Hedge Funds Muscle into African Agriculture

Friday, June 10, 2011
Burundi refugees in Tanzania (photo: E. Wolfcarius, UNHCR)
British hedge funds and European financial speculators are buying up large tracts of land in Africa as part of investment schemes for American universities. The “land grab,” as described by critics, threatens to force thousands of people off their land, which could exacerbate economic and social problems in African countries.
 
“The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, which issued a series of studies on the subject. “In Africa this is resulting in the displacement of small farmers, environmental devastation, water loss and further political instability such as the food riots that preceded the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”
 
The institute’s report covers land acquisitions in seven African countries, where Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other U.S. colleges have invested their endowment funds by way of the hedge funds. U.S. firms are also involved.
 
In South Sudan, which will officially declare independence next month, Dallas-based Nile Trading and Development has partnered with local chiefs to obtain a 49-year lease of 1.5 million acres for about $25,000. The firm will have the right to exploit all natural resources, including hardwood trees, oil and natural gas and biofuel crops.
 
In Tanzania, the government is emptying two camps that have been inhabited for almost 40 years by refugees from Burundi to make way for large-scale production of beef, poultry and biofuels. The project is being developed by Iowa-based Summit Group, Pharos Financial, AgriSol Energy and Iowa State University.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
US Universities in Africa 'Land Grab' (by John Vidal and Claire Provost, The Guardian)

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