by Jerry Alatalo
xecutive Director of the Oakland Institute Anuradha Mittal and her team have worked for years on land, food and environment issues in regions around the Earth. Oakland Institute recently joined the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in exposing World Bank actions involving land grabs/acquisitions by foreign investors in Ethiopia which have resulted in tens of thousands of small farmers becoming forcibly evicted from their land.
Ms. Mittal describes the situation with regard to land grabs in Ethiopia as “dire”, with evicted farmers and their families facing persecution, intimidation, and arrest if refusing to leave the land which has sustained them for generations or by protesting. While many around the world are under the impression that colonialism in Africa is long-over and a thing of the past, what the Oakland Institute has discovered is a type of “re-colonization” of the African continent has occurred in recent years through land grabs/giveaways to investors looking to extract natural resources.
The Oakland Institute has become an organization that people in African nations and other regions on Earth go to when such deceptive transactions reach the point where bulldozers begin leveling homes of people who’ve farmed and worked the land to make a living for, as mentioned, generations. Despite a common absence of government transparency making it difficult to produce financial and land area statistics, Ms. Mittal was able to share that in the year 2011 – globally, 56 million hectares (a hectare is the size of a football field), roughly the size of France, became transferred from small-scale subsistence farmers/land owners to international investors.
In the last decade, the amount of land transferred to corporate and individual investors globally was 200 million hectares, of which 70% was on the African continent. Whether investors were looking for profits from large agribusiness operations, mining, or other types of business opportunities, too often large numbers of small-scale farmers have become displaced. While financial institutions like the World Bank, prospective corporations/investors, along with corrupt government officials in the various nations explain their actions as “economic development, job creation, poverty reduction, food security for the people of Africa” etc., in Ms. Mittal’s view people’s land is being stolen.
So, Oakland Institute’s researchers have exposed the false argument that foreign investors and the World Bank are only interested in “socially responsible, benevolent investment, meant only for carrying out altruistic goals like improving the people’s quality of life”. Ms. Mittal may uncover the true motives of foreign investors in African nations by pointing out that African lands are being sold at $.50-($7-9) per hectare compared to $7-8,000 per hectare in Malaysia/Indonesia, $26,000 per hectare in the United Kingdom, and $14-17,000 per hectare in the midwest United States for the same quality land.
Oakland Institute Director Anuradha Mittal believes the land is being stolen and not being paid for, that the practice of land grabs shows the absence in nations of rule of law, and that wealthy corporations/investors are taking the opportunity to re-colonize Africa and get away it.
She points out that the World Bank’s recent creation of “ease of doing business rankings” for developing nations has resulted in a “race to the bottom”, where the less environment, labor, tax, and legal constraints a nation has for investors the better the country’s ranking. This race to the bottom trend has negative consequences for men, women and children living in the various developing nations as related to democracy and governing for the health and well-being of citizens. Combine this with the near unanimous participation of corporations and wealthy individuals in the global tax haven/evasion industry and developing nations are essentially being plundered.
The Oakland Institute has earned much credit for bringing these corrupt practices to the awareness of the world’s people, and has because of their actions – combined with the group’s global recognition and solid reputation for anti-corruption efforts and reasearch – successfully prevented or reversed large-scale land transactions which otherwise would have harmed a great number of people.
Please disseminate The Oakland Institute and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ extremely valuable, important work to honorable leaders everywhere on Earth – and to the attention of contacts/friends you know in developing countries, especially nations on the continent of Africa. It will truly make all the difference in the world.
The Oakland Institute: www.oaklandinstitute.org
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: www.icij.org
(Thank you to SaharaTV at YouTube)