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  • Title: Who’s Grabbing Africa’s Land? U.S. Speculators, Including Universities | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Who’s Grabbing Africa’s Land? U.. S.. Speculators, Including Universities.. Friday, July 29, 2011.. Originally published by.. Color Lines.. Stevie Mann/International Livestock Research Institute.. By Michelle Chen.. When a massive tire corporation rolled into Nigeria’s Iguobazuwa Forest Reserve a few years ago, just one thing stood in the path of the CEOs’ plans to set up a rubber plantation: the communities that lived there.. With cruel precision, the communities that got in the way were.. uprooted and displaced.. , their farmland devastated.. As documented by Friends of the Earth International.. , the bulldozers of the French conglomerate Michelin sowed the ground for “increased hunger, malnutrition, poverty and forced migration, as food became harder to find or produce.. ”.. “It was as if there was no reason to live again,” recalled a local woman.. “Now, no land, no farm, no food.. Land, farm, food—some of the few things that all societies hold sacrosanct, yet also some of the hottest commodities in financial markets.. Land is up for grabs across the Global South, and U.. investors are getting in on the action.. New research by the Oakland Institute.. , which monitors global agricultural trends, suggests that transnational land grabs in Africa—including Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Sudan—are setting up a repeat of.. the 2007-2008 food-price crisis.. , which was fueled by a blend of financial, political and environmental factors.. “We see really vertical integration and control of the markets [by investors] who will be able to both influence prices and also decide on what the production will be,” warns Oakland Institute Policy Director Frederic Mousseau.. “We have the food chain, which is pervasively and quite rapidly in recent years being under the control of financial groups.. China and Arab countries have generally been scrutinized in the media for their land deals, but.. much of the cash flow comes through U.. and European investors.. , according to Oakland Institute—through established pension funds, agribusiness behemoths and even educational institutions.. Oakland Institute’s.. report.. on land-grabbing in Africa calls out several universities for their ties to land-grabbing.. Investors include not only alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent Asset Management that works to attract speculators—including universities such as Harvard, who have maintained secrecy on such potentially unpopular activities, Spelman and Vanderbilt—with a primary motivation of economic access to agricultural land that will have high returns for the endowment.. Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 hectares south Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development, LLC.. , an Austin, Texas, based “global business development partnership and holding company,” managed by Howard Eugene Douglas, a former United States ambassador at large and coordinator for refugee affairs.. For these investors, it’s just another lucrative transaction.. An Emergent spokesperson, for instance,.. told the Guardian in June.. , “This is not landgrabbing.. We want to make the land more valuable.. Being big makes an impact, economies of scale can be more productive.. ”“.. Being big does make an impact, but.. generally not the one that’s promised.. Land is the object of  ...   trade with the developed world.. But if parceling out prime real estate helps governments capture new investment, the land itself and its traditional stewards are withering away.. Ecologically, the ILC says, “There is limited or no capacity in these countries to control or deter pollution of the air, soils, and groundwater by the heavy chemicals likely to be used in these ventures.. Such pollution will add to the burdens of poor environmental health that rural populations already bear in many of these countries.. ” The use of aggressive industrial farming methods and genetically modified crops may further destabilize rural communities, since “many of these countries lack the capacity to effectively police the type of large-scale technological production envisaged over the large areas of land involved.. Mousseau adds that despite promises of building new infrastructure and encouraging trade, the commodification of land portends the destruction of more sustainable, small-scale agriculture.. “What they are bringing is what is required for industrial farming in large-scale plantations,” he explains.. “Small-scale farmers in Ethiopia aren’t going to suddenly learn to drive a tractor and ride a tractor.. It’s really about buying land in Africa.. It’s too late to grab back the thousands of hectares already lost to global markets, but hundreds of civil society groups recently tried at least to reclaim the debate on land grabbing.. Ahead of a G20 conference of agricultural ministers, the coalition.. rejected the centrist reform proposals.. for controlling agricultural investment and called on the United Nations World Food Program’s Committee on Food Security to “develop effective mandatory guidelines for land tenure that respect and protect peoples’ rights especially the right to food.. Still, declaring a right is one thing; securing food in a wild global marketplace is another.. A report by Friends of the Earth International highlights examples of actions communities have taken to protect food systems from corporate predation.. In Argentina, for instance, small farmers have staved off the the destructive impacts of monocultures like tobacco by encouraging more ecologically sustainable, traditional farm practices, supplemented by an agritourism initiative that markets local products.. In other regions, though, grassroots solutions are losing ground in the race to buy up rich soil in poor nations.. This month,.. violent clashes in Nuagaon village in Odisha, India.. exploded as locals demonstrated against plans to build a giant steel plant, which is projected to displace thousands of families.. To protect the “development” plans of the Korea-based firm POSCO, police reportedly arrested and brutalized demonstrators, not even sparing children and the elderly.. Civil rights activist Mahtab Alam reported, “They are ready to give their lives but not their land for the project.. ”.. Sadly, corporate investors seem willing to sacrifice both more lives and more land for their projects—just another cost of doing business on the new global frontier.. Contact.. the oakland institute.. P.. O.. Box 18978.. Oakland, CA 94619.. info@oaklandinstitute.. org.. Donate.. Your tax-deductible donation allows us to conduct independent research, analysis, and advocacy to facilitate democratic participation in critical policy decisions that affect our quality of life..

