made it clear that our land is being used for experimentation. Mr Byberg’s promise of jobs …were mere campaign gimmicks.

Most vocal indeed were the women at the session. Looking Mr Finn Byberg in the face a women asked, “Look at all the sheanut trees you have cut down already and considering the fact that the nuts that I collect in a year give me cloth for the year and also a little capital. I can invest my petty income in the form of a ram and sometimes in a good year, I can buy a cow. Now you have destroyed the trees and you are promising me something you do not want to commit yourself to. Where then do you want me to go? What do you want me to do?”

We need a more aggressive campaign to halt land grabbing. We need to engage with traditional rulers, District Assemblies and Politicians about this ominous phenomenon. We need visibility through print and electronic media to put our message across effectively to a wider audience. RAINS has a strategy to build on the rapport that it has developed through the OSIWA project with traditional rulers to open up another channel for engagement. We cannot afford to be caught unawares in this war with the biofuel companies. The ancestors are on our side and we shall win the war!

by Bakari Nyari, Vice Chairman of RAINS - Regional Advisory and Information Network Systems, Ghana, and Ghana and African Biodiversity Network Steering Committee member

At the same time, from the Friends of the Earth study:

Reports from India, however, indicate that yields of 1kg per plant have been difficult to achieve. Food Security Ghana is yet to hear of any commercially viable biofuel production from Jatropha, and it looks more and more as though the jatrophy frenzy is a big bubble waiting to burst.

The FoE report is indeed alarming if one considers that Ghana has allowed this massive land grab to take place in the absence of a biofuel policy and with no environmental impact studies undertaken – on the possible negative effects on both natural resources and on the communities – of huge jatropha plantations.

The report further states that proponents of agrofuels generally argue that agrofuel production will address the economic crisis facing many developing countries; they will create wealth and jobs and alleviate poverty.

According to the FoE these arguments overlook the other side of the story and leave many questions unanswered.

• Is the push for agrofuel production in the interest of the developing countries or are the real beneficiaries Northern industrialised countries?

• Will the production of agrofuels actually provide more jobs and enhance economic development at the community level?

• Will it address the issue of food insecurity plaguing the developing world?

• What are the social and environmental costs of agrofuel production to host communities?

• Who stands to benefit from the entire process?

The FoE concludes its report with the following:

  • “Hunger for foreign investment and economic development is driving a number of African countries to welcome agrofuel developers onto their land. Most of these developers are European companies, looking to grow agrofuel crops to meet EU targets for agrofuel use in transport fuel.
  • Demand for agrofuels threatens food supplies away from consumers for fuel in the case of crops such as cassava, peanuts, sweet sorghum and maize.
  • Non-edible agrofuel crops such as jatropha are competing directly with food crops for fertile land. The result threatens food supplies in poor communities and pushes up the cost of available food.
  • Farmers who switch to agrofuel crops run the risk of being unable to feed their families.
  • While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for “sustainable development”, agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Agrofuel production is also draining water from parts of the continent where drought is already a problem
    .
  • While politicians promise that agrofuels will bring locally sourced energy supplies to their countries, the reality is that most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market.
  • Just as African economies have seen fossil fuels and other natural
    resources exploited for the benefit of other countries, there is a risk that
    agrofuels will be exported abroad with minimal benefit for local communities and national economies. Countries will be left with depleted soils, rivers that have been drained and forests that have been destroyed.”

The Government of Ghana announced that a biofuel policy will soon be introduced. Now is maybe the time for the people of Ghana to ask if the critical questions posed by the FoE have been addressed in the development of this policy.
from Food Security Ghana

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September 17 from GhanaWeb: Tema fishermen halt sale of land, agricultural land is not the only land being seized by nationals from other countries.

About 200 fishermen and fishmongers Thursday resisted attempts to clear debris and erect a fencewall around a fish processing area near the Tema Canoe Beach.

The area was being cleared for the construction of a palm oil processing firm to be owned by Wilmor Edible Oil Refinery-Project (WEORP) a Singaporean firm.

The 64 hectare land was leased to the company by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

The demonstrators wearing red arm bands and headgears singing traditional songs with the refrain “wo kpene ni ashishi wo,” to wit, “we will not allow them to cheat us,” stopped the bulldozer from preparing the ground and sealed holes dug up to erect pillars for the fencewall.

Rebecca Ashong, one of the fish processors, said she had been on the business for more than 15 years and had been supporting her family with proceeds from it and driving them out of the land will spell doom for them.

Wolenye Korkor Abo, said more than 2,000 people depended on the fish processing business for survival and displacing them will bring about untold hardship into the Tema Manhean community and asked government to take another look at it.

Nii Shippi Armah of the Tema Traditional Council wondered why the people of Tema would not be left alone to occupy this piece of land after so many acres of their land had been taken over by the State.

He said in 1959 when the construction of the Tema harbour and industrialisation of Tern a displaced the indigenous people, government resettled them at Tema Newtown.

In addition, government pointed the landing beach and this piece of land where our people could continue fishing processing their catch and mending nets as we did at our previous location.

He said “after almost 51 years of using the place, it has by convention and usage become ours“.

He said over 2,000 people were involved in the fish processing business in the area and it is from that they support their families and children’s education and sacking them would bring untold economic hardships. “We will, therefore, resist all attempts to displace us again,” he warned.

Nii Shippi Armah said a committee set up to study the implications of the project to the community was yet to present its report to the Tema Traditional Council.

And these sound like empty promises:

Mr, Asiedu said over the last five months it had been meeting the committee members and they had agreed that those affected by the project will be relocated and the cost paid by the project so that their livelihood were not destroyed.

He said for instance, “it had been agreed that a fish processing platform will be built across the road near the lagoon where business can be done in a more hygienic manner.”

He said a new 50 seater toilet facility will be provided to replace the 40 seater one which is currently located at the centre of the land.

Mr. Asiedu said the concerns of the community were being addressed and the construction of the project would be carried out alongside the relocation plan and, therefore, advised those affected by the project not to panic.

The project is expected to directly employ between 1,800 and 2,400 people.

The local fishing business already supports that many. Will the processing plant employ Ghanaians, or will it import labor? If Ghanaians will be relocated, the relocation spot should be prepared and ready before they move. Promises mean nothing. No one can live on promises. And why should these people be forced to move again?

I wish the fishermen and fishmongers of Tema much success in holding on to their land and livelihood. And I wish farming and working communities throughout Ghana success in holding on to their land. The dangers are wealthy, powerful, and growing. Local people need some help and support from their government. Government needs to provide this backing to stay legitimate. If you want people to vote for you, they need to see you are supporting their interests or they will vote you out. That just happened in Washington DC, where a mayor who repeatedly ignored and insulted a majority of his constituents, the people who had previously supported him, just lost his bid for reelection. It can happen in Ghana too. It is what a lot of Ghanaians were looking for in the presidential elections at the end of 2008.

________

Unfortunately, Fifteen fishmongers arrested.

________

The first part of this article was published, text only, on GhanaWeb on September 19.  You can read comments there.

Why do you bring your mistakes here?

