Africa: primary target for land grabbers

Many are the times that the media in Kenya and Africa at large has been awash with news stories about family members fighting over pieces of land, to the extent of killing each other and creating permanent enemies in communities. Court cases on land disputes are so many. A clear depiction of just how much value, we, Africans attach to land, however small the piece.

Much as this little piece of treasure isn’t even enough for her people, Africa has become the primary target of the land grabs, led by Sudan, who has more than 3 million hectares of her land being snatched up by foreign investors.

“Land grabbing” has become a contentious issue in Africa where land is considered central to identity, food security and livelihoods.

The demand for land all over the world has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, grow crops for bio fuels, or simply buy-up land for profit.

GRAIN, a small international non-profit organization that works to support small farmers and social movements released a data set in 2012 documenting 416 recent, large-scale land grabs by foreign investors for the production of food crops. The cases cover nearly 35 million hectares of land in 66 countries.

Ethiopia, South Sudan, Mozambique, Liberia, the DRC and Sierra Leone have all signed huge land deals with foreign investors.

Sadly, most of these land deals are done in secret, with the who is who in the African governments aiming to eat from the best half of the food chain, if not at the top.  Land leases are often cheap. Extensive tax holidays are common. The jobs created if any, are limited with a meager salary.

According to GRAIN most of the land grabbers come from the agri-business sector, most probably spear headed by the dramatic increase in global food prices in 2007 and the food and financial crises of 2008 that caused political and economical instability and social unrest in both poor and developed nations

Investors based in Europe (UK and Germany) and Asia (China and India) are associated with most of the land grabs. The US, UAE and Saudi Arabia also come among the top. Financial companies and sovereign wealth funds are also responsible for about a third of the deals.


This map focuses on those deals that were initiated after 2006, led by foreign investors and  that involved large areas of land.

The host governments and investors always say that these investments will lead to economic development, promising employment, infrastructure and social services.

Well, well, are we not still seeing women and men being evicted  from their homes and the land they rely on to grow food to eat and make a living, usually without compensation? See the rise in rural-urban migration and Africans still sagging under the burden of utmost poverty?

These are scenes that will most probably be on replay for eternity, unless the leaders in Africa learn one rare virtue; fighting for the rights of the people they serve.


Mercy Juma
About the Author: Mercy Juma
A broadcast journalist with the Nation Media Group, East Africa’s largest media house, Mercy Juma is always looking for opportunities to grow in journalism. This is why she applied for the2013 Internews Health and Data Journalism Fellowship. She reported for the fellowship on August 19 her eyes shining with expectation. “I hope that the fellowship will make me an all-rounder health journalist who tells story that have impact” she says. She developed an interest in journalism when she was a student at Moi University, after a stint as a reporter and editor at the university’s radio station. Her relentless pursuit of knowledge has seen her attend several workshops among them the Youth Leadership and Succession Politics by Internews in Kenya. “I covered the 2013 General Election effectively as a reporter because of the training I got from Internews.”
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