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  • Title: NDA Blasts APC for Land Issue | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: NDA Blasts APC for Land Issue.. Monday, July 25, 2011.. Freetown Daily News.. By David Awe, Chief Political Correspondent in Freetown.. Ongoing discussions and debates on the dangers and implications of several land investment deals carried out by the government of Ernest Bai Koroma have brought out startling revelations.. (Pix, NDA's Mr Chernor Bah).. The debates, initiated by the National Democratic Alliance NDA, have highlighted the possibility of crises between local communities and several European and American multinational companies.. The NDA has pointed out that a situation characteristic of Zimbabwe has been created by the APC government of Ernest Koroma through these various land deals.. It should be recalled that the implications of these various land agreements were first brought to light through the findings of a recent independent report published by the Oakland Institute of the United States of America.. The report, which is based on a comprehensive research and analysis of four major land investment deals in the country including that of the Swiss-based Addax Bio-Energy Group, clearly exposed the fact that the government of Ernest Koroma has given out indefinitely more than six hundred thousand hectares of farmlands to multinational corporations from Europe and North America.. Interestingly, these farmlands belonging to several peasant communities in the northern part of Sierra Leone were deceitfully taken away from the poor farmers under the cover of “investment,” “job creation” and “development.. But the questions that still beg for answers surround the rationale of these various agreements.. How do they contribute to agricultural and economic development of  ...   to Sierra Leoneans.. It should not be taken away and given to a consortium of foreign companies.. With the growing land disagreements in the western area reaching alarming proportions, the FDN believes government should support or undertake any land agreement or deal that will further exacerbate the already land crisis in the country.. The handing out of lands to multinational companies in the name of “international investment” has far-reaching political and economic implications.. Apart from anything else, it puts the country and the local peasant communities in direct conflict with huge capitalist corporations backed by western governments.. It is a situation that leaves poor farming communities bare and at the mercy of huge capitalist organisations.. Government needs to be reminded that land is an essential factor of production.. It is impossible to advance a holistic programme of economic development without community or state control of land.. The situation of countries in Southern Africa and other parts of East Africa are sufficient enough to underline the implications of multinational ownership of lands in Africa.. The FDN would like to call on government to re-examine these various land deals with a view of returning the lands to the various communities affected.. The lands are the property of the affected peasant communities.. Whether it is “used” or “unoccupied,” it exclusively belongs to them.. Nobody has the right to take it away in the name of whatever programme.. Giving lands belonging to Sierra Leoneans to multinational companies is not a development programme whether they support agricultural development and economic growth..

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  • Title: Mother Africa Weeps while the Diaspora Sleeps | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Mother Africa Weeps while the Diaspora Sleeps.. Thursday, July 28, 2011.. The South Florida Times.. by Al Calloway.. According to the Oakland Institute, an Oakland, Calif.. , non-profit social development think-tank, the super rich, especially European, and some U.. universities are engaged in a land grab in Africa.. Some 148 million acres of land “equal to the size of France” have already been gobbled-up by investors just since the so-called financial crash of 2009.. The institute’s devastating report, “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,” fingers players such as bailed-out JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs currency traders and investment bankers who now head London-based Emergent Asset Management, probably the largest land acquisition fund targeting Africa.. Anuradha Mittal, executive director of Oakland Institute, told CNN reporter Brian Walker during a June 12 interview, “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.. Cheap food for Europeans and other foreign markets and huge profits have been driving European hedge funds to establish immense industrial farming projects throughout Africa.. The great African land grab is displacing small African farmers and people who have occupied traditional lands for eons, through swindles, confiscation, corrupt government edicts, misunderstandings and lack of business acumen.. Mittal blasts the Western world for seeing Africa “as a basket case – we talk about its hunger, we talk about its corruption but we are responsible for trying to steal the land and turn it into a breadbasket for the North.. A conglomerate that includes the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, for example, is buying some 800,000 acres in Tanzania.. The land includes three so-called “abandoned refugee camps.. ” Refugees who became citizens in 2010 will not receive citizen certificates until they relocate elsewhere in Tanzania.. In addition,  ...   large and deep channels were dug to drain them, and Addax is cultivating the lower lying swamp land previously used for rice production.. Quifel Agribusiness, a Lisbon-based firm, is buying more than 300 acres of mineral-rich land (diamonds, gold, bauxite and iron ore) in Sierra Leone.. The swindle: Local chiefs and landowners did not receive copies of the leases.. Instead, the company had an attorney to deal with the locals and then sign all documents on their behalf!.. Mittal told CNN that, in Zambia, whites negotiate land titles with local chiefs by bringing “a bottle of Johnnie Walker, sit on the ground with him and clap three times and make your offering of whiskey.. Then you have secured the title to the land with no problem.. In Ethiopia, export-driven farms owned by foreign investors drive hundreds of thousands off traditional lands to be placed in government-planned villages (probably a version of American inner-city housing projects).. Harvard and other universities, including Vanderbilt, Wake Forrest and George Washington, and still others are investors in the great African land grab.. Their endowments are invested in the hedge funds that are doing to the Motherland exactly what colonizing Americans did to the native people across this continent.. If only our athletes and other rich entertainers, as well as our vast array of churches and Greek-letter organizations, would/could marshal hedge fund type resources throughout the Diaspora, we could be in control of the Motherland’s vital resources and wealth.. Europe is there, China, Libya and the so-called Middle East, all to utilize the abundance of Alkebu-lan (Africa’s ancient name before the advent of foreign incursions).. Unfortunately, the spirit world of the Motherland weeps for us while we sleep and get beat.. Again!.. Al Calloway is a long-time journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle.. He may be reached at.. Al_Calloway@verizon.. net..

