It would among other things serve as a critical tool to direct private agricultural investment at country level to support food security and neutralise the risks associated with “land grabbing” faced by rural African communities.
Around 45 million hectares of land worldwide was sold to foreign investors between October 2008 and August 2009, which is equivalent to about four times the size of the entire country of Malawi, and at the same time representing a ten-fold increase from previous year’s transactions.
Two thirds of the land grabbing is currently underway in Africa, where there is more food insecurity.
In Mozambique, for instance, a conservative estimate, this year, puts the size of investment in total at 10.9- million ha, which is more than twice the size of The Netherlands (4.2-million ha) or Switzerland (4.1-million ha).
Mr Lamine Ndiaye, spokesman of Oxfam at the AU Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting in Malawi in a statement to the Ghana News Agency operationalised “land grabbing” as damaging large scale acquisitions by private investors (Companies or Countries) with negative impact for local populations’ livelihoods and food security.
He stated that while the AU guidelines were a step in the right direction, Oxfam remain concerned that land grabbing was not being addressed adequately enough with a sense of urgency at the global, regional and national levels.
Small scale farmers who might see opportunities in new foreign agricultural investments are finding that, investments tend to be poorly regulated and poorly executed said Mariam Sow de Enda-Pronat, an Oxfam partner in West Africa.
She said governments have the first responsibility in this matter in protecting their own populations against bad deals.
Madam Enda-Pronat said there was the need to recognise, strengthen and prioritise all forms of land rights in order to ensure access of communities to the natural resources on which their livelihoods depended.
She said Oxfam through its support to social movements is assisting countries where these rights are not fully guaranteed and support communities in their claims to land rights through legal aid, research and analysis to livelihood organisations in relation to local land use.
“Women, who are the foundation of agricultural activities in most African countries, are already blocked from getting optimal benefits from land in order to live decently,” she observed.
Madam Enda-Pronat stressed that land grabbing could as well be the “killing blow”, because land struggles are being exacerbated by land investments, which have been removing access to natural resources, displace local populations and inability to deliver on promised employment for women workers’.
She is optimistic that concrete resolutions would emerge from the conference and their “efforts would not be reduced to additional piece of paper work.”