Kofi Annan has joined with President Obama, Monsanto, AGRA, and the Gates foundation to promote and execute food aid that replaces bags of wheat, rice and corn (agricultural dumping) with bags of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and genetically engineered seeds. The end result will be to starve people in Africa and feed corporations in the US and Europe.

Kofi Annan and farmers

Under the guise of “sustainability” the [Gates] Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform Africa into a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a massive Green Revolution project. Up to now AGRA spokespeople have been slippery, and frankly, contradictory about their stance on GMOs.

If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch’s recent announcement of the Foundation’s investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead. (Eric Holt-Gimenez)

If you have questions about Monsanto’s agenda, here it is in brief:

At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct. (Jeffrey M. Smith)

Monsanto: No food shall be grown that we don't own

Kofi Annan is Chairman of the Board of Directors for AGRA. He is convening a conference in Ghana in the first week of September. As detailed in this blog, and by others, both AGRA and USAID top positions are filled with people that come from Monsanto and Dupont.
Kofi Annan Calls For United Effort To Accelerate African Green Revolution

African heads of state, industry representatives, the international donor community and farmers will meet in Ghana at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in the first week of September. Delegates will create an action plan on the acceleration of a Green Revolution in Africa.

Samuel Amoako has reported on this as well: Kofi Annan Hosts Forum On Africa’s Food Security in the Ghanaian Times on August 11.

It is worrisome that Kofi Annan is connected with AGRA. Maybe he believes that US mechanized and chemical agriculture work well. Most people in the US do, aside from family farmers who see the effects first hand. I have a good friend who works for the US Dept. of Agriculture and thinks this kind of big agriculture really is the best and that Monsanto is a boon to mankind. We have had several heated discussions. In fact Monsanto is destroying land, causing chemically induced human diseases, creating super weeds, super insect pests, and economic havoc in many parts of the US farming areas, particularly in the midwest and the south. There have been countless protests all over India and Brazil. I’ve read many heartbreaking stories, including this comment from Pearl on this blog:

The farmers of southern Kentucky have been enslaved by Monsanto. The previous generation fell for an ad campaign called “Hi-bred” or “High-Bred”, and the current generation is stuck with fulfilling the contracts their fathers signed. The chemicals that Monsanto has contractually required be applied to those fields have so damaged the soil that the only way to get anything to grow in the fields now is to keep applying more of those blasted chemicals. So even if a person who inherited a contract WANTS to discontinue the agreement with Monsanto when the contract expires, they are unable to do so unless they want to leave the land fallow for many, many, many years. Most farmers cannot afford to do this, as this would mean little to no income for their families for somewhere between 5 to 20 years, depending on how long it would take for the soil to renew itself.

I’ve always had enormous respect for Kofi Annan, I do not understand his participation in this and it bothers me a great deal. Even though I admire and respect him there are no free passes with a subject like this.

Genetically modified crops produce less, not more, than conventional crops.

Alexis Baden-Mayer points out in Dupont, Monsanto, and Obama Versus the World’s Family Farmers that AGRA is basing its programs on myth:

Most of the world’s food is not produced on industrial mega-farms. 1.5 billion family farmers produce 75 percent of the world’s food.

The hunger problem is not caused by low yields. The world has 6 billion people and produces enough food for 9 billion people.

And as I’ve discussed before, the smaller the farm the greater the yield.

There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield.

In some cases, the difference is enormous. A recent study of farming in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are twenty times as productive as farms of over ten hectares(3). Sen’s observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Phillippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere. (Monbiot)

The key to true food security is food sovereignty, and the key to food sovereignty lies in who controls the land. The problems of both starvation and obesity stem from injustice in the way farmland and food are distributed. AGRA policies will poison the land and water, destroy local seeds and seed gene pools that provide the true hope for food sustainability. Local agriculture in most parts of the world has developed seeds that are tough and resistant to local pests, weeds, and local environmental dangers such as droughts or floods. AGRA wishes to replace these seeds with ones that need expensive, continuous, and ever expanding chemical coddling. These chemicals will poison the land, the water, and the people.

Additionally the Gates Foundation, Monsanto, and other corporate interests are investing in a doomsday seed bank, in which they will own the world’s agricultural gene pool. They are storing seeds from all over the world. In the event of genetic disaster, they will own the surviving gene pool.

Jonathan Weiner, in The Beak of the Finch describes how chemicals drive the destruction of land and the creation of super weeds and super insect pests:

Some of the greatest opposition to evolution comes from the farmers of the Cotton Belt, and that is where Taylor is seeing one of the most dramatic cases of evolution in action on this planet.

… in the year 1940, cotton farmers began spraying their fields with the chemical compound dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT. These first insecticidal sprays killed so many insects, and killed so many of the birds that ate the insects, that in biological terms the cotton fields were left standing virtually vacant, like an archipelago of newborn islands – and out of the woods and hedgerows fluttered [the cotton destroying moth] Heliothis virescens.

In the next few optimistic years, pesticide manufacturers assaulted Heliothis with bigger and bigger doses of DDT. They also brought out more poisons from the same chemical family: aldrin, chlordane. The aim was nothing less than the control of nature, and pesticide manufacturers believed that control was within their grasp. The annual introduction of new pesticides rose from the very first product, DDT, in 1940, to great waves of chemical invention in the 1960s and 1970s. In those decades, dozens of new herbicides and insecticides were brought to market each year. Heliothis became on of the most heavily sprayed species in what amounted to a biological world war. Through it all, the moths clung to the cotton.

… The moths have become almost absolutely resistant to all pesticides, from your cyclodienes to your organophosphates to your carbamates, and most of your pyrethroids. …

“Its an extraordinarily potent example of evolution going on under our eyes,” Taylor says. “Visible evolution.”

A pesticide applies selection pressure as surely as a drought or a flood. The poison selects against traits that make a species vulnerable to it, because the individuals that are most vulnerable are the ones that die first. The poison selects for any trait that makes the species less vulnerable, because the least vulnerable are the ones that survive longest and leave the most offspring. In this way the invention of pesticides in the twentieth century has driven waves of evolution in insects all over the planet. Heliothis is only one case in hundreds. (from pp 251-255)

In short, pesticides and herbicides destroy most of the insects, plants, and often other animals in those fields where they are used. But nature fights back. Those insects and weeds that can resist the chemicals initially, breed and grow stronger. They have no competition except from the chemicals, and they quickly evolve immunity, even as the chemicals become stronger and more toxic. Stronger and more toxic chemicals are needed to fight the new insects and weeds, and the destructive cycle continues. The chemicals wind up in the food, and run off into the land and the water, creating an ever increasingly toxic environment for humans and many other plants and animals.

