Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What “Land Grabbing" is

This is just a section of my response from a discussion about Land investment and its difference from Land grabbing.

The term land grab refers to the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors from mostly poor, developing countries in order to produce crops for export.

1.       Is land leasing always considered as land grabbing?

No, Land investment is not always considered as Land grabbing.Land investment can be seen as a means of poverty-reduction and means of creating jobs, building schools and health posts as these are the standard in any land acquisition agreement. It becomes land grabbing when deals and negotiations are not transparent and are not made between the existing local land holders and the foreign investors .This deal has to be made through prior and free consent to fulfill the need of the indigenous and other marginalized ethnic group. The deal also needs to respect the existing customary and common rights [Land rights].As we know ,in Ethiopia, land is owned by state and the 80% of the population that lives of farming mostly has a non formal title to the land and have been using it under customary tenure arrangements.

The other case that makes land acquisition a grabbing is when the benefit is not shared as the local community SHOULD NOT lose from any foreign investment and the bargains should be made in equal term .For instance relocations should be smooth not only voluntary and proper grazing land for their cattle, fuel wood should be available and the promised skilled and non skilled jobs should be made available with the proper wage. The other reason is adherence to national trade policies. When national food security is at risk (for instance, this year Ethiopia will have scarce of food for 3 million people from acute drought), domestic supplies should have priority. Foreign investors should not have a right to export during an acute national food crisis.   

2. How much percent of the total amount of land is leased compared to all cultivable land that we have ?
1.8 million hectares of farmland to Indian investors for 70 years.
250,000 hectares of land to the Saudi Star Agriculture Development Company.
Sold hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Gambella for $1 a year "lease".
Land leased by unknown private investors(Saudi Arabia) in exchange for US$100 million investment
5,000 hectares secured by Dubai World Trading Company (UAE) in joint venture fortea
13,000 hectares secured by FloraEcoPower (Germany) for biofuel crops; contract farming arrangement
Land secured by Sun Biofuels (UK) forjatropha (biofuel)

3.       We don't have liquidity and the required equipments for large scheme farming therefore leasing the land to whoever has such capacity to produce is best alternative because the other alternative is sleeping on the land.

Ethiopia has given pieces of land for 815 investors for the past 5 years. Foreign investment can provide key resources for agriculture, including development of needed infrastructure and expansion of livelihood options for local people. If large-scale land acquisitions cause land expropriation or unsustainable use, however, foreign investments in agricultural land can become politically unacceptable. It is therefore in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved ensuring that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.


  1. Excellent response, I absolutely agree with you, dear! There has to be an advocacy group mainly focused on this issue, without being politicized. What do you think?

  2. This is not a question of Politics it is all about nationality and the rights as a citizen.Even though we cant rule out the fact that is it also not politically acceptable

  3. The reason why i said a proposal like this shouldn't be politicized: this is a topic that affects all Ethiopians, regardless of which political group one chooses to support; thus the moment one politicizes it, i.e. seeing it only as a gold mine for political opportunism, one makes it an exclusive club of individuals that only think in a certain way, and others that could potentially contribute greatly to the cause will be left out, and as a result the cause will fail miserably to present itself as something that matters to all Ethiopians, and so its success will be limited, perhaps it may not even go beyond the talking stage.

