Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fury over Senegal’s private land buyers

IRIN: ...A liberal land regime in Senegal over the decade has favoured large-scale acquisitions of arable land by both foreign and local investors. Dramatic changes in ownership have coincided with serious food shortages in the sub-region, a global financial crisis and a growing emphasis on the promotion of bio-fuel, with Senegal heavily promoting the planting of the controversial Jatropha tree, the seeds of which are used for the production of fuel for diesel engines.

Between 2000 and 2010, over 657,000 hectares of land, around 17 percent of Senegal’s arable land, was allocated to 17 private firms. Ten of the firms are Senegalese and the rest are foreign, according to the regional pressure group Pan-African Institute for Citizenship, Consumers and Development (CICODEV).

Under the previous administration of Abdoulaye Wade, the government pushed high profile schemes like the Return towards Agriculture plan (REVA) and the Grand Agricultural Drive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), with an emphasis on promoting agri-business and bio-fuels.

“These initiatives have led to a glut of private operators, including religious leaders and senior state officials moving in on land in rural areas,” complains Mariam Sow, coordinator of the Natural Protection Programme of international NGO ENDA.

In a May 2011 report, the Agricultural and Rural Prospective Initiative (IPAR), a sub-regional NGO which aims to provide “strategic analysis” of rural and agricultural issues, highlighted the volume of land deals in northern Senegal. IPAR drew particular attention to the case of Mbane in Saint Louis Region, where it said 232,000 hectares had been distributed to politicians, religious leaders and private operators with strong political connections under the GOANA project. The IPAR report noted that, at the time of writing, much of the land acquired had yet to be exploited....

A farm in Senegal, image by Richard Melo da Silva, public domain

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