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.

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The crab does not bite, it is the handshake that hurts. – Proverb

Somalia belongs to HOA Phase Zero of AFRICOM’s activities in Africa according to a CJTF-HOA slideshow. You don’t see any mention of partnerships or listening to African partners on this list of Phases from the beginning of the slideshow. If you look at the Phases listed on the slide, Phase 1 is to Deter, Phase 2 is Seize. Anything the US is seizing in Africa does not belong to the United States. Phase 3 is to Dominate, followed by Phase 4, Stabilize. That is what stability operations are, keeping the dominated stabilized and under control, aka peacekeeping, and then, Phase 5, Enabling them to serve the dominant, or enabling them to get out of the way of dominant interests. For all these Phases in Africa, AFRICOM needs proxies, proxy soldiers and proxy governments. That is what Africans solving Africa’s problems means. It means solving local and continental problems to the advantage of the United States, and arranging the business of government to serve the US and the West through the use of proxies and client governments.

Phase Zero

Roger Pociask linked to the DTIC pdf slideshow from his blog. He has some important observations for the US Africa Command, he says:

In spite of the good things that AFRICOM has accomplished across the continent, by and large you have been viewed by the natives as nothing but an embarrassment to be mistrusted across Africa. Your self-declared benevolence (or security cooperation) is absolutely NOT believed by anyone. They smile and nod and readily accept millions of U.S. dollars.

CJTF-HOA strategic objectives

Above you see a list of CJTF-HOA strategic objectives over the banner Africans Solving Africa’s Problems. Nothing on the itemized list is specifically African other than The middle item, Engage African Union. The items are all about the Africa Command. To what purpose does the Africa Command engage the African Union? The US has certainly done its best to marginalize and ignore the African Union on the subject of Libya, AFRICOM’s first war in Africa. The US also made quite cynical use of the African Union in the post electoral conflict in Ivory Coast this year.

Mark Fancher at Black Agenda Report writes With Friends Like AFRICOM, Who Needs Enemies?

The crab does not bite, it is the handshake that hurts.

Beware of Americans bearing gifts, guns, and an AFRICOM patch; their embrace can turn fatal. “One minute, Gadhafi was America’s best friend in northern Africa and in the next minute he was an evil menace.” The turnabout can be sudden.

Public statements issued by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) frequently refer to Africa’s governments and military forces as “our African partners.” The following AFRICOM website excerpts are typical:

“An important part of this approach is that we learn from our African partners what is important to them.”

“Our African partners have expressed four common, defense-oriented goals that are consistent with U.S. interests and AFRICOM objectives…”

“U.S. AFRICOM’s programs and activities support the development of capable, professional partner military forces…”

Partnerships typically involve trust, mutual respect and shared decision-making. These may be hard to find in relationships that AFRICOM has with Africa’s armies because history and circumstances have determined that Africa’s true, best interests and U.S. interests will always diverge. Consequently, in any relationship between Africa and the U.S., one set of interests will likely dominate the other.

For its part, AFRICOM has declared: “As a military organization, our responsibility to the American people is to support U.S. national security priorities.” Africa’s security priorities were forced to yield to so-called U.S. national security priorities when AFRICOM initiated military attacks against Libya at the same time that the African Union was calling for dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts in that country. This provides the best clue that if an African “partner” were to attempt to give African interests priority over U.S. objectives, the partnership would be short-lived.

Historically U.S. imperialism has embraced selected governments as “allies,” or “friends,” or “partners” when there is something to be gained from the relationship. But when these “friends” in some way jump ship, the U.S. turns on them like an enraged schizophrenic. Libya is the latest example.

when it comes to fickle friends, the U.S. has no peer, and this should give pause to any African country considering a relationship with AFRICOM.

Lest any would-be AFRICOM “partner” assume that Libya is an aberration, it is important to recall that Gadhafi is not the only African leader to be kicked to the curb. Robert Mugabe too has been romanced by imperialism and then jilted.