  4. 1. Transparency
    “.It become land grabbing when deals and negotiations are not transparent and are not made between the existing local land holders and the foreign investors”
    I believe the root of this problem lies here, to my understanding most of the land agreement are not transparent. THE CONTRACT SHOULD BE OPEN TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO SEE IT. (Obama mentioned about transparent government (his) a few weeks ago, I wonder, what is the problem with this Gov. Guys, hum?)
    2. Socio-Environmental studies
    “….the benefit is not shared as the local community SHOULD NOT lose from any foreign investment and the bargains should be made in equal term…”
    “…If large-scale land acquisitions cause land expropriation or unsustainable use, however, foreign investments in agricultural land can become politically unacceptable….”
    Still the above issue stands here, the question of proper Socio-Environmental studies are made will be genuine to ask? I believe they wouldn’t dare to work without this studies, but the depth of the study still can be questionable too.(The awareness level for this study is very low for most of the public in Ethiopia)
    To protect minor ethnic groups and states and to benefit locales for the development, that resource usage should be considered in government budget appropriation (such as using a mixed formula, population and land area)
    3. Doing math.
    I tried to calculate the amount of land used based on ur data, and here it is:
    1,800,000.00 hectares--- (India investors)
    250,000.00 hectares ---- (Saudi Star Agriculture Development Company)
    1,000,000 hectares --- (Sold hundreds of thousands of hectares… my assumption the maximum thousand numbers.)*
    500,000 hectares --- (India, including in agriculture, flower growing, and sugar estates, my assumption)*
    500,000 hectares --- (unknown private investors (Saudi Arabia))*
    (*)I think u repeated this one on some of the others (like Gambella for unknown Saudi investor), but I add them up as they are
    5,000 hectares ---- (Dubai World Trading Company (UAE))
    13,000 hectares ---- ( FloraEcoPower (Germany) for biofuel crops)
    50,000 hectares --- (Sun Biofuels (UK) forjatropha (biofuel),my assumption the Brits are more interested than the dutch)
    2,000,000 hectares --- (for other investors that r not mentioned here)
    This will add up to 6,118,000 hectares in total is given to foreign investors. (11, 2682,900 total surface area of Ethiopia).Out of the total surface area of the country I assumed 50% of the land can be potentially cultivatable(commonly used agricultural practices), but as some data show it could go to 60%.So this gives us 56,341,450 hectares cultivatable land(50%). So comparing the land leased with the potential land, it becomes 10.9% of the land is already leased. In my perspective, even we lose 50% of the benefit from lease it means nothing compared to what we have ,but it is advisable to make the best out of any deal(if there is one).(The noise is too much, compared to the gathering).
    When one wants all I think that is not negotiation, that is just GRABBING. The Gov.of Ethiopia promotes investment by using tax exceptions, cheap land lease and free marketing strategy and so and so on. We cannot take it all, which is the cruel part of our poverty. Why do this investors come to our country unless they found a better offer here than others. As they need us we need them badly too. NO ONE INVESTOR WOULD COME TO FEED Ethiopia’s 3 million famine prone people from acute drought!
    5. MY POINT
    As land leasing for foreign investors seems to the better and bitter alternative we have this time the following points should be considered.

    I hate to transfer my poverty to my children as our fathers did!

  5. Elyas,
    In a country like Ethiopia where land is 100% owned by the government, deals and negotiation are made directly between the two bodies ,smallholders who are being displaced from their land cannot effectively negotiate terms favorable to them when even trying to raise their needs and terms with such powerful national and international actors. As in the case of the civil society and local community to act on the behalf of the poor, there should be a collectively organized group which is educated and aware and have an influence to create a shift of power and as we know the system we have in place is mostly like to give a tone of deafness to such matter and have so far executed those local community members and farmers that have tried to raise their voice.
    So no matter how strong our proposal is ,the initial necessity is the willingness of the government to facilitate the opportunities by appropriate policies and if the policies are already in place then they should be reinforced to be practically implemented.

  6. This land issue always irritates me. I cannot be convinced Ethiopia needs to lease its land for foreign investors. It is just only the government has great passion for cash money. What ever is investigated as an out come of cash money will be deployed, regardless of its effect on the society. There has been no fair relocation operation of the local people.

  7. The survey result is just awesome, but the analysis is just so poor and biased.
    1. For you question as a logo (“If a country was worried … not buy Iowa.”)
    If one has got that much money and need why not? I think it is very presumptuous to justify it that way.
    2. “…, evidently showing other choices gradually but steadily catching up with the highly favored choice”
    This shows you have already made you mind before the survey has ended,
    3. Missed parameter
    Even if both the top options have found Equal votes, political motivation has great influence on the result. Just see the profile pictures and it will tell you a lot.
    So the most rational way forward for land investment issues is to develop (already there), and implement the policy.