For the growth of super weeds world wide, see the following charts:

The vertical axis shows the number of species of weeds that have become chemical resistant, the horizontal axis shows the years. You can see the exponential increase starting about 1970 when Monsanto introduced Roundup, and continuing into 2010. (click to enlarge)

You can see the distribution, North America, Western Europe, and Australia have already been severely impacted. Africa is a huge new market that has not yet been ruined. You can see why it is so desirable, it is a huge wide open opportunity to Monsanto and other greedy chemical corporations. Most countries in Africa have not yet been touched or biologically recolonized by GMOs and agricultural chemicals. South Africa, which has allowed GMOs, is the most severely impacted to date. (click to enlarge)

Genetically modified seeds, GMOs, are designed to be used as part of a program involving chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Their effect on farmers is usually to lock them into a cycle of debt, as described by Pearl above, and as experienced and protested in many countries including India and Brazil, as mentioned above. Terminator seeds, also known as suicide seeds or homicide seeds, will not regenerate, so instead of saving seeds, farmers have to buy new seeds each year, as well as investing in more, and more toxic chemicals each year that are necessary to make the GMO seeds grow. This cycle has created death and destruction in many places, including hundreds of farmer suicides in India.

I’ve heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that is certainly the case for the insects and weeds targeted by chemical pesticides and herbicides. Those that don’t die become very much stronger. We have already have super bugs and super weeds, thanks to the efforts of companies such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. Evolution can move very fast, not just fast enough to observe, but fast enough to leave us humans struggling in its wake. Monsanto and the other agricultural chemical companies market each new product as though it is the end of some pest, that evolution stops at this point, and we can just relax. In fact each new chemical is the creator and the beginning of many more powerful threats. And the more powerful the chemical tools we use against these threats, the more those chemicals poison us and strengthen the insects and weeds we are fighting.

Although they have stopped talking much overtly about this, AGRA and the Gates Foundation speak about “land mobility” which means moving farmers off their farms so the land can be used for large scale mechanized agriculture. But there is no mention of where these people will go and live, and how they will be reemployed. What this means is thousands of displaced people moving to slums around the cities, which will grow and will be filled with unemployed people. This is politically and socially destabilizing. It breeds crime and political violence. This kind of policy also hits women particularly hard, because in western models such as corporate agriculture, their traditional rights to land are ignored. Women are the majority of agricultural workers, and will become even more impoverished and disenfranchised, not that it will bother AGRA or Gates or Monsanto, as they say:

Over time, this will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment involved in direct agricultural production.

Family farmers, who produce 75% of the worlds food, will gradually be displaced, driven off their land, and the land will be poisoned and ruined. There will be less food, less healthy food. More people will starve, while more corporations will get fat.

As Joan Baxter writes:

Back in the early 1990s when I was reporting from northern Ghana, an elderly woman farmer decided I would benefit from a bit of enlightenment. In a rather long lecture, she detailed for me the devastating effects that the Green Revolution – the first one that outside experts and donors launched in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s – had had on farmers’ crops, soils, trees and their lives. She said that the imported seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and tractors, the instructions to plant row after row of imported hybrid maize and cut down precious trees that protected the soils and nourished the people – even the invaluable sheanut trees – had ruined the diverse and productive farming systems that had always sustained her people. When she finished, she cocked an eye at me and asked, with a cagey grin, ‘Why do you bring your mistakes here?

For more African farmers perspectives on this subject, see:

Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF
http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/voicesfromafrica/pdfs/voicesfromafrica_full.pdf

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The first part of this article was published, text only, on GhanaWeb on September 13. You can read comments there.

The world’s wealthiest speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of hundreds of millions of innocent people. They gambled on increasing starvation, and won.

Johann Hari writes: How Goldman gambled on starvation. As he describes:

It starts with an apparent mystery. At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent, maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people – mostly children – couldn’t afford to get food any more, and sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30 countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring 2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, calls it “a silent mass murder”, entirely due to “man-made actions.”

Most of the explanations we were given at the time have turned out to be false. It didn’t happen because supply fell: the International Grain Council says global production of wheat actually increased during that period, for example. It isn’t because demand grew either: as Professor Jayati Ghosh of the Centre for Economic Studies in New Delhi has shown, demand actually fell by 3 per cent. Other factors – like the rise of biofuels, and the spike in the oil price – made a contribution, but they aren’t enough on their own to explain such a violent shift.

… through the 1990s, Goldman Sachs and others lobbied hard and the regulations were abolished. Suddenly, these contracts were turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders who had nothing to do with agriculture. A market in “food speculation” was born.

Here’s how it happened. In 2006, financial speculators like Goldmans pulled out of the collapsing US real estate market. They reckoned food prices would stay steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked, so they switched their funds there. Suddenly, the world’s frightened investors stampeded on to this ground.

So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply and demand for derivatives based on food massively rose – which meant the all-rolled-into-one price shot up, and the starvation began. The bubble only burst in March 2008 when the situation got so bad in the US that the speculators had to slash their spending to cover their losses back home.

As Professor Ghosh points out, some vital crops are not traded on the futures markets, including millet, cassava, and potatoes. Their price rose a little during this period – but only a fraction as much as the ones affected by speculation. Her research shows that speculation was “the main cause” of the rise.

So it has come to this. The world’s wealthiest speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of hundreds of millions of innocent people. They gambled on increasing starvation, and won. … What does it say about our political and economic system that we can so casually inflict so much pain?

As Hari begins his story:

By now, you probably think your opinion of Goldman Sachs and its swarm of Wall Street allies has rock-bottomed at raw loathing. You’re wrong. There’s more. It turns out that the most destructive of all their recent acts has barely been discussed at all. Here’s the rest. This is the story of how some of the richest people in the world – Goldman, Deutsche Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more – have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world.

Read the entire article, which explains what happened more clearly and in greater detail: How Goldman gambled on starvation.

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To my regular readers, apologies for being absent lately. We are having a major reorganization at my work, and at the same time, major activity with the farms in Ghana. This may keep me fairly busy for another week or two, but for now the major portion of my work on these projects is done.

nomonsanto

Green washing = Public relations designed to convince people that biotech, genetically modified foods and agricultural chemicals, are environmentally friendly.

Poor washing = Efforts to convince people we must accept a program such as genetic engineering to increase yields to end hunger, reduce costs, and improve livelihoods of farmers and poor people. Poor washing has created calls for a “new” Green Revolution, especially in Africa, although there is little evidence that genetic engineering and agricultural chemicals, or moving farmers off their land, will realize any of these claims. There is mounting evidence of genetic engineering doing serious harm. Forcibly displaced populations always suffer harm.

From Voices From Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF:

In June 2008, the United Nations held a High-Level Conference on Food Security that gained much prominence in the midst of the food crisis and became a key venue to promote genetically engineered food as a solution to world hunger.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to genetic engineering and chemical-input based agriculture, the biotech industry—with assistance from rich donor nations, multilateral institutions, and the philanthropic community—has used the food price crisis to gain support for GM crops. The result of the biotech industry’s well-financed publicity blitz based on “green washing” (biotech is environmentally friendly) and “poor washing” (we must accept genetic engineering to increase yields to end hunger, reduce costs, and improve livelihoods of farmers), have been calls for a “new” Green Revolution, especially in Africa.

… AGRA is the biggest grantee of the Gates Foundation. With over $262 million committed, AGRA is poised to become one of the main institutional vehicles for changing African agriculture.