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  • Title: Land Investment Deals in Africa: Say No way! | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Land Investment Deals in Africa: Say No way!.. Thursday, June 30, 2011.. Pambazuka News.. , Issue 537.. Food insecurity, loss of food sovereignty, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, water loss, and the further impoverishment and political instability of African nations – these are among the consequences of large-scale investments in land in Africa, a special investigation by the Oakland Institute has revealed.. Pambazuka News spoke to Anuradha Mittal, Jeff Furman and Frederic Mousseau about what prompted their research and what they discovered.. Congratulations on the release of your recent special investigation:.. Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa.. It is a phenomenal achievement shedding light on how large-scale investments in land in Africa are resulting in food insecurity, loss of food sovereignty, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, water loss, and the further impoverishment and political instability of African nations.. Can you tell us what prompted you to look into the issue and how you went about the research in such a comprehensive way?.. ANURADHA MITTAL: Land investments – the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land from mostly poor, developing countries by wealthier food-insecure nations and private investors for the production and export of food and agrofuel crops – have become a very fast-paced international phenomenon.. This trend which has come to be popularly known as ‘land grabbing’ has been painted as a development opportunity for developing countries.. By referring to surging influx of capital into primarily African land markets as ‘foreign direct investment’, players in the international policy arena including Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have affirmed that responsible land investment is possible and imply that African nations are beneficiaries in these deals.. Their hope is that land investments will presumably create what has been hailed a ‘win-win situation’ in which food-insecure nations increase their access to food resources and investors profit from exports, while ‘host’ nations benefit from improved agricultural infrastructure and increased employment opportunities.. Yet, very little is currently understood of the legal, social, and economic implications of the land deals.. The Oakland Institute’s own analysis identified three major areas in need of further investigation.. These include the need for (i) better data on and better understanding of the concept of ‘land availability’ (ii) better understanding of the land deals, i.. e.. their nature and their implications for the countries and the food insecure populations and (iii) addressing the issue of land rights.. FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: The Oakland Institute commenced this work to address this knowledge gap to answer an important question that seems to have been removed from the debate: Where does the urgent and critical task of improving food security for the world’s most vulnerable fall within the accelerating trend of commercial investment in farmland?.. With this aim, we started research in seven African countries including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Mozambique, Zambia, and south Sudan.. We basically had our researchers on the ground, spending months in those countries, meeting and interacting with multi-stakeholders from international financial institutions to development agencies to government officials to investment agencies as well as individual investors.. And, more important, we met and interviewed the communities who are impacted, to hear and learn what they knew of the project, what their expectations were, what their experience was, recognising that we wouldn’t know of the full experience because in many cases projects haven’t even started.. JEFF FURMAN: At the same time we have been interacting with investors because we believe investment in agriculture is very important.. However, to assume that investment in agriculture in itself would lead to food security, or create jobs… would be a mistake.. So our effort aimed at identifying good practices that result in returns not just for the investors but have real returns for communities and national economies that could be upheld and showcased as opportunities to be supported.. And in the process we learnt of such schemes that it was obvious that the information needs to be in the public realm.. In the course of our work we also realised the extent of the lack of transparency.. The information that we found in the course of our research – contracts, business plans, land leases, memorandums of understanding – are often impossible to access.. In many instances, local communities who are being told to move off their lands, have not even seen these land leases! And thus we have made this information available to help inform the debate and allow people to make informed decisions about the future of their land.. We know that once families are displaced, once the canals are built, once the small farmers lose their livelihoods, and once the environmental damage is done there is no going back.. This would not and could not be repaired.. PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The findings of your report parallel the historical experiences of many colonised and displaced peoples expropriated and disenfranchised in the name of 'progress'.. A major argument put forward today by governments, investors, and international institutions is that agricultural investment will spur much-needed economic development, and create jobs and infrastructure in poor countries.. Your reports reveal that these largely unregulated land acquisitions are resulting in virtually none of the promised benefits for local populations, but instead are forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and food-producing farms in order to make room for export commodities.. What distinguishes this current wave of occupation from the acquisitions of the past, in terms of the actors involved and the actions required to stop them?.. FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: It is the pace at which this trend has grown since 2008 when agricultural food prices started sky-rocketing.. According to the World Bank, in 2009 alone nearly 60 million ha – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in comparison to an average annual expansion of global agricultural land of less than 4 million ha before 2008.. The International Land Coalition estimates the figure to be 80 million hectares.. ANURADHA MITTAL: Secondly, the role of foreign investors who are driving this ‘land rush’ is pretty unique.. It is not just food insecure rich nations such as the Gulf states or the Chinese.. Our research exposes the role of private hedge funds and equity funds who have nothing to do with agriculture and who are rushing in creating agricultural operations and taking over large swathes of land.. The list is long:.. Emergent Asset Management.. ,.. Chayton Africa.. ,.. Quifel Holdings.. Pharos Fund.. Altima.. Duxton.. Macquarie.. , and many others.. While they have not attracted much attention, the role of speculators in food prices is big and their control over land and water resources in Africa is huge.. JEFF FURMAN: In addition, this take over of African resources is being promoted as a development paradigm by the multilateral institutions across Africa.. Whether it is Ethiopia or Sierra Leone or Zambia, the same one-stop shops have been created at the advice of the World Bank group who’s focus is to promote  ...   