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Ear to the Ground

U.S. Colleges Get In on African Land Grabs

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Posted on Jun 9, 2011
Flickr / ILRI

A woman tends to her corn and chickens on her subsistence farm in Chokwe, Mozambique.

American universities are reportedly using endowment funds to buy and lease vast tracts of African farmland, often for piddling prices, in deals that will reward foreign investors handsomely while separating tens of thousands from their homes and farms and providing little or none of the economic benefits promised them, California researchers say. —ARK

The Guardian:

In Tanzania, the memorandum of understanding between the local government and US-based farm development corporation AgriSol Energy, which is working with Iowa University, stipulates that the two main locations – Katumba and Mishamo – for their project are refugee settlements holding as many as 162,000 people that will have to be closed before the $700m project can start. The refugees have been farming this land for 40 years.

In Ethiopia, a process of “villagisation” by the government is moving tens of thousands of people from traditional lands into new centres while big land deals are being struck with international companies.

The largest land deal in South Sudan, where as much as 9% of the land is said by Norwegian analysts to have been bought in the last few years, was negotiated between a Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development and a local co-operative run by absent chiefs. The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 (£15,000) allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil and timber. The company, headed by former US Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas, says it intends to apply for UN-backed carbon credits that could provide it with millions of pounds a year in revenues.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, June 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

Speculation extravaganza.

Why are all these secure funds speculating in oil purchases, foreign lands and other risky investments?

Where else can a retirement fund buy future deliveries of oil but only to resell at a later date since they are not in the oil business nor can they ‘take delivery’.  Just more middlemen to jack up the price where it is not warrented.

If the U.S. Congress is to reform Wall Street they have to make rules as who is allowed to invest in strategic resources and who cannot.

I have no fear in ‘speculating’ that money invested in African lands is only as good as the next government of that African nation, seizing assets is not new.

Who’s selling this? some Nigerian prince?

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, June 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

I can’t believe that it is legal for hedge funds to ‘buy’ and manage land in impoverished countries.  I hear on Democracy Now that in some cases they paid $1.00 for 99 years of ownership due to some legalities left over from the colonizing days.

Why can’t we get a full list of participating colleges.  We should contact those colleges directly.

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By gerard, June 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Everybody writing comments here,who went to college (no matter where, no matter how long ago) can write a letter or make a phone call to the president of their alma mater, raise questions about this thievery, and demand that such immoral activities be stopped. Please do so, and report back to let us all know on Truthdig what were the answers.  It’s the logical place to begin, right?

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