Key positions in AGRA are all held by people who owe their careers to Monsanto and the biotech industry:

In 2006, the Gates Foundation appointed Dr. Robert Horsch as the Senior Program Officer in the Global Development Program, which directly supervises the AGRA initiative. Horsch came to the foundation after 25 years on the staff of the Monsanto Corporation

Another major player hailing from the St. Louis biotech hub is Lawrence Kent of the Danforth Center, an institute that is heavily funded by Monsanto. … Unsurprisingly, on January 8, 2009, St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Gates Foundation has awarded a $5.4 million grant to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, to “help the center secure the approval of African governments to allow field testing of genetically modified banana, rice, sorghum and cassava plants that have been fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins.”

Lutz Goedde, another hire from the biotech industry, is the former CEO and President of Alta Genetics, and is credited with making Alta the world’s largest privately owned cattle genetics improvement and artificial insemination company. All three are working for the Gates Foundation, funding projects aimed at the developing world.

No African farmers, none, have been consulted for the foundation’s agricultural strategy. None of the reviewers or the external advisory board members is a farmer from Africa.

AGRA and the Gates Foundation speak about “land mobility” which means moving farmers off their farms so the land can be used for large scale mechanized agriculture. But there is no mention of where these people will go and live, and how they will be reemployed. What this means is thousands of displaced people moving to slums around the cities, which will grow and will be filled with unemployed people. This is politically and socially destabilizing. It breeds crime and political violence. This kind of policy also hits women particularly hard, because in western models such as corporate agriculture, their traditional rights to land are ignored. Women are the majority of agricultural workers, and will become even more impoverished and disenfranchised, not that it will bother AGRA or Gates or Monsanto, as they say:

Over time, this will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment involved in direct agricultural production.

People in Africa are taking action and speaking out.
From: A Statement by Friends of the Earth—Africa at the Annual
General Meeting held at Accra, Ghana, 7-11 July 2008
:

Members of FoE Africa from Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Tunisia and Swaziland met for five days in Accra, Ghana reviewing issues that confront the African environment. A particular focus was placed on the current food crisis and agrofuels on the continent.

FoE Africa groups deplored the characterization of Africa as a chronically hungry continent; and rejected the projection of the continent as an emblem of poverty and stagnation and thus as a continent dependent on food aid.

FoE Africa reiterated the fact that the agricultural fortunes of the continent have been dimmed by externally generated neoliberal policies including Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed on the continent by the World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other IFIs.

FoE Africa expressed disgust at the manner by which the burden for solutions to every crisis faced by the North is shifted onto Africa. Examples include the climate change and energy crises wherein the burden has been inequitably placed on the continent. Africa is forced to adapt to climate impacts and she is also being targeted as the farmland for production of agrofuels to feed the factories and machines in the North.

FoE Africa resolved as follows:

1. Africa contributed very little to climate change and the North owes her an historical debt to bear the costs of adaptation without seeking to further burden the continent through so-called carbon finance mechanisms.

2. Africa must no longer be used as a dumping ground for agricultural products that compete with local production and destroy local economies.

3. Africa must not be opened for contamination by GMOs through food aid and/or agrofuels.

4. Africans must reclaim sovereignty over their agriculture and truncate attempts by agribusiness to turn the so-called food crisis into money-making opportunities through price fixing, hoarding and other unfair trade practices.

5. We reject the promotion of conversion of swaths of African land into monoculture plantations and farms for agrofuels production on the guise that some of such lands are marginal lands. We note that the concept of marginal lands is a cloak for further marginalizing the poor in Africa through their being dispossessed and dislocated from their territories.

6. Africa has been subsidizing world development for a long time and this has to change and African resources must be used for African development to the benefit of local communities.

FoE Africa calls on all communities of Africa to mobilize, resist and change unwholesome practices that entrench servitude and exploitation on our continent.

Signed:
FOE Ghana; FOE Togo; FOE Nigeria; FOE Cameroon; FOE Sierra Leone; FOE Tunisia; FOE Swaziland; FOE South Africa; FOE Mauritius

There is much more in the report, you can read the whole document here: Voices From Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

From Afrigadget comes the story of:

“Scratch and sniff” Africas HeroRATS

I heard about this extraordinary use of rats years ago and am hoping that sharing it today will bring a smile to many faces. Although Mozambique’s civil war ended nearly two decades ago, unexploded ordinance continues to be a major cause of injury and death. But now they have a solution. Rats! Local giant rats are being trained and employed to assist in mine detection.

Rats have the amazing record of being able to detect mines 95% of the time. If only all our politicians would work this hard and for a banana….. I keep hoping against hope…

For more scientific information, read this article in the Journal of Mine Action

HeroRat videos on YouTube:

APOPO (5:55)
(links corrected 3/22)

You can adopt a rat at the HeroRat.org website for 5€ per month.

Adopt a HeroRAT

HeroRats not only detect landmines, they also detect tuberculosis in sputum samples. When demining:

A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 m2 in 30 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer.

In detecting tuberculosis:

… in 7 minutes one rat can evaluate 40 samples which is the equivalent of 2 days of microscopy work for a lab technician.

Plus, the rats are too light to explode landmines, they don’t mind repetitive tasks, and because, although they are large rats, they are small animals, they are easy to house and move around, and inexpensive to feed. The program provides work for farmers and restores land for farming.

I think supporting this program is an excellent idea for anyone. It is also nice because it is something that can be shared with children. But it would be even better to see some government security dollars spent on an inexpensive program that actually makes people a lot more secure.

seeddemobrazilSigns read:
SUICIDE SEEDS ARE HOMICIDE SEEDS
SAVE SEEDS__ TERMINATE TERMINATOR!

One technology AGRA, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will bring to Africa is terminator seeds. One of the most concise explanations of these is from Teeth Maestro in Pakistan:

Monsanto is a chemical company posing as an agricultural company specializes in toxic, dependency-creating, genetically-engineered crops and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto is one of the world’s most notorious multinationals that has been caught red-handed for bribery, false studies and evaluations, and paying off scientists for favourable reports. It has been responsible for over 10,000 farmer suicides and thousands of poisoned sheep in India alone. Its GE products are banned in countries including in Europe after painful experiences.

“Terminator” seed controversy

In June 2007, Monsanto acquired Delta & Pine Land Company, a company that had been involved with a seed technology nicknamed “Terminator”, which produces plants that produce sterile seed to prevent farmers from replanting their crop’s seed, and are instead forced to continue purchasing seeds from Monsanto for every planting. In recent years, widespread opposition from environmental organizations and farmer associations has grown, mainly out of the concerns that these seeds increase farmers’ dependency on seed suppliers (having to buy these each year for seeding new crops)

… there have been countless protests all over India and Brazil demanding Monsanto be thrown out of their countries …

The picture above is from BanTerminator.org taken at protests in Brazil. They describe terminator seeds:

Terminator technology refers to plants that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest – it is also called Genetic Use Restriction Technology or GURTS. Terminator technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the United States government to prevent farmers from saving and re-planting harvested seed.