Mobutu in the Congo was a long time client of the US until it turned against him. Saddam Hussain in Iraq was another US client the US turned against. Uganda’s Museveni and Rwanda’s Kagame are currently US favorites for their military cooperation, and for their incursions into the Congo that advantage US, Canadian, and other Western mineral and mining interests. This has led to the deaths of millions of citizens in the Congo, as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congolese Army, and various militias vie for control of the mineral trade. It has led to the use of rape on an unimaginble scale as a weapon of terror and war. Recent oil discoveries and projected discoveries are likely to exacerbate the violence and conflicts. The US spends a lot of money on training the Ugandan and Rwandan militaries. And the US has recently begun training the DRC Congo military as well.

Fancher continues:

African countries considering “partnerships” would do well to engage in sober analysis when AFRICOM arrives bearing gifts of humanitarian assistance and military training. Given the treatment accorded other U.S. “friends” who have fallen out of favor, it is worth contemplating the dangers of having to tell AFRICOM “no” if one day a request is made to participate in a mission that is clearly contrary to Africa’s best interests. This is not a far-fetched potential dilemma.

AFRICOM announced that one of its exercises for this summer is called “Shared Accord.” Its purpose is to train “… U.S. and African forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa.” Once trained, who will be the targets of these “peace keepers”? Will they include the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND)? According to reports, MEND recently vowed to attack facilities of an Italian company that MEND accuses of theft of Nigeria’s oil. MEND claims its attacks are in solidarity with Libyans enduring imperialist attacks by Italy and others.

Or then again, perhaps AFRICOM will decide to move militarily against Robert Mugabe. Whatever the target, if prospective “partners” don’t have the stomach for anti-African imperialist missions, or the wherewithal to resist U.S. retaliation for refusing to cooperate, they should probably refuse to answer the door when AFRICOM comes a knocking.

The US has clearly and frequently taken sides in internal conflicts in African countries, Libya, Ivory Coast, Somalia, are just a few of the most recent. The DJTF-HOA slideshow pictures the post election violence in Kenya as one of the things it wishes to protect against. It ignores the US role in subverting the counting of the votes that led to the violence.

And the US fear of Shabab in Somalia is not really about growing terrorism but about a political threat to what the US sees as its interests. As Johnnie Carson told us last July in Kamapala”

It is important that the TFG be strengthened, for if it is not, Shabaab will continue to emerge as a significant political threat not only in the south, but also throughout the region.

Currently for the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia: U.S. Sends in the Marines and More Drones

Even as U.S. militarization of the Horn of Africa has contributed massively to the threatened starvation of millions, the Americans have announced an escalation of drone attacks against Somalia and the establishment of a Marine task force for the region. A United Nations spokesman describes the food and refugee emergency in Somalia as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” with millions at immediate risk. Not coincidentally, the epicenter of the disaster is the area where Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia meet – which is also a focus of U.S. Special Forces, surveillance and logistics activity.

Whenever the U.S. rachets up its armed interventions in Somalia, disaster follows.

In addition to the famine in which 3.7 million people are in crisis and more than 10 million affected, two current major stories about Somalia are Jeremy Scahill’s The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia and the creation of AFRICOM Marine task force to help train militaries fighting al-Qaida-linked groups in Somalia, Maghreb region For more background and analysis on these two stories and Somalia’s situation in general, please see africa comments.

AFRICOM continues its incursions into Africa. Roger Pociask calls our attention to a brief article in the Indian Ocean Newsletter, for which he provides a screenshot:

AFRICOM in Juba South Sudan, click to enlarge

South Sudan is on the western borders of Ethiopia and Kenya while Somalia is on their eastern borders. South Sudan is the target of intense US military interest and part of the reason for military buildup in the region. There is significant oil there. South Sudan is also where US investors have been making highly questionable purchases of large tracts of land without much or any reference to the people who are actually living on and using the land, who are its ancestral owners. For the new colonial “landowners” to enforce their purchases, they intend to use force. As the head of Jarch Capital LLC said:

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

[He is] backed by former CIA and state department officials

AFRICOM will be getting busy training proxies in South Sudan to look after Mr. Heilberg’s land acquisitions as well as those of other US investors such as Nile Trading. The proxy armies it is training can evict any of the present local inhabitants from their ancestral land if they object or are in the way, in Sudan, or in other countries.

