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Africa’s great land grab

Across Africa there is a lot of concern about “land grabbing” – particularly regarding foreign companies or governments buying up land that local communities have used for agriculture or grazing. Oxfam has funded a new report looking into the impact these land grabs are having on local people. It includes case studies from Tanzania, Ethiopia and other African countries, where land is being bought up to produce food, biofuels or tourism. Below is just one example from the Ngorongoro region of northern Tanzania – near the famous Serengeti National Park – where the interests of a private tourism company clashed with those of local Maasai.

Land grabbing through forced evictions in Loliondo, Tanzania

The evictions of Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo took place from the 4th to 6th July 2009 in 8 villages bordering the Serengeti National Park. The evictions were conducted by the Paramilitary Police Field Force Unit, together with security forces of Ortello Business Corporation (OBC).

The OBC is owned by the royal family from the United Arab Emirates. In 1992 it was granted hunting rights within the Loliondo Game Control Area – settled and legally owned by Maasai pastoralists. Over the past 17 years, during the hunting period, Maasai villagers have been subjected to restrictions on access to grazing land and water for livestock – raising serious questions about ownership of the land that legally belongs to the villagers. The villages were established and are legally governed by the Land Laws that allow them to own, utilize and manage village land under the Village Land Act No 5 of 1999.

At local level, the directive that villagers should vacate their land was given by the District Commissioner on the1st of July 2009, and the villagers were ordered to vacate their villages on the 3rd of July. The malicious and ruthless operation to evict the Maasai communities left their villages in unimaginable distress and utter poverty.

It was alleged that more than 200 Maasai bomas (homesteads) were totally burnt; women were raped; more than 3000 people left homeless without food and other social basic needs; and more than 50,000 cattle were left with no grass and water. A FEMACT investigation team that set out to investigate such allegations came across women who had undergone miscarriages, rape, loss of children and other properties including food and shelter. They also met men who had been chained, beaten and humiliated in front of their families.  Some had lost thousands of livestock – among other properties; and some had been imprisoned for no apparent reasons.

The conclusion reached was that the Maasai communities in the Loliondo villages were internally displaced persons. They had no land to settle, no shelter, no food, no water for even their livestock, no clothing or any other form of social services.

Source: FEMACT 2009, PINGOS Forum and NGONET 2010

The report – “Land Grabbing in Africa” – was launched at the recent African Union meeting on land policy held in Lilongwe, Malawi.

You can also listen to Oxfam’s Lamine Ndiaye talk to the BBC about the impact these land grabs are having on food security in Africa.

Click here to read the full report

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Written by Marc Wegerif

Marc Wegerif

Marc Wegerif coordinates Oxfam's Economic Justice campaign in East Africa, working with partners to bring about fair policies for small farmers, pastoralists and communities affected by climate change. He is based in Tanzania

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