Oromia-Ethiopia: Latest Updates on Land Grab – Reports from the World Bank and the Oakland Institute
The World Bank’s Report on Land Grab
The much anticipated report from the World Bank (WB) on land grab (which is termed as “land acquisition” in the report) was received with a number of criticisms; the WB’s report, titled “Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?”, was published earlier in September 2010.
The report can be accessed from the World Bank website. Below are given excerpts from this report on Ethiopia.
The World Bank report discloses that the government of Ethiopia has transferred ~1.2 million hectares of land in five years, between 2004 and 2009. The report also says that, in most cases, “the expected job growth and net investment were very low.” The following table shows countries with the “large land acquisitions.”
Regarding the environment impact assessments (EIAs) of the said projects, the report says that EIAs “are often waived”:
“In Ethiopia, few agricultural investment projects had an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as required by law. Key reasons were a lack of capacity and a rush to approve projects by the investment authority that precluded sectoral agencies from performing due diligence …
EIAs in Ethiopia, though required, are often waived as sunset clauses for project approval …
In Ethiopia, the mandate of requiring or reviewing agricultural EIAs has been passed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development or respective regional bureaus, which lack the technical capacity and motivation to make compliance with EIA regulations a priority.”
The report also shows that the economic benefits of the “land acquisitions” are rarely documented and tracked:
“In Ethiopia, many project proposals, even in regions with more advanced governance, only vaguely indicate intended land uses and lack key information, such as the value of the investment and the type of production. Moreover, checks on economic viability do not exist.”
On job creation, the report remarks that a maximum of 6,000 jobs have been created thus far; note that this is a “maximum” as data is not available for all cases. The government, however, claims these projects have created “tens of thousands of jobs.” (for this claim, see the Oakland Institute’s report given below – report #2 under Resources.)
“Expected job creation in Ethiopia is similarly limited, with an average of 0.005 jobs/ha for cases where figures are given.”
“In Ethiopia, land-for-land compensation is available in some standard expropriation scenarios but not when investors who will gain access to the land are responsible for compensation. Although this arrangement reportedly facilitates timely payment of compensation, it has also contributed to landlessness of communities that find that they have few options to use the money they receive to purchase land elsewhere.”
Probably, the most interesting finding of the report:
“In Ethiopia, some large investors not only received land and water free of charge, but also got tax benefits. This gave them an advantage over local smallholders who had to pay land taxes and various other fees but, to the extent that compensation is paid only for improvements rather than land itself, also constituted a regressive subsidy from the poor to the rich …
In Ethiopia, incentives for investors are clearly specified, but various privileges are often discretionary and thus may have negative impacts on the incentive scheme.”
Regarding abandoned and redirected projects, the report says:
“… (I)n Ethiopia, the government is entitled to cancel a concession if it is not implemented within six months.”
Criticizing World Bank’s Report on Land Grab
GRAIN, a non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems, slammed WB’s latest report on land grab as follows:
The report is both a disappointment and a failure. Everyone was expecting the Bank to provide new and solid on-the-ground data about these “large scale land acquisitions”, to use their terminology, that have created so much controversy since 2008. After all, the Bank should have access to governments and corporations in a way that journalists and non government organisation (NGO) researchers never would. The Bank itself says this was its central ambition. But there is hardly anything new in the whole 160-plus page document. The Bank said it was going to look concretely at 30 countries, but it only looked at 14. As it turns out, companies refused to share information about their farmland investments, as did governments providing the lands. So the Bank turned instead to farmlandgrab.org, a website run by GRAIN, made a database of all the deals that the media reported on there, and then sent out teams of consultants to see if they were real or not. Is this the best that the World Bank could do? Read More …
The Oakland Institute’s Report on Land Grab
The Oakland Institute, which has previously published a report titled “The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor,” has a new report titled “(Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab.”
The new report lists three case studies: Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and a forward from Howard G. Buffett, the son of billionaire Warren Buffett, says:
Africa needs investment in agriculture – better seeds and inputs, improved extension services, education on conservation techniques, regional integration, and investment to build local capacity. It does not need policies that enable foreign investors to grow and export food for their own people to the detriment of the local population. I’ll be even bolder – such policies will hurt Africa, fueling conflict over land and water … Africa is not a commodity. It must not be labeled “open for business.”
More on the Oakland Institute
Anuradha Mittal, the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, who was previously interviewed by Tizita Belachew of the Amharic Service of the Voice of America (VOA) (listen to that interview here) also appeared on the Democracy Now! television show to discuss the recent report from the Oakland Institute. She compares the latest land grabs to creating plantations in the “banana republics.”
*1 – The World Bank Report: Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?
*2 – The Oakland Institute: (Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab
*3 – VOA Amharic Report (March 2010): on the Oakland Institute’s report, The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor
*4 – Democracy Now on the recent Oakland Institute’s report
* 5 – Report by Friends of the Earth International – “Africa – Up for Grabs” – details how biofuels for Europe are driving land grabbing in Africa.