The government of South Sudan barely exists, there is little or no infrastructure and little or nothing in the way of government institutions, as this report from AlJazeera English describes. If AFRICOM comes in for “partnering” and training, the armed forces will be by far the strongest institution in the country, unless there are other equally well funded efforts to build the institutions that do the real business of government. I don’t see any signs of that at present. It should be fairly easy to install a US client military government and keep it starved for anything other than more military buildup. The people who worked and voted for independence may discover they have brought themselves a harsh colonial client dictatorship instead. They may stand to lose more than they have gained.

Returning to AFRICOM’s CJTF-HOA slide show, take a look at the last two slides in succession:

Africans (pictured as children) solving African problems, CJTF-HOA Overview Summary

CJTF-HOA asking if there are any questions

The Summary looks more about AFRICOM than Africa, but the banner says Africans solving Africa’s problems. The Africans pictured are all children. It looks like there may be one US soldier at the back of a classroom holding up a child. The children are huddled together in order to be in the shot, but they look huddled together. Are these children supposed to be Africa’s problems? Or are they supposed to solve Africa’s problems? There are no African adults pictured as problem solvers. If you look at just the graphics in the two slides below you will see how the US and AFRICOM see Africans and the US role in Africa, a bunch of children facing the military might of the United States arrayed before them, perhaps I should say arrayed against them. Questions?

CJTF-HOA images on the last two slides

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.

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

________

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.

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.

Here’s a dumb energy idea – fight climate change by chopping down forests to grow biofuel crops:

 

Increasing production of biofuels to combat climate change will release between two and nine times more carbon gases over the next 30 years than fossil fuels, according to the first comprehensive analysis of emissions from biofuels.

It seems obvious that this is a really dumb idea, but that is just what international corporations and some really bad leadership in Africa are planning.

Africa appears to plunge from one corporate nightmare to another. Just as we begin to come to terms with the colonially-sponsored corporate conquest of our oil resources, along comes a new wave of ‘green’ companies turning fertile African lands to Northern ‘gold’. Senegalese president and agrofuel promoter Abdoulaye Wade has called this ‘a new revolution in Africa’. Others have likened it to ‘the new scramble for Africa’.
. . . large tracts of arable land are being sold off to the highest bidders with little regard for the repercussions on local populations livelihoods and food security.
. . .
A recent study published by the Africa Biodiversity Network (ABN) provides compelling evidence from Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Benin that the misguided scramble for projects could lead to an environmental and humanitarian disaster on the continent. For instance, Timothy Byakola reports that a plan is underway to convert a third of Uganda’s prime rainforest reserve, Mabira Forest, into agricultural land on which sugarcane will be planted for ethanol production. According to Byakola, President Yoweri Museveni has vociferously supported this controversial project, ignoring community opposition to it. The consequences of the deforestation of 7,100 hectares of one of the key water catchment sources for the Nile River and Lake Victoria, and the implications for the communities around Mabira which depend on the forest as a source of livelihood, are potentially enormous.
. . .
As with carbon trading, the agrofuels issue brings climate justice questions to the fore. In 2004 climate change activist George Monbiot warned that rising demand for biofuels will result in competition for food between cars and people. ‘The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are, by definition, richer than those who are in danger of starvation.’ He goes on to argue that the reason Northern governments are enthusiastic is because they don’t want to upset car drivers. He argues that biofuels ‘appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It’s an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total.’

Grain prices, particularly maize and wheat are shooting through the roof. People are already going hungry in a number of countries as a result. And the switch to biofuel crops damages protein supply, driving up the price of animal feed, as well as the price of staple food crops. Food aid is dropping because the budgets alloted to it are fixed, but the price of the food is going up. At the same time, the biofuel “miracle plant” jatropha is growing on huge plantations. The reason jatropha was supposed to be a good idea is because it is tough enough to grow in arid and marginal lands. Instead, it is being grown instead of food. As the paragraph above points out, poor people will starve, and rich people will drive, fueled by the food taken from poor people’s mouths.

The governments of the poor countries will use their armies trained and equipped by the US and other rich countries, to control political dissent. Rich governments will be happy because they don’t have to pass unpopular regulations or raise taxes. The people in the rich countries will tut tut comfortably about how those poor people don’t know how to govern themselves. And even if biofuel contributes more to global warming than does fossil fuel, rich countries will meet their carbon targets, and won’t worry. It is probably a good thing the poor are always with us (Matthew 26:11) that way we can continue to rip them off and avoid any sacrifice or inconvenience to ourselves.