In India:

One of the top cotton-growing areas in India is Madhya Pradesh. It has a rich black soil, perfect for cotton. In 2002 farmers were persuaded to use BT cottonseed. — Some 10,000 acres were planted with it — although official permission had not been granted till then. The farmers ended up with 100 per cent failure. Due to the drought, indigenous cotton varieties had also been negatively affected but their ‘failure’ accounted for only 20 per cent of the crop, not all of it. Furious farmers demanded compensation from the company that supplied these seeds. That was Mahyco. And where did Mayco get these seeds from? – From Monsanto, the US multinational chemical giant which had a 27 percent share in Mahyco.

reports emerged, confirmed by a Gujrat khadi institute, of allergies not only among farmworkers but also itching and rashes in people wearing clothing made from Bt Cotton.

Even when farmers found the seed to be four times as expensive, they felt it was because of ultimate economy, and even went into debt to buy the input package. There were other problems. Bt cotton requires 20 percent more water than other hybrid cotton which needs more water than traditional varieties to begin with. No one said anything about Bt cotton being drought resistant. The truth was that Bt cotton was unable to adapt to stress conditions. It was criminal to encourage Bt cotton in drought-prone areas – and not telling farmers about this drawback in Bt cotton. The rains failed to come in some districts. Farmers were ruined because they had not grown the local hardy species that had evolved to withstand drought conditions with minimal loss.

That was not all. There was serious oversight on the part of Monsanto scientists. Wouldn’t it be common sense to deduce that if the Bt cotton plant was poisonous to bollworms eating it, it could be poisonous to other living creatures too? After the harvest, sheep were allowed to graze on the harvested fields to eat the crop residues, a common practice worldwide wherever natural farming is pursued. In just four villages in Andhra Pradesh, 1800 sheep died horrible, agonising deaths within 2-3 days from severe toxicity. More deaths were reported in other areas. The word was quickly spread to avoid grazing sheep where Bt cotton had grown. It meant less fodder and greater expense for the sheep-owners.

Other reports have emerged from India on the ill health effects of Bt cotton on both people and animals. It is being held responsible for causing “untimely deaths, decline in milk quality and quantity, and serious reproductive failures.”

From SeattleTammy:

Farmers in 3rd world countries are being sold these patented seeds. The crops were planted by illiterate farmers, for whom, even if they could read, the information on the packaging would be worthless, it was in English only. That information would have told them that these crops would need irrigation, and shouldn’t be used in rain-fed farm lands. The crops would also need pesticides and fertilizers, again from Monsanto. These crops failed, leaving the farmers further in debt, to surprise, the company store: Monsanto. Since these seeds are patented, the farmers are forbidden from saving seed from one year to the next, selecting the healthiest traits for the next season. New seeds must be purchased. The in-debted farmer’s land is then seized by Monsanto, which compounds the debts. Now hopeless in their situation, the farmers are committing suicide.

By drinking Monsanto pesticides.

Many thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide.

In conclusion for today, I offer, and appreciate the words of this farmer from Zambia:

“Somebody is trying to befool me as a farmer,” said Clement Chipokolo of the African Biodiversity Network, who came here all the way from Zambia. “In my culture we don’t buy seeds. We save them. But now somebody is trying to bring agricultural slavery for us.”

caterpillers1
caterpillars2

Spraying to control the caterpillars in Liberia

Spraying to control the caterpillars in Liberia

We are only into the second month of 2009, and already Liberia has been struck with two plagues of caterpillars. Now those caterpillars from that first wave have crossed over into Ivory Coast threatening the cocoa crop. They have also crossed over into Guinea. The first wave of caterpillars were identified as Achaea catocaloides. The caterpillars devour everything, cocoa, cash crops, food crops. Sikoun Wague, spokesman for Guinea’s Agriculture Ministry, told Reuters:

“The equipment we have means we can only spray up to a height of 6 metres (yards), whereas some trees are 30 metres high. We absolutely must have air support,”

“These insects suck the sap from trees and leave tonnes of waste in channels and water courses, which are then unusable for two weeks,” he said.

The threat to the water supply is particularly serious. The threat to food security, and the danger of hunger is large and rising.

GBOLUMUE, Liberia, Feb 11 – Martha Kermel holds out rail-thin arms covered with a latticework of scratches from her encounter with a plague of caterpillars that has devastated crops and spread fear through this corner of West Africa.

“They scratched my arms when they moved,” said Kermel, a mother of four, telling how the small creatures poured down onto her from the tree branches overhead as she set out from her village to a rice farm cultivated by her community in Liberia.

That was two weeks ago. Now the millions of caterpillars which covered the road and nearby bushes have retreated into cocoons, or hatched already into moths ready to spawn a new generation of grubs here or further afield.

She and her family, subsistence farmers like most people in the area, live 16 km south of the border with Guinea and 45 minutes by foot from the nearest passable road.

When the bugs attacked, Kermel had nowhere to go, and worried about feeding her children.

She said the ‘kotin’, as locals call the pests, fouled the creek near her home with their faeces, turning the water black.

Every day since then, she and her children have had to walk several miles to the main road to gather water at a borehole.

The Liberian government has said the caterpillars are threatening the food security of 350 000 people, and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf declared a national state of emergency.

The species can travel up to 100 km per day. Ivory Coast is already sounding alarms.

Ivory Coast is:

… the world’s top cocoa grower and an important producer of coffee, rubber, palm oil and other cash crops.

The creatures were first thought to be army worms, a moth caterpillar, but they were identified this week as the young of another kind of moth, the Achaea catocaloides, which are also known to damage cocoa and other tree crops.

For the time being, the moths are headed north, and experts in Ivory Coast said this week they should avoid Ivory Coast’s valuable cocoa belt, which produces about 40 per cent of world supply.

But they remain a risk to Ivory Coast’s central borderlands, which produce around 100 000 tonnes of cocoa and 70 000 tonnes of robusta coffee a year.

“I think this is a seasonal threat. From our experience in Benin, the moth will disappear by early or mid-March,” Georg Goergen, an entomologist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), told Reuters.

While the caterpillars feed on trees, adults belong to a group known as fruit-sucking moths for their penchant for piercing ripening fruit and sucking out the juice, often causing the fruit to rot and drop prematurely.

Spray teams, each member with a plastic tank of insecticide strapped to their back, have started work. But Jobson Momo, an agricultural programme officer in the town of Carey, said his team did not have enough pesticide, protective gear or vehicles.

The entire first wave of Liberia’s caterpillars has now turned into moths. Scientists at the Ministry of Agriculture fear they are are now reproducing and could cause secondary and tertiary waves of infestations that, if uncontained, may destabilise an already volatile region.

This plague has been described as the worst in at least 30 years. And now Liberia has been struck by a second wave of caterpillars. The new ones are a different species, but appear to have the same appetites.

Monrovia, Feb. 18: “On Friday… we got information that there was an invasion of caterpillars in the Margibi County area. We know that is not the same species that was found in Bong, Gbarpolu, Nimba and part of Lofa,” Agriculture minister Christopher Toe told a press conference late on Tuesday.

