Third World Land rush

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by HectortheInspector, May 18, 2010.

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  1. Many industrialised countries (especially India and China) have been accused of buying up great lumps of Africa for food security. This article is one of the best condensed summaries I have seen.

    (Interesting accusation that Goldman Sachs now owns the entire Chinese pork industry! Cue for jokes about capitalist pigs?)

    This looks like the Roman Empire 'Latifundia' system written on a global scale.


    In the past three years, foreign governments and investment companies have been buying or leasing vast tracts of farmland in Africa and elsewhere for producing biofuels or food for their own use.[1]

    This 'land rush' was triggered by the demand for biofuels, and accelerated [2] with the financial and food crisis of 2007/8 (see [3] Financing World Hunger, SiS 46).

    Government policies promoting biofuels are based on the mistaken belief that fuels made from plants are 'carbon neutral', in that burning them would simply release the carbon dioxide fixed by photosynthesis and would not increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The European Union is aiming for 10 per cent of its transport to run on biofuels by 2020 [4] (Europe Unveils 2020 Plan for Reducing C Emissions, SiS 37). George W. Bush, for his part, proposed to cure the US' ‘addiction to oil’ by increasing the federal budget 22 per cent for research into clean fuel technologies including biofuels as substitutes for oil to power the country's cars [5] (Biofuels for Oil Addicts, SiS 30). The hope is to replace more than 70 per cent of oil imports from ‘unstable parts of the world’ – the Middle East – by 2025.

    Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) helpfully identified immense areas of 'spare land' in developing countries that could be used for planting 'bio-energy' crops to be turned into biofuels. The World Bank's recent report on the 2008 commodities price hike includes a diagram entitled [6] ‘The stock of unused but potentially arable land is enormous’, depicting more than 700 million hectares of 'unused' land in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 800 million hectares in Latin America and the Caribbean.


    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].

    Edited for length due to public demand!


    * Dr Mae-Wan Ho is a geneticist and the director of The Institute of Science in Society.
    * This article first appeared in ISIS Report (28/04/10), which is published by the Institute of Science in Society.
  2. Surely Hector a brief description and then a link to the article would have sufficed???

    Having read to the third paragraph I had to go back to bed I was that tired!!

    I know I should stop whinging but I'm now officially an Ol' Moaning Git :drool:
  3. My apologies. I didn't get to edit it down properly before I got rushed off into a meeting.

    I'll tidy it up later, but since you are the only person who's bothered to comment so far, I suppose everyone else lost the will to live at paragraph 2.
  4. I bags all the left over bits between the Cape to Cairo so as to colour them pink on a school atlas - Cecil Rhodes.
  5. At least they are buying it instead of just sticking a flag in it and say "Mine".
  6. I've got to say, taking over parts of another country to produce food for your own doesn't seem a viable long term solution.

    As we get climate change a lot of the places in Africa referred to are going to get a bit warmer, undergo desertification even. And with their own food production suffering, do these really think the locals are going to play nice and respect the boundaries of what part of their lands produce food for themselves and what parts produce it for some other far-off land? I'd give it a few months tops after coming under famine until the locals just decided to nationalise that land, thereby leaving any foreign investor in the lurch...

    Not to mention that as fossil fuels run out there will be ever increasing problems shipping that food back home.
  7. This has been going on for some time. The Chinese especially are also securing vast mineral resouces as well. Intersting to note, when they built the Zambia to Dar es salaam railway, China sent up to 25,000 workers to do the bulk of the work, only using local labour for the most menial tasks!
  8. Poor drills and skills among the locals, bypass cultural issues (work ethic, language, patronage/local politics, points of external contact) and safeguard project integrity.

    Also gives something for a small fraction of the horde to go and do whilst stimulating their own economy a bit (many Chinese working abroad like that spend very little in the local economy). It would not surprise me (although it wouldn't be strictly necessary either) if these projects had discrete PLA attachments. China is very keen on building up its expeditionary capability.
  9. Does this mean I don't have to edit it?

  10. I think it would save everyone's scroll wheel if you just quoted the first two paragraphs. :)
  11. This ties in with this article I read in the Telegraph. China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Kings Cross with trains that capable of running at over 200mph within the next ten years.

    Copied from the Telegraph
    Mr Wang said the route of the three lines had yet to be decided, but that construction for the South East Asian line had already begun in the southern province of Yunnan and that Burma was about to begin building its link. China has offered to bankroll the Burmese line in exchange for the country's rich reserves of lithium, a metal widely used in batteries.
    China railway network

    Train that never stops at a station-clever idea.
  12. What were you Googling for when you stumbled across that, Hector?

    Read the lot. Mind boggling. Thanks for posting it. Bookmarked the site for a later revisit. I did have a couple of spare hours though.

    Sounds like a re-run of the Highland clearances; the plebs are getting in the way of making money from the land that they've inhabited for centuries, so we'll drive them off or kill them. ISTR that similar big-money deals with the de-facto goverment ( whoever controls the army) over fishing rights led to all the fish around NE Africa being trawled up and the emergence of Somali piracy.

    If the plebs get uppity, General Whatsit will be obliged to turn the army on his own people. And go into lucrative exile if he loses.
  13. The stunning British Crop Production Council newsletter.

    Useful if your life revolves around pesticides, fertilisers, GMOs and such.

    BCPC (British Crop Production Council), 7 Omni Business Centre, Omega Park, Alton UK GU34 2QD
    Registered in England: Company no: 1338928. Registered charity no: 274828. VAT no: 944113248
    E-mail: Website:
  14. Your average pleb/chav will not take any notice of the exponential global problem of too many people and not enough water/land until it affects them. The peasant living in the third world knows only too well the problem at a local level and is why there are no dogs on the streets of Mogadog [eaten]. I'm Glad I'm old and will not have to face the problems affected by the causes and actions in the article.