be done to protect watersheds and ecosystems that often cross national boundaries and jurisdictions from this assault?.. ANURADHA MITTAL: We tend to talk about investments in land as just land grabs but what our research shows is that it is really about resource grabs and especially water grabs.. For instance, the CEO of a fund operating out of South Africa boasted at an agricultural investment conference in Geneva, ‘Internally we call our land fund/water fund.. ’ This fund is active in Zambia that has 54 per cent of the SADC region’s water.. Or Emergent’s EmVest project in Mozambique; they can use as much water as they want.. They don’t have to pay for the amount of water used.. The payments are minimal based on the acreage that they have.. In Mali, Malibya has the assurance of the government to have access to all the water they need, while only 5 per cent of the country’s land is arable.. JEFF FURMAN: Agreements are being negotiated where the host countries are being obliged to provide water to foreign investors.. And that is when you have to question, in terms of economic development, what do these countries and regions get back? And when you do the cost benefit analysis for the resources that have been offered to the foreign investors, it’s a win-win for the investor, not for the country or the communities.. PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You have posted announcements on your website for conferences for investors at which high-level officials from the FAO and UNEP are making presentations.. In what ways are United Nations agencies and aid institutions facilitating or hindering the Great Land Grab?.. FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Yes, FAO officials, UNEP officials, World Bank officials are at these meetings.. And it’s not about food, it’s not about communities.. It’s about markets, it’s about arbitrage opportunities.. It is about promise held by the ‘ag fundamentals.. ’.. This is only the first phase of the release of our reports.. Our work, which is based on documents that come from these agencies and foreign investors, demonstrates that though land deals are being promoted as a development paradigm, after you add up the benefits that are provided to investors – tax holidays, the right to repatriate their earnings, the right to hire ex-pats in countries, or the right to have all kind of holidays from paying profit taxes, (and taking into consideration) the price of land, and the water rights, basically the numbers don’t add up to provide concrete gains for people on the ground.. ANURADHA MITTAL: I was in Zambia in February where the government is launching a farm block scheme that is being touted as a scheme to end poverty and bring economic development.. In a meeting with a very high official in the ministry of agriculture, I asked what the purpose of the scheme was and he said, ‘Economic upliftment and poverty alleviation.. ’ And I asked, ‘How do you plan to do that? Are you asking investors for a lot of money for the land?’ And he said, ‘No, you have to put in $5,000 for putting in your tender; the land is really cheap.. ’ So I asked him, ‘Are you asking to put in infrastructure?’ ‘Oh, no, the government is putting in the necessary infrastructure.. ’ ‘OK, are you asking for a specific number of jobs that need to be created by these investors so we know that livelihood expansion happens?’ And he said, ‘No you can put in some general language around employment creation.. We don’t ask for hard numbers’.. So I asked him, ‘Will you help me understand how you will meet this objective of poverty alleviation and economic upliftment of the country when you are not asking investors for anything.. ’ And he comes close to me, smiles and says, ‘You and I both know that there is no such thing as a good foreign investor.. FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Malybia in Mali took over 100,000 hectares of land.. They say they will provide jobs for a thousand people.. Research has showed that when using irrigation in this region of Mali, two hectares of land are enough to provide for a family that depends on agriculture for their livelihood.. So if it is 100,000 hectares it means 50,000 families, and if you count at least four or five people in a family, you can do the math.. How many people can be sustained? And we know over and over again from UNEP and other UN agencies that the way to improve food security for Africa is through smallholder agriculture.. If the kind of support and investments that are being provided to foreign investors was provided to African farmers, we would have a very different Africa.. We also know that industrial agriculture is responsible for anywhere between 16 to 30 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions.. And instead of dealing with climate change what we are doing is rushing to Africa to set up the same huge industrial style agriculture.. And in some cases, like in Mozambique and Zambia there is funding from UNFCC to ostensibly combat climate change because the projects are for biofuels.. PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What does your experience with the reaction to the launch of the report tell us about strategies needed to confront the Great Land Grab?.. What actions would you recommend that farmers and peasants in Africa take in the light of your findings? And what kind of actions would you want of the readership of Pambazuka News?.. ANURADHA MITTAL: Communities on the ground who are being impacted by these land grabs have been fighting back in ways they can.. In some places they can be very vocal in other places they cannot.. The Oakland Institute took on the task of getting this information out because we believe information is knowledge and knowledge is power.. What is evident however is that this issue confronts all civil society groups working on climate change, water issues, land rights, hunger, GMOs,etc.. We can no longer stay focused on one single issue without working on the larger political environment.. FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Our partners amidst the Ethiopian diaspora, in Sierra Leone, Mali, Tanzania, and other countries are taking on the biggest challenges, taking on their local and national leaders.. It is important for the international civil society to push and support those national mobilisations.. National groups in these countries are demanding public hearings, moratoriums on these deals.. And internationally we need to be backing and supporting those efforts.. JEFF FURMAN: And we need to determine where our pension funds and university endowments, sovereign wealth funds invest.. These cannot be guided by merely high returns; it has to be about quality of life, and livelihoods of people.. This has to be about not once again colonisers rushing in to Africa to colonise at the expense of the people and environment of Africa.. We simply must say we cannot invest in schemes like this that are promising 25 to 40 per cent returns.. Student groups, faculty organisations, pension funds should be saying, ‘no way!’..

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  • Title: Kofi Annan Urges Sustainable Farming to Avert Food Crises | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Kofi Annan Urges Sustainable Farming to Avert Food Crises.. Tuesday, June 28, 2011.. Joy News/Ghana.. Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan believes increased sustainable farming is the only way out of the current global food crises.. Speaking during the biennial conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization which has just appointed a new Director-General, he advocated measures that could be adopted to ensure the crisis is managed.. “For if countries cannot come together successfully to deliver food security – this most basic of all human needs – our hopes for wider international cooperation look doomed.. Yet even on food there has been in recent years an ominous retreat from the idea of common purpose based on shared values,” he said.. Mr Annan said there had been a worrying rise in protectionism, unilateral export bans, land grabs, and exclusive deals that meet the food needs of the rich but not the poor.. “That is why I passionately plead that along with  ...   a fair and transparent framework to tackle hunger and deliver food security and also warned against the sale of agricultural lands.. “It is very disturbing that a recent report found that agricultural land that adds up the size of France has been bought in 2009 alone by hedge funds and other speculators.. It is neither just nor sustainable for farm lands to be taken away from communities in this way nor for food to be exported when there is hunger on the doorstep.. Local people will not stand for this abuse and neither should we,” he warned.. He said if however, “larger commercial firms integrate their activities within the community serving as hubs that link small scale holders to value chains, sharing knowledge and best practices, they can play an important and positive role.. The conference appointed José Graziano da Silva as its New Director-General.. He is the FAO’s eighth Director-General since the Organization was founded in Canada in October, 1945..