“Our task force, our crop protection people, are now on the ground addressing this particular issue,” Toe said

It will take some time to identify the new species.

Toe said the areas first affected in Liberia by the caterpillars are still suffering from the after-effects.

“The problem that we face has implication beyond agriculture,” Toe warned. “Damage for example to food crops now could lead to food insecurity in the future as well as to loss of revenue and income.”

He added that the community was also facing health issues as water sources were being polluted by the caterpillars’ droppings and by dead caterpillars.

The local population has been warned not to drink affected water.

The invasion is likely to spread:

to neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast unless it is quickly contained, said entomologist Winfred Hammond, who is also the agency’s representative in Liberia.

Hammond blamed the outbreak on last year’s unusually long rain season in the country.

FAO also said that the caterpillars … are clogging wells and waterways with excrement. In some communities, villagers can’t reach their farms as they are surrounded by the pests.

Experts are trying to identify the exact species to choose the best pesticide to combat them, the agency said. However, aerial spraying risks further contaminating the water and hand spraying has proved ineffective, as the pests dwell on the leaves of giant forest trees that can rise more than 26 feet (8 meters).

The last African armyworm outbreak in the area occurred in Ghana in 2006, the agency said.

The countries in the region are responding:

MONROVIA (AFP) — Four West African nations have joined forces to do battle against a species of caterpillars laying waste to crops in the region, a statement said Saturday.

The agriculture ministers from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have created a team to look into the threats posed by what are believed to be Achaea Catocaloides caterpillars.

Crops in central Liberia and southern Guinea have already been ravaged by the caterpillars, and other countries in the region fear the damage will spread further.

“The five-man technical committee will begin work immediately,” the ministers from the four countries forming the Mano River Union said in a statement after meeting in Monrovia on Friday.

“They will design plans of action that will be implemented by all member countries.”

An expert from Brazil already working with Liberia will assist the new committee.

This story gets me worrying about our farms, and the safety and comfort of people around us. So far the threat is not near, but it can travel fast.
h/t African Agriculture for links

ricemadagascar

Rice fields in Madagascar

Glenn Ashton of the The South African Civil Society Information Service has written a telling article about the new colonial land grabs in Africa titled Madagascar: the new land grab.

Just when colonialism was considered dead and buried, along comes neo-colonialism in its latest guise. Allied with its close relatives globalisation, free marketeering and lack of transparency, it is currently launching a new offensive on the disempowered population of this continent. …

Neo-colonialism is now garbed in new clothes. Powerful interests are presently seeking and gaining access to land in government-to-government deals as well as through private capital. These arrangements ostensibly offer to manage land that is not being economically utilised in order to improve food security. But for whom? …

The global food security focussed NGO, GRAIN, issued a report on this phenomenon in October 2008, where they cited more than 100 examples of this new neo-colonial land grab. These land grabs are primarily by nations that have insufficient natural capital or space – such as the desert-bound nations of the Middle East and overpopulated nations such as China and South Korea. They seek to improve the food security of those nations while undermining the ability of host nations to access similar benefits, through the alienation of prime agricultural land. The ecological impacts can also be significant.

Since the GRAIN report was published, the land grab has continued apace. The recent acquisition of a reported 1.3 million hectares (ha) of land in Madagascar by the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation on 99-year lease has raised eyebrows around the world. This land represents around half of that island nation’s arable land.

In Madagascar a reported 70% of the population suffer from food shortages and malnutrition. Nearly 4% are fed through aid programmes. Besides this, more than 50% of the population is below the age of 18. What hope is there for local youth when South African farmers are reportedly being recruited to run the highly mechanised and automated farms under the Daewoo lease? …

China is also actively seeking new land. Given its massive population and constrained access to farmland, China has moved aggressively into Africa with land interests in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. …

Even the World Bank is continuing its role as a neo-colonial consensus agent by actively pursuing and financing access to ‘under-utilised land’ around the world through its International Finance Corporation.

Of course much of the land is “under-utilised” because African countries were following World Bank recommendations and requirements. Malawi used to provide free seeds and fertilizer to its farmers.

The results were impressive, but the subsidies ran afoul of the pro-market policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which argued that subsidies were “crowding out” commercial sales and constituted undue government interference in the economy. Under considerable pressure from these financing institutions, the programme was phased out. The IMF also insisted that Malawi sell much of its national grain reserve to pay off the debts of the state-owned maize marketing agency.

Most Malawian farmers, however, were too poor to pay commercial rates for fertilizer and seeds. As a result, maize yields plunged. When drought struck in 2001 neither farmers nor the government had adequate grain stores to see them through, and more than a thousand people are estimated to have died. Then after the failed 2005 harvest left 5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people on the brink of starvation, the newly elected government of President Mutharika defied the donors and launched the subsidy scheme with its own funds.

Without the seeds and fertilizer, the land was “under-utilized.” People starved because they could not farm. This has been World Bank and IMF policy throughout Africa. As Ashton points out:

… international finance instruments run by the then G5 (now expanded to the G8), such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used aid and so-called development finance instruments to further their interests.

It has been established by repeated research over decades that the smaller the farm the greater the yield. For more information read the article Small is Bountiful, and check the references listed at the end. There are economies of scale with big agriculture. Big agriculture allows the proceeds to be concentrated among a few people unrelated to the people actually living on the land. It is generally harmful to the land, due to the use of toxic chemicals needed to sustain monocultures, and due to unsafe genetic engineering. It is harmful to the people who live in its vicinity, depriving them of their livilihood and damaging their health.

Ashton continues:

Perhaps more sinister is the recent news of leasehold rights being acquired for approximately 400,000 hectares of land in the Southern Sudan from the family of former warlord Gabriel Matip. In a deal struck by US financier Philippe Heilberg, who has used a British Virgin Islands subsidiary of his Jarch Group to facilitate the deal, private interests have intervened directly in disputed territories. Co-directors of the group reportedly include ex-CIA operatives. Given the ongoing instability in that nation and the forced eviction of millions in the neighbouring Darfur region, this sort of land acquisition is perhaps a harbinger of an unsavoury trend in who gets to control the land in disputed territories.

I wrote about this in an earlier post: Jarch Colonial Holdings, and quote Heilberg: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”. His intentions are clear. The Jarch management contains people with connections to both the current and the previous US administrations. You can see their management listed on the Jarch LLC website.

Ashton concludes:

Activities to increase agricultural growth in Africa have also been severely compromised by questionable alliances. For instance AGRA, the African Union endorsed ‘Association for a Green Revolution in Africa,’ has seen the undemocratic and unsolicited intervention of supposedly neutral funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The relationship between these funders and pro-genetically modified food interests (in what is now termed bio-colonialism) has served to actively undermine local agricultural collectives, NGOs and projects that aim to promote and share proven solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of neo-colonialism as it operates behind a veil of philanthropy while (wittingly or unwittingly) undermining democratic structures and interests. The obscene profits accrued by capital over recent decades, instead of being taxed and distributed by state organs, are now in the hands of ill-informed and often ideologically biased do-gooders. For instance, given the technocratic origins of the Gates fortune, it is logical that undue emphasis will be placed on similar technocratic agricultural solutions.

