Landgrabs – the new enclosures

What is land for? Who is it for? Who owns land? What is the future for millions of farmers whose families have farmed land for generation but who have no title to it. These are some of the most pressing questions in the world today.

UK writer Fred Pearce took a look at the whole issue of land grabs in a recent book The Landgrabbers and spoke about his findings at the Halifax festival earlier this month. You can hear interview with him about what he found by clicking on the link above.

The documentary Land Rush gives an insight into just one example in Mali.  75% of Mali’s population are farmers, but rich nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing their land in order to establish large agribusinesses. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism.

The film follows American sugar developer Mima Nedelcovych’s Sosumar scheme – a $600 million partnership between the Government of Mali to lease 200-square kilometers of prime agricultural land for a plantation and factory.

However, unlike some of his competitors, Mima sees the involvement of the local community as key to the project’s success and offers partnership to local farmers as contracted sugar cane growers with the prospect of becoming, in time, “a small commercial farmer and then a larger commercial farmer.”

But the scheme isn’t welcomed by everyone and the Sosumar experiment abruptly ends when a military coup takes place in Mali.

What is happening in Mali is just a tiny fraction of what is going on globally. “A new look at land-grabs in the global South linked to EU biomass policies” argues Biofuelwatch, while UK pension funds and asset management companies could potentially have £37 billion invested in ‘land grabs’ worldwide, according to a new report published in mid June by Friends of the Earth.

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About geofftansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I am also a member of the Food Ethics Council and chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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2 Responses to Landgrabs – the new enclosures

  1. I found this fascinating and thought provoking. The question about who owns land, is a loaded question. It is only in the last couple of centuries that land has been owned. In the UK, it was the enclosures act that changed this fact. Using imperialism, this British value of land ownership was instigated across the globe. For example, in Zimbabwe during the 1980s there was a move towards land reform. However, this descended in to civil war. On the other extreme you have communities such as the aboriginals in Australia who rejected the concept of land ownership. This was educated out of them by the state. These facts sadden me. I believe as a species we have lost perspective.

    I continue to engage on this subject and do I put pressure on companies with the support of groups such as Share Action. These organisations help our voice to be heard.

  2. As a food blogger I am determined to learn and write more about issues like biofuels and landgrabbing and privatisation of intellectual resources as they effect food on the ground/ in the kitchen. Glad to have found your very informative blog. Thank you.

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