Published Land Grabs Letter to the Financial Times
Response to Monday’s FT article “Palm oil producers face challenges in Africa” 24th September 2012
The scramble for land is the latest challenge to Africa’s development (“Palm oil producers face challenges in Africa”, 24 September 2012). Over fifty million hectares of Africa’s productive agricultural land, equivalent to an area the size of Kenya, has been turned over to foreign investors for biofuel and food exports in ten years. Driven by cash rich countries, western agribusinesses and equity firms, the trend threatens to reverse the progress being made by many African governments to modernise agriculture and support the livelihoods of millions of small farmers. For a continent in which 40 percent of its people barely gets enough to eat, this is scandalous.
When presented with the facts last year, Africa’s highest legislative body the Pan-African Parliament was so alarmed they called for a moratorium on all new large-scale land acquisitions until laws and policies have been put in place to regulate land and water use.
A starting point for African and European governments is to implement the UN guidelines on land tenure and land rights agreed in May this year. Failure to do this jeopardises a decade of agricultural investment and risks another decade of dependency on food relief.
Irungu Houghton Pan-Africa Director – Oxfam Nairobi, Kenya.