We talked about a year ago about the spread of land deals in Africa. Well, it seems the practice is alive and well according to a recent article in The Guardian.
One of the cited examples is in Ethiopia, where millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables are being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1,000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East. Ethiopian-born Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, one of the 50 richest men in the world plans to spend up to $2bn acquiring and developing 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years. So far, it has bought four farms and is already growing wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market. It expects eventually to employ more than 10,000 people.
Isn't this great news?
Well, it seems that in many areas the deals have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of "land grabbing". There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry.
But people have been hungry for the past decades, and local farmers refuse to use fertilizer! Land deals may be bad, but are they worse than the proper counterfactual?