[dehai-news] (Reuters): INTERVIEW-Foreign land grabs for food could fuel unrest

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Feb 19 2009 - 08:51:49 EST

INTERVIEW-Foreign land grabs for food could fuel unrest

Feb 19, 2009 5:51pm GMT

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Big purchases of African land by richer countries
in a drive for food security could fuel unrest if the rights of local
farmers are not taken into consideration, a land rights campaigner warned on

Madiodio Niasse, director of the International Land Coalition -- which
brings together intergovernmental organisations and civil society groups to
promote land rights in poor nations -- said there was a general lack of
transparency in international land transactions that needed to be addressed.

Middle Eastern countries flush with oil cash but also Asian nations worried
about their food security have begun buying large swathes of farmland abroad
after a supply scare last year drove prices of most food items to record

"Since the middle of 2008, there has been this huge international trend of
purchasing land abroad. Our fear is that if it's not organised and
regulated, it will have counterproductive effects and could lead to social
unrest," Niasse told Reuters in an interview.

Saudi Arabia's Hail Agricultural Development Co this week announced it had
acquired farming land in Sudan to plant wheat, corn, soy and livestock feed
in a project that could be worth $45 million.

South Korea's Daewoo Logistics is pursuing a massive corn plantation project
in Madagascar, although it said last week that may have to be delayed due to
the country's political instability and weak commodity prices.

Without referring to any particular deal, Niasse said the terms of many such
land transactions, and who would benefit from them, were not clear and
information about them was "not available".

"Is the land in question empty or do people live on it? Where is the
irrigation water coming from, how is the plantation going to be developed,
who will work on it, where will the money go? There is no transparency at
all," he said on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. farm agency IFAD in

While the inflow of foreign money and technology know-how could help
increase the low productivity of African farmlands, Niasse said a code of
conduct was needed to make sure local farmers were involved in any
development project.

"It has to be a guided process, the local people affected have to be
consulted and considered. We want a win-win situation where these projects
can generate employment and give African farmers access to modern seeds,
technological support and credit," he said. (Editing by Anthony Barker)

C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved



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