Scramble for African land

A majority of the African population live in rural areas. They are now facing a new reality with increased commercialization, land grabbing and climate change that rapidly change life in many parts of rural Africa.

Kjell Havnevik, NAI researcher, has together with two colleagues recently published a book on this topic: “Biofuels, Land Grabbing and Food Security in Africa”. The book analyses the driving forces behind and consequences of the growing foreign control of African land to grow biofuels and ensure food security. Kjell Havnevik expresses his concern in an interview:

– Large scale investments undermine the land rights of smallholders. These investments often have a tendency to undermine the long term sustainability of agriculture.

The analysis in the book show that the interest of foreign investors and governments in the North, Asia and Arab countries, and also in African countries, stands in stark contrast to the needs and rights of the smallholders and rural population in Africa. In addition, large scale investments of this kind have a negative impact on agricultural and ecological systems.

The deals done between African actors and investors have consequences for many, Prosper Matondi (one of the book’s editors) says, and argues that:

– African governments need to come up with land policies, break democratic space for people to negotiate; but the basic political will is not there.

In conclusion the authors write that: “The politics around biofuels can be regarded as a power game, where the elites decide on behalf of rural smallholders, who cannot easily voice their concerns in relation to bilateral agreements, investment or trade policies made within the regional and international systems.”

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