Increasing land acquisition could create food crisis-Rashme Sehgal
The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has warned against the increasing leasing and buying of millions of hectares of farmlands in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and fuel production.
This land is being leased to private investors and sovereign wealth funds with no explicit legal agreement on how water will be used on these farmlands.
The World Bank has estimated that over 56 million hectares of land in Africa was leased in 2009 alone but other researches indicate that over 200 million hectares of land, which works out to roughly the size of western Europe, has already been leased out.
Food experts led by Dr M.S. Swaminathan warns that this will seriously endanger the food sovereignty of the local people as agricultural land is getting transferred to expand agribusiness.
SIWI believes that a rapid increase in cultivated farmland will require significant quantities of water to sustain production and these land lease contracts do not contain legal arrangements for the use of water.
“Water has been neglected in the global rush for agricultural land. Nor is information available on joint management of trans-boundary waters,” said Dr Anders Jagerskog of SIWI who has co-authored a report titled “Land Acquisitions: How Will They Impact Trans-boundary Waters?”
According to the report, the majority of investors belong to regions facing water shortages and increased demand for food such as India, China and the Arab Gulf countries.
Low land lease prices and inexpensive labour have seen many investors make a beeline for Africa and in particular the sub-Saharan region.
The annual rent for one ha of land in Ethopia is as little as between $2-5 per ha per year. Liberia has already made available 61 per cent of its total agricultural land amounting to 1.6 million has available to investors.
Between 2004-9, south Sudan leased out nearly 4 million has which works out to roughly 3 per cent of its total agricultural land area while Mozambique has leased out over 5 per cent of available agricultural land which is close to three million has during the same period.