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  • Title: Massive Land Grabs in Africa by U.S. Hedge Funds and Universities | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Massive Land Grabs in Africa by U.. Hedge Funds and Universities.. Originally published by the.. San Francisco Bay View.. Speculators say that investments will create jobs but they’re actually just a way for foreign investors to access cheap labor and cheap land.. In Mali, the area covered by recent large land grabs could easily sustain well over half a million people.. Instead, that land is now concentrated in the hands of 22 investors and will create at best a few thousand jobs.. “A new report claims farmers in Africa are being driven off their lands to make way for vast new industrial farming projects backed by hedge funds seeking profits and foreign countries looking for cheap food.. The study finds American universities with large endowment funds have also invested heavily in African land in the past few years,” reported Amy Goodman, introducing.. Democracy Now’s coverage.. of the first study to reveal the scope and details of these massive land grabs.. “Special Investigation: Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,”.. country-by-country reports and the following Q A, which serves as an introduction to the study, are newly issued by the.. Oakland Institute.. OI Executive Director Anuradha Mittal told Democracy Now: “We have heard about the role of these private hedge funds in food speculation and speculation of food prices, because they control commodities,” she said.. “But when they start buying even the means of production – they control labor, they control large tracts of land, they control water, they dictate what is grown and how it is grown – it is the kind of vertical integration of a food system that we have never seen before.. Why did the Oakland Institute investigate these land investments in Africa?.. The scale, rate and negative impact of land deals is alarming.. In 2009 alone nearly 60 million hectares (abbreviated ha: 10,000 square meters or 2.. 47 acres) – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in comparison to an average annual expansion of global agricultural land of less than 4 million ha before 2008.. There’s an extreme lack of transparency surrounding the land deals in Africa.. At the country level, the absence of democratic debate and lack of information in the public domain is the rule.. Most often, international investors who are involved in these deals are not accountable to anyone.. Documentation related to these deals is now available for review.. In addition to its reports, the Oakland Institute is making available documentation on deals and investors collected in the course of its research so that the general public, policy makers, media, civil society organizations and individuals with funds linked to these investments can learn about the impact of such investments and make more informed decisions.. Large scale investments in land in Africa, as exposed by the Oakland Institute, are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, water loss and the further impoverishment and political instability of African nations.. Is the Oakland Institute against investment in agriculture?.. The Oakland Institute believes that renewed focus on agriculture is crucial to deal with the current crisis of world hunger and climate change and for ensuring livelihoods of farmers while enabling developing countries to meet the millennium development goals.. Through our research we have learned that investment in agriculture does not necessarily translate into food security or livelihoods for smallholder farmers who form the bulk of the world’s poor.. As pointed out by Olivier De Schutter, United Nations rapporteur on the “right to food,” the issue is not one of merely increasing budget allocations to agriculture, but rather “of choosing from different models of agricultural development which may have different impacts and benefit various groups differently.. Will the release of these documents make responsible investors reluctant to be transparent?.. On the contrary, we believe that this information will assist investors who are keen on promoting socially responsible investments where benefits accrue to all parties, including farming communities in Africa, to differentiate themselves from investors who are promising high IRRs at the expense of the larger common good.. Who are the investors?.. News coverage to date has emphasized the role that countries including China and India have played in the acceleration of land acquisitions in Africa.. Although Indian firms are active in countries like Ethiopia, the Oakland Institute’s investigation shows a major role from Western firms, wealthy U.. and European individuals and investment funds with ties to major banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.. Investors include not only alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent Asset Management that works to attract speculators – including universities such as Harvard, who have maintained secrecy on such potentially unpopular activities, Spelman and Vanderbilt – with a primary motivation of economic access to agricultural land that will have high returns for the endowment.. Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 ha south Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development, LLC.. Although Indian firms are active in countries like Ethiopia, the Oakland Institute’s investigation shows a major role of Western firms, wealthy U.. A key player in the largest land deal in Tanzania is Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur and Republican Party stalwart Bruce Rastetter, who concurrently serves as CEO of Pharos Ag, co-founder and managing director of AgriSol Energy, CEO of Summit Farms and is an important donor to the Iowa State University.. Rastetter was recently appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents  ...   additional incomes for host countries.. • The IMF has shown that tax incentives, portrayed as a way to attract foreign investors in developing countries, merely reduce much-needed tax revenues for governments without promoting growth.. • Our research documents many instances where investments took over land from active businesses and production units.. For instance, the case of women farmers in Mali who lost the vegetable gardens they used to cultivate fresh food for capital markets.. Don’t these countries need investment for job creation?.. The idea that land deals bring much-needed employment opportunities to poor countries has served as a way for international development institutions and other leaders to justify large-scale land investment as a potential “win-win” scenario for both investors and developing countries.. However, first-hand evidence from the Oakland Institute’s field research in multiple African nations reveals that promises of job creation are often overstated, if not completely false.. The Emvest Matuba investment project summary and staff at Emergent and EmVest promise job creation with majority employment from the local community.. A recent head count provided by Emergent reveals that currently only 17 permanent positions in the agricultural field have been created, 85 seasonal.. The largest permanent positions are in security: 36 staff.. The average farm size in Mali is just 4.. 7 ha and one third of the 805,000 farm households cultivate less than one hectare.. The area covered by recent large land deals could easily sustain 112,537 farm families, well over half a million people (686,478).. Are plantations more productive than small farms?.. Another argument put forward in favor of large farms is one of supposed higher productivity of large farms.. The Oakland Institute’s investigations confirm a strong body of previous research on this with many instances where small farms are more productive than large plantations.. In Mali, where the System of Rice Intensification has been adopted along the Niger River near Timbuktu, farmers have been able to attain yields of seven to 15 tons per hectare per year for an average of nine tons per hectare – more than twice the conventional irrigated rice yield in the area and more than the previsions of the Moulin Moderne du Mali, one of the major investors.. The small-scale village-based irrigation schemes involve plots of just 35 ha of land, shared by as many as 100 farmers.. So each household has access to only one third of a hectare.. Yet from that piece of land they are able to earn $1,879 – more than double the average annual per capital income of $676.. If the rice intensification scheme were replicated and successful in the Office du Niger, 10,000 ha of such small-scale irrigation schemes could provide livelihoods for 285,715 farmers and dramatically increase rice production and revenues.. Does investment improve food security?.. Most of the countries targeted by investors suffer food insecurity.. Though the food security argument is often put forward by governments and investors, the research finds little assurance that large scale agricultural investments can improve food security.. In many cases local food farms are sold off in order to make room for export commodities, including biofuels and cut flowers.. Many of the land leases identified are for the production of agrofuels.. In Mali, half of the investors with large land holdings in the Office du Niger intend to grow plants used to produce agrofuels such as sugarcane, jatropha or other oleaginous crops.. In Mozambique, most of the investments concern timber industry and agrofuels rather than food crops.. Food crops represented only 32,000 ha of the 433,000 ha that were approved for agricultural investments between 2007 and 2009.. What can the U.. public do?.. The U.. can curb its support to rogue governments and hold investment funds, pension funds and universities accountable for their investments.. Land investors include universities such as Harvard, Spelman and Vanderbilt that have put money into the hands of specialized investment funds such as Emergent and have maintained secrecy on such potentially unpopular activities.. Collectively these investments make a large impact and the alumni of these universities and others must be aware of the negative impact of these investments.. is by far the largest donor to Ethiopia, its first ally on the continent.. Average U.. aid to Ethiopia is $600 million a year (2005-2009 average, 26 percent of total international aid), far ahead of any other donor.. Ethiopia has been also among the first recipients of U.. food aid in the past two decades.. In addition Ethiopia is an important ally of the U.. in the “global war on terror.. ” According to WikiLeaks cables, the U.. pressured Ethiopia’s president, Meles Zenawi, to invade Somalia.. This is consistent with the fact that the U.. has been providing military aid and training to Ethiopian troops for a number of years.. cannot ignore human rights violations related to land grabs.. The wave of repression unleashed against domestic Ethiopian critics of Zenawi’s rule has included mass arrests, the massacres of hundreds of protesters and the jailing of virtually all the country’s opposition leaders following the 2005 elections.. The Oakland Institute aims to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in national and international forums.. This summary of the Oakland Institute’s report, “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,” and the full report can be found at.. http://media.. oaklandinstitute.. org/special-investigation-understanding-land-investment-deals-africa.. See a CNN video on the report at.. http://www.. cnn.. com/video/?/video/world/2011/06/11/mittal.. oakland.. institute.. report..

