Some prominent American universities and pension funds, among other wealthy foreign investors, are allegedly purchasing huge tracts of land in Africa -- acts that may lead to the eviction of thousands of local farmers, according to a study by the Oakland Institute (Oakland Institute), a California-based think tank.
U.S. educational institutions, including Harvard University, as well as pension funds, are using UK hedge funds and European financial speculators to acquire large agricultural properties thousands of miles away on the African continent.
Many of these lands are being taken in order to develop biofuel production, in place of normal food production.
Oakland Institute said in the report that the investors have little or no accountability in these transactions, while providing them with greater control over food supply for the world's poor.
This is very, very scary, said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of Oakland Institute.
Oakland Institute’s research looked at such transactions in seven African countries: Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Oakland Institute researchers claim that many of these western investors are getting arable land very cheaply and are generally not required to create jobs for the locals in exchange for the acquisitions.
For example, Oakland Institute cited, a foreign investment group was able to acquire 100,000 hectares of fertile land in Mali for a 50-year term for free.
The buyers are also apparently not observing labor and environmental rules.
Investment in agriculture is very important, but the question is what kind of investment, said Mittal.
The pace of land buying has been phenomenal. In 2009, nearly 60 million hectares – an area the size of France -- of African lands were purchased or leased, Oakland Institute stated.
Most of these deals are characterized 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 Oakland Institute report.
Oakland Institute concedes that the rush to buy farmland has, in some cases, been encouraged by the African governments themselves who are desperate to modernize farming methods and increase crop yields in order to feed rising populations.
For example, The Malian Investment Promotion Agency provides Western investors access to land as well as the ability to move profits out of the country
International investors who are involved in these deals are not accountable to anyone.
Many of these African land deals are conducted through Emergent Asset Management, a London-based firm which is run by former currency dealers from JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs
[ [link to www.ibtimes.com
[read rest at link]