Gabon: The battle over palm oil

African Business| 24 January 2017

by Neil Ford

Firstly, the new Gabonese operations of agricultural trading company Olam International was heavily criticised by US environmental NGO Mighty Earth in December. Then Dimensional Fund Advisors, a big US investment firm that had previously been criticised for continuing to invest in palm oil companies, decided to divest two of its portfolios of all such assets, including equity in Wilmar International and Olam.

The campaign against palm oil could have profound implications for the sector’s development in Africa. Palm oil cultivation has become controversial because ecologically diverse areas of rainforest are often cut down to allow cultivation to take place. Huge areas of forest have been felled in Indonesia and Malaysia, affecting flora and fauna, and producing air pollution caused by forest fires when land is being cleared for palm oil plantation.

According to Friends of the Earth and numerous other environmental NGOs, palm oil plantations are the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction and an increasingly important cause of climate change. ..

The new superpowers in the global land grab and how they operate

The Conversation | 17 January 2017,  by Nikita Sud

Dealmakers: an investment conference in Cambodia. (Photo: EPA/Kith Serey)

Much of the global south – broadly comprising the continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America – was shaped by colonialism. The so-called “great game” and the scrambles between Britain, Portugal, Belgium, France and other European states were for power, profit and – most visibly – for land.

 Today, new scrambles are afoot from Brazil and Nigeria, to Ethiopia and Indonesia. Once again, land is the prize.
In the past decade, almost 50m hectares of land have been leased or bought from individuals, communities and governments in the global south for the large-scale production of biofuels, food, forest resources, industrial goods, infrastructure, tourism and livestock. A complex network of multinational companies, financial institutions and governments in the north are the key beneficiaries.

Armed with apps and crops, women lead battle to save Senegal’s shrinking farmland

By Nellie Peyton

NDIAEL, Senegal (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Two women chat and laugh in Thiamene, Senegal, December 9, 2016. TRF/Nellie Peyton

Thomson Reuters Foundation | 16 Jan 2017

– The women of Thiamene, a tiny straw hut village in northern Senegal, used to scrape together a living by collecting wild baobab fruit and selling milk from their cows.

But their earnings have plummeted since an Italian-Senegalese agribusiness, Senhuile, took over the surrounding land five years ago, blocking their paths to the local market and river, and spraying pesticides that make their herds scatter, they say.

“Life here is precarious, especially for women,” said 42-year-old Fatimata Sow in the village square, gazing at the vast landscape of arid ground dotted with the stumps of trees.

Crookes Brothers might be ripe for the picking

Financial Mail | 16 January 2017

Multinational food processing and retailing company Associated British Foods swallowed SA’s biggest sugar industry player, Illovo, in May last year. The move by the British group (which, as it happens, owns cheap ‘n chic Primark) was part of a scramble for Sub-Saharan African agricultural assets. Crookes Brothers, another JSElisted player now stands out as another highly attractive potential target.
The stage for an eventual acquisition of Crookes could already be set thanks to the involvement of African agriculture-focused UK private equity firm SilverStreet Capital as the key shareholder through its Silverlands (SA) Plantations investment vehicle. As with all private equity firms, SilverStreet will exit at some point…

Cassava pact with Chinese firm ‘a big boost’

Tanzania Daily News | 16 January 2017

 The  government has described a-one billion US dollar partnership agreement on commercialisation of cassava farming and processing with Tanzania Agricultural Export Processing Zone Limited and Epoch Agriculture (TAEPZ) from China as a big boost towards industrialisation.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr Adelhelm Meru said once the agreement fully implemented will transform living standards of farmers yet completing the government’s commitment of making Tanzania an industrialised country.
“With assurance of markets and good prices to our farmers, we will definitely increase cassava production, thereby increasing their income and creating employment. I, therefore, urge TAEPZ to ensure that farmers in their groups are well capacitated in terms of meeting the industry demand,” Dr Meru said.Speaking at a brief signing ceremony held in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, Dr Meru thanked the Chairperson of TAEPZ, Madam Dior Feng for choosing Tanzania as the…

Development of new horticultural area in Ethiopia

 Bloemisterij 13-01-2017 By Hans Neefjes,

The land won’t be exclusively for Dutch investors. But they are given priority because of the good relationships that developed over the years between various parties from the Netherlands and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia wants to double its agricultural production. The Netherlands support the Ethiopian government. The current focus is on the integrated development of a new horticultural and floricultural area north of Hawassa. In the meantime, the Dutch embassy is having a critical dialogue with Ethiopia and helping the Ethiopian government to start a conversation with its discontented population.

The activities near Hawassa, about 275 km south of Addis Abeba, might receive support this time round. Niek Bosmans, Counsellor for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality at the Dutch embassy in Ethiopia, explains that it concerns a 1,500-ha area. “It’s situated 1,600 m above sea level, not far from Lake Hawassa. There used to be a state company here, so the land is owned and used by the government. The large plot is divided by a ridge, so it’s actually split up into two parts, one of 1,000 ha and the other one of 500 ha.”

Land grabbing: New colonialism and how about Eritrea?

By Mela Ghebremedhin.

Geeska Afrika | 29 December 2016

A farmer sows his seed in Asmara, Maekel, Eritrea. (Photo: Andrea Moroni)
By Mela Ghebremedhin.

Land grabbing, as the phrase suggests, requires one to grab, or in other words, “to seize, to grasp, to take a grip of or to get one’s hands on.” This action of taking suddenly and roughly is the reality of today’s Asian and, mostly African soil. In other words, Bwegise bra Mwesigire (2014) clearly explained the phenomenon in his article entitled Land Grabbing in Africa, the new Colonialism and he began by saying that land grabbing is “the silent recolonization of Africa happening on a mass scale. … Land is the source of life and death, but it might not always be with us.” His powerful statement cannot be denied in regards to the reality of today’s Africa. In fact, land has been put at the centerpiece of conflicts of interests, of wealth and poverty, of opportunists and marginalized communities, powerful against the powerless, profits versus social justice…