These ‘solutions’ are imposed through slick public relations and the support of corporate aligned agri-business interests such as Africa-Bio and A New Harvest, both of which are linked to GM corporations such as Monsanto, the worlds biggest seed company and genetically modified seed distributor.

There is an urgent need to examine these new neo-colonial thrusts. Careful and objective analysis must be undertaken as to how food and land sovereignty is being compromised through naïve interaction with the new global powers of finance and trade. The interests of global capital need to be tempered by intervention and through more pragmatic approaches that take account of the historical relationships between land, community, food security and economic development.

It is ironic that while Africans have fought to cast aside colonial oppression and its concomitant heritage, we have instead opened gates (pun intended) to a new wave of colonial interests that threaten, yet again, to bypass the marginalised whilst enriching a well-connected minority.

It would be tragic to cast aside Africa’s recently won freedom for a yoke of a different design.

Under democratic governance the people who live on the land would determine how their land is used. As Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.

The US claims to support and foster democracy. This is a test. In fact, it is probably THE test. Without food, none of us survive.

Added January 31:

From the GRAIN website:

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN PARTS TO THIS LAND GRAB BRIEFING:

1. A summary and announcement – available online here:
http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=610

2. The full report is available here:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
Also available in PDF format:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212&pdf

3. The Annex to this briefing is a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf

4. GRAIN has released a Google Notebook with full-text news clippings collected during the research for this briefing as a support to those who want to read more.
http://tinyurl.com/landgrab2008

The notebook is only available online, and the news clippings are not in any order, but it can easily be searched. We are doing this because this is not always an easy subject to research on the internet, if you want a broad picture. People may add further clippings to the notebook as they wish, to further build this collective resource – if you would like to participate, please send an email to landgrab@grain.org . GRAIN will not be maintaining nor be responsible for it. Most of the articles are at present in English. (A backup copy is available in PDF format from here: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=209 )

jarch
Because it is YOUR Land,
YOUR Natural Resources,
WE put boots on the ground to keep YOU In Line!

This looks like a job for AFRICOM.

From the Financial Times: US investor buys Sudanese warlord’s land. (h/t to b, and to b real for his extensive research)

A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa’s biggest private land deal. …

… In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr Heilberg is gambling on a warlord’s continuing control of a region where his militia operated in the civil war between Khartoum and south Sudan.

“You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York.

Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company that counts on its board former US state department and intelligence officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and expert on Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and under former president Bill Clinton at the White House.

Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, and have yet to be clarified in a planned land act. For this reason, some foreign experts on Sudan as well as officials in the regional government, speaking on condition of anonymity, doubted Mr Heilberg could assert legal rights over such a vast tract of land. …

Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia, are all primary targets of interest for AFRICOM, all are targeted for “nation building” and for training proxy militaries.

“If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is any value,” he said, adding that he was also in contact with rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.

This is what is important to remember. As b at Moon of Alabama writes:

An political connected outfit like Jarch will not make such an investment when it is not sure that it can push the U.S. government to protect it.

This looks like work for AFRICOM, and those nation “building” mercenaries employed by the State Department and the Pentagon, the same ones who have done so much for the Iraqi people, and for America’s image in Iraq.

The lease agreement was also described in the Sudan Tribune:

“Jarch has leased approximately 400,000 hectares gross of prime farmland from General Paulino Matip. In addition, Jarch will acquire more farm land within Southern Sudan,” said a statement issued by the investment group.

The statement also noted that Mayom county, where the farmland was leased, contains some mineral resources, for which contracts will be executed by the Government of Southern Sudan in early 2009.

There was another story about this in the Financial Times: Quest to create a new Sudan bread basket.

Unity state does border the White Nile and its flat, arable land could, with billions of dollars of investment in irrigation and roads, be transformed into a world-class bread basket.

Mr. Heilberg has no problem with war, violence, and death.

Mr Matip fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement against the northern army before gaining notoriety during one of the bloodiest episodes in Sudan’s civil war, when he switched sides to form his own militia, with backing from parts of his Nuer tribe and the Khartoum regime.

“I am sure Paulino has killed many, but I am sure he did it in protection of his people,” Mr Heilberg says in his defence.

Which is very convenient and, of course, makes everything OK.

Mr Matip’s son Gabriel, who controls the company in which Jarch has bought a majority stake, told the Financial Times that he had negotiated with tribal leaders to secure access to more land.

He said the company also had written agreement for the agricultural development of the land, and other land it may secure in the south of the country, from the ministry of agriculture and forestry in south Sudan.

This means that people, who are likely illiterate, are being cheated out of their traditional lands, lands that have been in their clans and families for centuries. Written contracts backed up by guns and “law” will make that certain. Based on how this works in other places, it will have particularly adverse effects on women, who generally have some economic protections under traditional property practices. When these practices are “westernized”, women lose that traditional protection and get nothing in return.

b asks:

Now ask yourself why the U.S. is fighting terror in Somalia.

Who might have financed the tanks and other weapons from the Ukraine with destination to South Sudan and captured by Somali pirates?

And who finances the Safe Darfur campaign that wants the U.S. to militarily intervene in Sudan?

Mr. Heilberg, Joe Wilson and the investors who pay them are obviously ruthless about the consequences of their enterprise. But it is certain that this will end in war which will have to be endured by the people living on the fertile land Mr. Heilberg leased.

Why is such behavior still or again considered legal?

AFRICOM was designed for just such purpose. This is the “stabilization” and “nation building” that are more traditionally and more accurately called colonialism and imperialism.

On the Jarch Capital LLC website, with Africa highlighted in red, pictured above, it says: Because it is YOUR Land, YOUR Natural Resources!

Mr. Heilberg shows his true intentions and true contempt for Africans when he says: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”

___________________________________________

Added May 2009:

New York investment firm mulling more land leases in S. Sudan
Sudan Tribune
16 April 2009

Jarch Management Group, Ltd., a US investment firm, disclosed that it is considering additional opportunities to lease large tracts of farmland in Southern Sudan.

This report follows the announcement in January of a massive lease agreement that prompted some tension within governing circles in Southern Sudan.

In an apparent change of course from oil investing to agriculture, Jarch Management took a 70% interest in the Sudanese company Leac for Agriculture and Investment and leased approximately 400,000 hectares of land claimed by General Paulino Matip, a figure now straddling a deep fissure within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

In a statement emailed to Sudan Tribune today the company disclosed that it aims to lease another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.

“Since its January 2009 announcement that it had leased about 400,000 hectares, the Company has had a multitude of offers to buy and lease farmland from around the world,” said a statement from the management of the company.

“However, the Company is focused on frontier African countries and continues to look for opportunities in farmland and other natural resources in these countries. As such, the Company hopes to conclude more deals for more leased farmland. The Company is hopeful that it can lease at least another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.”

South Sudanese law requires that large leases of land be approved by two local government bodies. Accordingly, a January statement from Leac Company noted that the acquisition would include dealings with local land authorities and stressed that “the state and local governments shall have budgets for development because of the cash flows from the agricultural schemes the two companies will operate.”

