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Land Grabs in Africa Leave Communities Impoverished

April 5th, 2012

The problem of land grabbing in Africa and Asia by investment firms and multinational corporations is a serious and growing problem. Governments make deals with large multinational companies while thousands of poor farmers are left with inadequate compensation, low wages, polluted water and exposure to toxic agricultural chemicals that cause health problems.

While problems with land grabs abound, SOCFIN Agriculture. Co. is a particularly egregious company. Owned by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, SOCFINAF Group owns and operates plantations of rubber, oil palm and coffee in Indonesia, Cambodia, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Liberia. SOCFIN recently has secured 6,500 hectares of farmland for rubber/palm oil production in Sierra Leone.

The Oakland Institute, a California-based think-tank, has detailed a pattern of coercion, lack of consultation, and failure to fairly compensate Sierra Leonean landowners who have been pressured into ceding their land to the corporate giant. Watch this video on SOCFIN’s Sierra Leone’s operations:

In a new land deal brief, Socfin Land Investment in Sierra Leone,  the institute says that “In 2011, Socfin secured 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) and they are running roughshod over the rights of local landowners.” According to Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s policy director and author of the brief, “Bolloré Group, ranked among the top 500 companies in the world, and its subsidiaries, have gained a reputation for descending powerfully on developing countries and setting up plantations for palm oil and rubber trees. In Cambodia, Liberia, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone, the group has a reputation for leaving communities disfranchised as they acquire land cheaply through questionable processes and act with little regard for existing owners.”

Bolloré-controlled plantations offer abysmal employment conditions. In Cameroon, workers at SOCAPALM have referred to themselves as “SOCAPALM slaves.” NGOs, human rights groups, and journalists have uncovered “insalubrious” living conditions and “miserable” wages.

In Cambodia, the World Rainforest Movement and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) have documented human rights abuses and details of coercive land acquisition practices that have led to protests by the ethnic minority Bunong, who have lost their historical land and their livelihoods without fair compensation.

Please subscribe to LAND GRAB, at Food Crisis and the Local Land Grab website, which documents what is happening all over Africa, Asia, Latin America. This problem has mushroomed exponentially in the last three years in the name of development – but  it primarily serves the interest of the company and not the people. The OMI JPIC Office in Washington is actively engaging corporations and other investors on this issue.




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