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  • Title: Les universités américaines s’offrent des terres | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Les universités américaines s’offrent des terres.. Thursday, June 23, 2011.. Courrier International.. De grandes universités américaines.. comme.. Harvard (Boston, Massachusetts) et.. Vanderbilt.. (Nashville, Tennessee) font l’acquisition de vastes superficies de terres agricoles en Afrique.. C’est ce qui ressort d’une nouvelle enquête réalisée par l’.. , un institut de recherche militant situé en Californie.. Selon ses auteurs, ces contrats d’achat ou baux de location, négociés par l’intermédiaire de fonds spéculatifs britanniques ou européens, risquent de chasser de leurs terres des milliers de personnes.. Les investisseurs étrangers profitent d’accaparements de terres qui souvent n’apportent pas les bénéfices promis en matière d’emplois et de développement économique, et en plus portent en germe des problèmes sociaux et environnementaux dans ces pays les plus pauvres de la planète.. D’après ce rapport qui couvre sept pays africains, Harvard, Vanderbilt et de nombreuses autres universités américaines ont beaucoup investi dans les terres du continent ces dernières années.. L’essentiel des capitaux transite par Emergent, une société de gestion d’actifs londonienne qui gère l’un des principaux fonds d’acquisition de terres africaines.. Elle est dirigée par d’anciens cambistes des banques américaines.. JP Morgan et Goldman Sachs.. Les clients d’Emergent aux Etats-Unis auraient investi jusqu’à 500 millions de dollars [350 millions d’euros] dans les terres les plus fertiles du continent noir, dans l’espoir d’obtenir un rendement de 25 %.. Emergent assure avoir traité les contrats de manière responsable.. “Les fonds de dotation universitaires et les fonds de pension sont évidemment des investisseurs privilégiant le long terme, affirme un porte-parole de la firme.. Nous investissons dans l’agriculture en Afrique, nous y créons des entreprises et des emplois.. Nous le faisons avec un grand sens des responsabilités… Les sommes engagées sont élevées, pouvant atteindre des centaines de millions de dollars.. Il n’y a aucune spoliation.. Nous voulons augmenter la valeur des terres.. La taille est un facteur important, car les économies d’échelle permettent d’accroître la productivité.. Superficies énormes.. Des entreprises chinoises et moyen-orientales ont déjà été pointées du doigt pour avoir accaparé de vastes terrains dans des pays en développement en vue d’y effectuer à bon compte des cultures alimentaires destinées aux populations de leurs pays d’origine.. Pourtant, les fonds occidentaux sont les instigateurs de nombreux gros contrats, souligne l’Oakland Institute.. La firme qui gère le fonds d’investissement de Harvard a décliné tout commentaire.. “.. La société de gestion de Harvard.. a pour politique de ne pas discuter des investissements ou de la stratégie d’investissement, et je ne peux donc ni confirmer ni infirmer les allégations contenues.. dans le rapport.. ”,.. répond un porte-parole.. Vanderbilt préfère également garder le silence.. A en croire l’Oakland Institute, les investisseurs ont vanté exagérément aux communautés intéressées les avantages des accords.. “Les entreprises ont  ...   de quarante-neuf ans, portant sur la location de 400 000 hectares dans l’Equatoria-Central pour environ 25 000 dollars, autorise l’entreprise à exploiter toutes les ressources naturelles, y compris le pétrole et le bois.. La société, avec à sa tête l’ancien ambassadeur des Etats-Unis Howard Eugene Douglas, entend demander à bénéficier des crédits carbone soutenus par les Nations unies, qui lui rapporteraient des millions de livres de revenus par an.. Au Mozambique, où les investisseurs pourraient mettre la main sur 7 millions d’hectares, des fonds spéculatifs occidentaux travailleraient avec des entreprises sud-africaines pour acheter de grandes superficies de forêts et de terres agricoles pour le compte d’investisseurs en Europe et aux Etats-Unis.. Les contrats stipulent que l’Etat mozambicain acceptera jusqu’à vingt-cinq années d’exonération d’impôts, sans qu’il y ait beaucoup d’emplois créés en contrepartie.. “Personne ne peut croire que ces investisseurs soient motivés par le désir de nourrir les Africains, de créer des emplois ou d’améliorer la sécurité alimentaire”,.. martèle Obang Metho.. , du Mouvement de solidarité pour une nouvelle Ethiopie.. “Ces accords, qui pour beaucoup resteront en vigueur pendant quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans, n’apporteront pas le progrès aux populations locales et ne leur donneront pas de quoi manger.. Ils permettent seulement aux dirigeants corrompus et aux investisseurs étrangers de s’en mettre plein les poches.. Opacité.. “Ce sont des contrats énormes, ce qui les rend d’autant plus scandaleux.. Le sacrifice de petites fermes et de forêts africaines sur l’autel d’une stratégie d’investissement hautement rentable, fondée sur des ressources naturelles, risque de pousser les prix alimentaires à la hausse et d’aggraver les changements climatiques”,.. s’insurge Anuradha Mittal.. “D’après des études effectuées par la Banque mondiale et d’autres institutions, les entreprises étrangères ont acheté ou loué ces trois dernières années près de 60 millions d’hectares de terres africaines, soit la superficie d’un pays grand comme la France”,.. soulignent quant à eux les auteurs du rapport.. “La plupart de ces accords se caractérisent par leur opacité, et ce en dépit des profondes répercussions du renforcement du contrôle sur les marchés alimentaires mondiaux et les ressources agricoles par les sociétés financières”,.. poursuivent-ils.. “Nous avons relevé des cas de spéculateurs s’emparant de terres agricoles alors que de petits paysans, considérés comme les occupants illégitimes, sont expropriés par la force, sans aucune indemnisation”,.. s’indigne Frédéric Mousseau.. , directeur politique de l’.. “Cela déstabilise la filière alimentaire dans le monde et cette instabilité représente une menace bien plus grande que le terrorisme pour la sécurité du monde.. Plus d’un milliard d’habitants de la planète ont faim.. La majorité des pauvres dépendent toujours des petites exploitations agricoles pour leur survie, et les spéculateurs les dépouillent de leur moyen d’existence en leur faisant miroiter des progrès qui ne se réaliseront jamais..