While U.S. companies are banned from doing business in Sudan, agriculture in Southern Sudan is exempted from sanctions provided that the national government does not have any stake in the business and provided that no imports or exports pass through non-exempt areas.

Jarch Management Group, Ltd, which is registered in the Virgin Islands, is managed by New York investor Philippe Heilberg, commodities traders and former State Department and Central Intelligence Agency officials, among others.

corn in Ghana

corn in Ghana

In his essay Destroying African Agriculture Waldo Bello describes how:

African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.

Until the 1970s, Africa was able to feed itself and export food. Now most African countries are net importers. Among the international financial institutions, the IMF, and the World Bank, there was no intention to assist or maintain Africa’s ability to feed itself:

As then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Block put it at the start of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1986, “the idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era. They could better ensure their food security by relying on U.S. agricultural products, which are available, in most cases at lower cost.”

What Block did not say was that the lower cost of U.S. products stemmed from subsidies that were becoming more massive each year, despite the fact that the WTO was supposed to phase out all forms of subsidy.

Bello’s essay is short and crystal clear in describing the net effect of structural adjustments and agricultural dumping.

Mark Plotkin writes in his book about ethnobotany Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice:

Ironically, if the American farmer had to grow only species native to the United States, we would be living off of Jerusalem artichokes, pecans, black walnuts, sunflower seeds, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and gooseberries. To paraphrase the contemporary Kenyan economist Calestous Juma, the exploitation of tropical plant resources by the United States has turned a continent of berries into a global agricultural power.

I was leafing through Plotkin’s book today looking for another quote, which I didn’t find yet, when I found the previous passage and thought it particularly ironic in light of Block’s sentiments above. There is another related issue Plotkin discusses. He is speaking of medicinal uses for plants, but the same holds true for food crops:

… new medicines were probably just waiting to be found in the rain forest plants, but one of the issues that troubled me as I began my research is what has come to be called “intellectual property rights.” Briefly stated, no matter what disease an ethnobotanist might find a cure for during the course of his research, the indigenous peoples who taught him the cure would not benefit from the sales of the new drug.

American agriculture has profited by exploiting the botanical heritage of the entire world. Now giant corporations such as Monsanto are trying to engineer plants from across the globe, so that they cannot be grown anywhere without paying tribute to Monsanto. Local people, whose heritage is these crops, do not share in the profits, and may be forced to pay tribute to a corporation to enjoy their own heritage.

market in Ghana

market in Ghana 2007

A good friend who works for the US Department of Agriculture generally buys in to the theory that big agriculture is more efficient and productive. I have wondered about that, because a lot of what I have been reading seems to point in the opposite direction. Today I found documented confirmation that smaller farms are more productive farms, courtesy of George Monbiot:

Though the rich world’s governments won’t hear it, the issue of whether or not the world will be fed is partly a function of ownership. This reflects an unexpected discovery. It was first made in 1962 by the Nobel economist Amartya Sen(2), and has since been confirmed by dozens of further studies. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield.

In some cases, the difference is enormous. A recent study of farming in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are twenty times as productive as farms of over ten hectares(3). Sen’s observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Phillippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere.

If governments are serious about feeding the world, they should be breaking up large landholdings, redistributing them to the poor and concentrating their research and their funding on supporting small farms.

There are plenty of other reasons for defending small farmers in poor countries. The economic miracles in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan arose from their land reform programmes. Peasant farmers used the cash they made to build small businesses. …

But the prejudice against small farmers is unshakeable. It gives rise to the oddest insult in the English language: when you call someone a peasant, you are accusing them of being self-reliant and productive. Peasants are detested by capitalists and communists alike. Both have sought to seize their land, and have a powerful vested interest in demeaning and demonising them. In its profile of Turkey, the country whose small farmers are 20 times more productive than its large ones, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation states that, as a result of small landholdings, “farm output … remains low.”(9) The OECD states that “stopping land fragmentation” in Turkey “and consolidating the highly fragmented land is indispensable for raising agricultural productivity.”(10) Neither body provides any supporting evidence. A rootless, half-starved labouring class suits capital very well.

Big business is killing small farming. By extending intellectual property rights over every aspect of production; by developing plants which either won’t breed true or which don’t reproduce at all(14), it ensures that only those with access to capital can cultivate. As it captures both the wholesale and retail markets, it seeks to reduce its transaction costs by engaging only with major sellers. … As developing countries sweep away street markets and hawkers’ stalls and replace them with superstores and glossy malls, the most productive farmers lose their customers and are forced to sell up.

This leads to an interesting conclusion. For many years, well-meaning liberals have supported the fair trade movement because of the benefits it delivers directly to the people it buys from. But the structure of the global food market is changing so rapidly that fair trade is now becoming one of the few means by which small farmers in poor nations might survive. A shift from small to large farms will cause a major decline in global production, just as food supplies become tight. Fair trade might now be necessary not only as a means of redistributing income, but also to feed the world.

You can read the article Small is Bountiful. For those who wish to see the source material, the citations are listed at the end of the article.


Chickens in Ghana

Chickens in Ghana

The latest WTO Doha talks have ended without an agreement.  This is good news for developing countries, and generally for the world at large.  For one thing it gives countries a bit more sovereignty:

The past has seen a tendency of nations to give up their sovereignty to some unaccountable organizations or contractual agreement frameworks. The EU, IMF, NATO or the WTO are example for such.

Afraid of mass imports of hugely subsidized goods from the U.S. and EU, developing countries insisted on their right to put tariffs on these and to protect their local long term food sources from economic ruin. The rich countries tried to deny that right to the poor even while they insisted on subsidizing their exports.

The real issue at stake here was the responsibility of a nation to provide for its people. That duty includes their security in a wide sense. Any nation is obliged to take care that it can feed its people from its own soil.

The failure of the Doha talks reaffirms this responsibility. The ability to adopt national policies on food production stays with the local people. Everyone who believes in real democracy should welcome this event. It is a win for the sovereigns of the world – its people.

The contractual agreements with unaccountable organizations mentioned above have traditionally locked developing countries into crushing cycles of debt.

The end of Doha is also a step in the right direction for the environment.

From Derailing Doha Trade Deal Essential to Saving Climate:

Global trade is carried out with transportation that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels.  It is estimated that about 60 per cent of the world’s use of oil goes to transportation activities which are more than 95 per cent dependent on fossil fuels.   An OECD study estimated that the global transport sector accounts for 20-25 per cent of carbon emissions, with some 66 per cent of this figure accounted for by emissions in the industrialized countries.

A derailment of Doha will not be a sufficient condition to formulate a strategy to contain climate change, but given the likely negative ecological consequences of a successful deal, it is a necessary condition.

I’m hoping the failure of Doha will help Ghana protect itself a bit more from EU and US agricultural dumping.  That dumping has made earning money with our small farms extremely difficult.  It is difficult to compete with goods that are priced below the cost of production.

h/t to Moon of Alabama and the well informed people who comment there.

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