The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Land Grab in Africa

May 31, 2010

The following article is translated from the April 6, 2010, issue of Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Workers Power), journal of UATCI, African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers.

Capitalist companies have been buying up agricultural land in a big way in Africa – the most fertile land.

In Sudan, investors from the United Arab Emirates bought 1.9 million acres, and South Korean businesses bought up 1.7 million acres. Saudi Arabia sealed a contract for 100,000 acres in one province. A well-known Saudi capitalist, Al-Amoudi, whose businesses are already growing wheat in Ethiopia, has plans to acquire 1.2 million more acres.

All told, 20 countries in North, East and West Africa sell or lease land to big agribusiness....

There’s nothing new in the fact that big companies grab fertile land to grow rubber, palm oil, bananas or other crops that return fat profits. This goes back to the colonial era when they began to cut down forests to get land. Sometimes the colonizers forced peasants to give up growing food crops, and to grow cotton or peanuts for export in place of food....

Pillage, poverty and exploitation have always been part of the functioning of capitalism. But in this period of capitalist crisis, the lust for profits drives companies and billionaires into a frenzy to buy up large amounts of agricultural land.

And today these big capitalists are taking over land currently occupied by peasants, driving them off their own land....

In addition to the problem of land grabs, there is the water question. In Ethiopia, this intensive agriculture gobbles up water. For example, in Awassa, a fertile region of this country, the capitalist Al-Amoudi farm consumes as much water in a year as 100,000 inhabitants....

Famine already stalks numerous regions in Africa. This situation will worsen in the period to come, as this capitalist system more and more strangles the populations of the poor countries. So long as it is not abolished, there is no hope that the situation of the vast majority of the populations will improve.