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  • Title: Banana Republic, Africa-Style | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Banana Republic, Africa-Style.. The Daily Iowan.. By Kirsten Jacobsen | June 23, 2011.. When considering profitable or worthwhile international business ventures, it’s always important to hedge your bets.. So why not.. buy up.. 800,000 acres of “abandoned refugee camps” in western Tanzania and start a large-scale agricultural conglomerate?.. It would appear that Iowa’s own agribusiness/ethanol investment mogul (and Board of Regents member) Bruce Rastetter and AgriSol Energy are on to something here.. So, apparently, is Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who.. announced Tuesday.. that the way forward for the country is through upgrading its agriculture, roughly 80 percent of which is still done traditionally without machines or modified seeds.. Good thing the Americans are there to help.. Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Energy and a managing director of AgriSol, plans to take common U.. agricultural practices — modified seeds, high-tech machinery, chemicals, and pesticides — to the up-and-coming “breadbasket of Africa.. ” Local farmers will learn large-scale farming techniques under the tutelage of “experienced farmers,” according to AgriSol’s website.. And while increased food production in the fast-developing state is essential for its growing population, something about this undertaking smacks of good old-fashioned “banana republics.. While the Tanzanian people will certainly see benefits, they are scant in comparison to the benefits Rastetter, AgriSol, and even the Tanzanian government will receive.. “Our goal is to work to bring modern sustainable agriculture to that part of Tanzania in cooperation with the government and the local people,” Rastetter told the Des Moines Register earlier this month.. He failed to mention that government cooperation is essential, because foreigners cannot legally own titles  ...   struck to increase production of biofuel crops, which is worrisome when considering Rastetter’s ties to the ethanol industry back home.. It’s not just the corporate oversight or dubious motives that are troubling; of more concern is where the Tanzanian government will relocate the thousands of refugees currently living on (and ironically, successfully farming) two of the three massive acreages.. Though large-scale, industrial farms may churn out heartier harvests than displaced Burundian refugees, there is no guarantee that this will be done any more sustainably than it is in Iowa.. (How long will it take a “dead zone” to form in Lake Tanganyika, do you think?).. As for the other parties involved in the deal, their intentions are equally as questionable: Executive Director of the Oakland Institute Anuradha Mittal called Iowa State University’s involvement a “greenwashing scheme,” while corporate backer Pharos Global Agricultural Fund has a history of investing in projects designed to return high yields to its investors.. (Rastetter is the CEO of Pharos Ag and donated $1.. 75 million to ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2007.. You may also remember Rastetter from.. the controversy surrounding.. his nomination to the state Board of Regents in April, after donating $160,000 to Gov.. Branstad’s campaign.. ).. There’s no question that foreign businesses and multinational corporations are increasingly turning their eyes on the largely untapped markets of Africa.. As demand and populations grow, so too does the need for sustainably produced food.. But I wouldn’t place my bet on Rastetter’s “sustainable,” semi-altruistic agribusiness project.. I’d rather garden organically (and on a small scale) with the Burundians..

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  • Title: Colleges Involved in Land Grabs | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Colleges Involved in Land Grabs.. Wednesday, June 15, 2011.. The Daily Pennsylvanian.. by.. Evan Medina.. | Wednesday, June 15, 2011.. A recent report implicates several American universities in unsavory land deals in Africa.. Several American universities are allegedly involved in purchasing large tracts of land in Africa, which could lead to the eviction of thousands of local farmers.. The Oakland Institute, a California-based progressive policy think tank, released.. a series of reports.. this month detailing the effects of land purchases in Africa, calling the deals “land grabs” and indicating that they are potentially forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands.. “There is a total lack of governance,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director and founder of the Institute.. The reports note that the deals have attracted alternative investment firms like Emergent Asset Management, as well as American universities with large endowments, including Harvard and Vanderbilt universities and Spelman College.. Mittal added that the investigation was only able to confirm that these three schools had made investments.. Penn was not mentioned in the reports.. According to a World Bank estimate, investors have leased or purchased nearly 60 million hectares of land in Africa over the past three years, an area almost equal to the size of France.. The  ...   chiefs and landowners, many of whom are unaware of the terms of the leases.. According to the Institute’s country report on Sierra Leone, there has been little media coverage of the deals and most locals are unaware that most of the farmland has been leased to foreign investors.. A spokesman for Emergent defended the deals in The Guardian newspaper in Britain.. “Yes, university endowment funds and pension funds are long-term investors,” he said.. “We are investing in African agriculture and setting up businesses and employing people.. We are doing it in a responsible way.. Although Penn was not named in this report, its international investment practices have come under scrutiny in the past.. In 1987, the University sold off its holdings in companies that would not withdraw from South Africa, which had been under apartheid at the time, and did not reinvest until 1994.. In 1996, Penn created the Trustee Proxy Subcommittee as a “means for expressing social, political or environmental concerns,” according to a 1998 statement by then-Executive Vice President John Fry.. In the late 1990s, the Free Burma Coalition called on the University rid itself of investments made in companies with ties to the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, but the subcommittee voted to continue investing..

