Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Land grabbing in other countries by the well to do nations under the garb of food security has attracted critical attention from many quarters and irrespective of any tag attached to such transactions, it is nothing but naked colonization using money power. Though the colonized countries derive some benefits in terms of cash inflow, this does not compensate for the reduced availability of food to the local population. It is in this context that the UN bodies want decent safety clauses in such land acquisition agreements between rich and poor countries.

"International agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds, UK pension funds, foundations and 'individuals have been snapping up some of the world's cheapest land, in Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and elsewhere. Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. Any land investors can't buy is leased for about $1 per year per hectare. In many cases, the contracts have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of "land grabbing", John Vidal reports in UK's Guardian [1]. Nyikaw Ochalla, an indigenous Anuak from the Gambella region of Ethiopia now living in Britain but in regular contact with farmers in his region, told Vidal [1]: "All of the land in the Gambella region is utilised. Each community has and looks after its own territory and the rivers and farmlands within it. It is a myth propagated by the government and investors to say that there is waste land or land that is not utilised in Gambella. "The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands….People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry." Indian companies, backed by government loans, have bought or leased hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, where they are growing rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils to feed their domestic market".

To see Indian companies also getting into this act is rather baffling. There are millions of hectares of government and privately held land in the country lying fallow which can be taken up for development by the private investors within the country if right policies are evolved. That heavy investments can bring these currently unproductive land under cultivation of food crops which will make India truly self reliant in the food front. Treating land as a "holy cow" needs reconsideration and land must be considered as an agricultural asset to be harnessed for the well being of its population.


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