From The Archives: Land Grab In Africa And Threat To Global Food Security

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[Africa's Agriculture: From The Archives]

In this archival video, Anuradha Mittal the CEO of the Oakland Institute spoke with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman about the threat to global food security and the livelihoods of farmers in Africa as Western private hedge funds buy up huge tracts of land in Africa.

Mittal told Goodman that most of the media coverage have focused on the land being purchased by China, Libya, Qatar and other countries and ignored the acquisitions by American and European hedge funds.

Mittal said "according to the World Bank, in 2009, nearly 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased all over the world, with most of them, around 70 percent or more, being in Africa. And so far, the media has reported on the Chinese, on the Middle Eastern states, you know, the Qataris, buying and purchasing huge tracts of land in Africa. But the story that we’re not told is one of private hedge funds and equity funds who are looking for arbitrage opportunities in Africa and are also taking over huge tracts of land. And that’s what our study finds, as well."

She said hedge funds such as U.K.-based Emergent Asset management promised investors 20% to 30% returns and that major U.S. universities such as Harvard, Vanderbilt, and Spellman with large endowments were investing in the funds.

Mittal said the hedge funds' investments presents a "huge threat to the global food supply" because the large plantation-style farming comes at the expense of sustainable agro-ecological agriculture. The negative impact includes: displacement of farmers from their land; elevated volumes of carbon dioxide emissions and its contribution to the green house effect; increased speculation of food prices.

Mittal said currently hedgefunds impact food prices by controlling commodities. Their control is increased and becomes even more pervasive with more land acquisition in Africa because they would now control: labor; large tracts of land; water; and the ability to dictate what is grown and how it's grown.

Also by displacing farmers in Africa, the people's livelihood and food security is threatened. Some displaced farmers in Mozambique and Zambia end up seeking work in the mines. She says farmers had also been displaced in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Mittal said some of the ceos of these hedge funds started their careers in banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. 

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