The past decade has seen a huge rush to acquire land, a phenomenon that some have dubbed “The Great African Land Robbery.” These acquisitions are motivated by rising food and fuel prices, anticipated commodity and resource scarcities, and new incentives for financial speculation. As reports of climate change and ecological devastation multiply, the hunt for land and access to its riches likewise intensifies.
While proponents of corporate farms argue that large-scale land investment will enhance food security, activists and academics alike are underlining how detrimental such land deals could be for the food security of those who are moved off the land to make way for mega corporate farming.
Rapid procurements of crucial food-producing lands and water sources by foreign private entities pose a threat to rural economies and livelihoods. There is a dangerous disconnect between increasing investment in agriculture through rich nations taking over land in poor countries and the aim of securing food supplies for poor and vulnerable populations.
Greater scrutiny of what investments are taking place and their impact is vital to ensure that the development of Africa’s land is, indeed, first and foremost in the interests of Africa’s people. If one cannot differentiate between necessary, beneficial investment and exploitative investment the continent’s farmlands will miss out on much-needed large cash injections aimed at boosting Africa’s agricultural productivity.
This issue of AHN examines the diversity and complexity of land deals both as an existential matter and as a reflection of a continuously changing set of global relationships.