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  • Title: US Agro-Tech Firm Grabbing Land in Tanzania | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: US Agro-Tech Firm Grabbing Land in Tanzania.. Sunday, June 12, 2011.. The East African.. A cassava farmer.. Refugees will be displaced to give way to an agricultural multinational Picture: File.. By Kevin J Kelley, Special Correspondent.. Sunday, June 12 2011.. The Tanzanian government is on the verge of concluding a deal with international investors that will result in evacuation of refugee resettlement areas to make way for cultivation of biofuels and genetically modified crops, a US-based research institute charges in a report released last week.. Under the land deal now being negotiated, AgriSol Energy Tanzania would develop 325,000 hectares in western Tanzania consisting of three refugee camps: Lugufu in Kigoma Province (25,000 ha); Katumba (80,317 ha) and Mishamo (219,800 ha), both in Rukwa Province.. “While Lugufu is now empty, Katumba and Mishamo sites are being evacuated by the Tanzanian government to make way for the project,” says the report by the Oakland Institute, which investigated internationally financed land deals in seven African countries.. Refugees lose out.. The Tanzanian government announced a plan in 2008 to grant citizenship by 2010 to Burundian refugees who had begun settling in Katumba and Mishamo in 1972.. About 162,000 people are covered by the citizenship plan.. “Yet, while the Tanzanian government  ...   since foreigners are not permitted to hold land titles in Tanzania.. Tax holidays, repatriation of dollars out of Tanzania, waiver of duties on project-related imports, and commitment to construction of a rail link for Mishamo are also on the table for the talks between the Tanzanian government and the potential investors, the report says.. The deal is further contingent on the government’s creation of a regulatory framework for use of genetically modified crops, the institute adds.. Quick acquisition.. “Though these issues are yet to be resolved, the process is well underway, with the expectation that the title of certificate of occupancy will be awarded within three months (as of April 2011),” the report says.. It notes that the Tanzanian government “views AgriSol as part of its Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture first) policy initiative to modernise and commercialise the country’s agricultural sector.. AgriSol Energy Tanzania was born of a partnership between US-based AgriSol Energy and Tanzania-based Serengeti Advisors Ltd, according to the institute’s year-long investigation.. Serengeti Advisors is led by Bertram Eyakuze and Iddi Simba, a former director of the East African Development Bank as well as a former Trade and Energy minister of Tanzania.. Another key partner is Pharos Global Agricultural Fund, managed by a Dubai-based financial firm..

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  • Title: Swiss Commodities Trader Expands Into Ethanol in Africa | oaklandinstitute.org
    Descriptive info: Swiss Commodities Trader Expands Into Ethanol in Africa.. The New York Times.. By Matthew Saltmarsh.. June 15, 2011.. GENEVA — Jean Claude Gandur, a Swiss commodities trader, made a fortune during the 1990s buying oil concessions in Africa that others did not want or could not hold.. Now a billionaire, he is poised to swim against the tide again with a major expansion into ethanol in.. Sierra Leone.. , the West African country still recovering from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002.. One of his companies, Addax Bioenergy, was set to sign a loan agreement Thursday with six international lenders including the African Development Bank, the Netherlands Development Finance Company and the German Investment Corporation.. The 258 million euro ($366 million) project near Makeni, in central Sierra Leone, will convert sugar cane into bioethanol for European and domestic markets.. The move again has stirred controversy as ethanol is being partly blamed for rising.. food prices.. And it comes at a time of renewed criticism from advocacy groups worried about an exploitation of developing countries amid the global scramble for resources as food prices climb.. The Oakland Institute, a social development group based in California, warned this month in a report of a “land grab” under way, whereby investors including hedge funds are driving farmers off their land in Africa to make way for new industrial farming projects to profit from rising food prices.. Mr.. Gandur said that despite concerns about the effects on farm markets, he thought that ethanol had a viable and profitable future, if managed properly.. The Addax project will be the largest investment so far in Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector and includes a new sugar cane estate, an ethanol refinery and a biomass power plant for the refinery and the national electricity grid.. Construction begins this year, and the project is expected to be operational in 2013.. It employs over 500 people and will create more than 2,000 jobs, according to Addax.. The land will be leased from local landowners and tribal chiefs.. According to Addax Bioenergy, the deal follows evaluations of the social, environmental and economic effects with the government and local nonprofit groups.. The memorandum of understanding was ratified by Sierra Leone’s Parliament last November, and according to local news media reports, it was supported by the political opposition as well.. Gandur is no stranger to controversy, having worked in commodities trading and mining throughout his career in places where others tread warily, like Nigeria and Kurdistan.. He built his oil unit, Addax Petroleum, from scratch before  ...   conditions surrounding agricultural investments in Sierra Leone are ripe for exploitation and conflict,” the institute said.. Duncan Pruett, an adviser on land rights at Oxfam, said that generally, biofuel production in poor countries “is a double blow for poor and hungry communities.. ” Land, he said, was often given away to investors or governments on abusive or unfair terms, and large-scale plantations often created little employment or food for local consumption.. And diverting food into biofuel production “is also a key driver of high and volatile food prices, which spell hunger for millions of men, women and children,” he said.. Gandur is not shy about saying his intent is to make a profit, not to be a charity.. But he said that by operating under the “watch and auspices of international bodies,” he thought his project could “be used as a model for other companies.. In any case, Mr.. Gandur, 62, said he expected the bet on ethanol would be among his last major business forays.. An avid collector of antiquities and postwar European paintings, he has turned his attention to finding a home for his collection.. Gandur’s family, which has been referred to as the Rothschilds of the Middle East, has rich European roots.. His father was a doctor, whose family emigrated to Egypt in the early 19th century.. They had Italian ancestry and were ennobled in Austria in 1863.. His mother’s side had Ukrainian-Georgian roots.. In 1921, they fled Russia, where they had run the Odessa docks, for Constantinople, before resettling in Paris.. In 1961, when Mr.. Gandur was 12, the family fled Egypt for Switzerland after the second wave of nationalizations under Gamal Abdel Nasser.. They lost much, though they had previously shifted wealth to Europe.. Gandur initially studied Egyptology, but around age 25, he joined the commodities trading firm Philipp Brothers.. In 1987, he started the Addax Oryx Group, named after two African antelopes, with partners.. The group grew fast, buying oil concessions in Nigeria, under the government of Gen.. Sani Abacha; Kurdistan, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein; the Ivory Coast; Gabon; Cameroon and Benin.. It also held gold mining concessions in Tanzania.. “In 1995 and 1996, nobody wanted acreage in Africa,” he said.. “Oil was $9 and upstream was not in fashion,” he said, referring to exploration.. He has been wounded by insinuations that he had to grease dictators’ palms to succeed.. “I didn’t build Addax on getting acreages from governments under the table,” he said.. “We have never paid money to anyone to get acreage in Africa, never..

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