Foreign land buying in Africa slammed

2011-12-08 08:01

Durban - Foreign countries which buy African farmland in order to gain food security are guilty of a "new form of colonisation," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Wednesday.

She blasted foreign acquisition of African farmland and forests at a side event at the UN climate talks in Durban.

"You will find that some other country, or government in another continent, buys up land. If the land is forest land, they will kill it and they will grow food for that country. The host African country suffers.

"A new form of colonisation is happening to Africa. Many people don't like us telling this," she said to applause from delegates.

Leave little behind

In an interview with AFP, Joemat-Pettersson gave the example of the new country of South Sudan, where she said "close to 40% of its land surface has already been sold" to foreign interests.

"They bring in their own labour, they bring in their own equipment, soil, seeds, they use the soil of the host country and then they move off. They leave very little behind or they may leave depleted land."

She added: "People will basically do anything to alleviate poverty. And what you see in the continent is countries selling off prime agricultural, prime forestry, to alleviate their own poverty."

Joemat-Pettersson declined to name the foreign countries that were doing this, but said in response to a question: "I don't think China is the only one. There are other examples as well."

South Africa has launched an initiative with the African Union to get all countries to draw up a register of land management use.

"This way, they can evaluate what has happened to their rain forest or their forest and what has happened to prime agricultural land," she said.

"The register also allows us also to see how much prime agricultural land or forest land has been sold to foreigners, meaning people from another country, and what impact this has on the host country.

The minister said she did not expect the register to be completed by next year, but said "the African Union heads of state are being absolutely phenomenal about this. We are driving it and I think momentum is gathering, because people are realising that we are losing security of tenure and we are losing control over our own natural resources."


In 2009, a report by two NGOs and the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said nearly 2.5 million hectares (6.2m acres) of farmland in just five sub-Saharan countries had been bought or leased in the previous five years.

China, but also India, South Korea, oil-rich Gulf countries and western companies were involved in the practice, which was driven by the desire for food security and biofuels but also by an improved investment climate in Africa, it said.

In March this year, the aid agency Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) reported that over a million hectares (2.47m acres) of land in South Sudan had been leased to foreign companies in Unity state.

In July, Germany's Africa policy co-ordinator, Guenter Nooke, said China's "large-scale land purchases" had contributed to the devastating drought affecting the Horn of Africa.

The accusation was dismissed by the foreign ministry in Beijing as "completely unfounded and [with] ulterior motives."

  • Andrew - 2011-12-08 08:20

    Will the honourable minister name these foreigners who purchase SA land for food production and export the food they have grown. Perhaps an asian country??

      Sharon - 2011-12-08 08:32

      And at the same time pay back the money she stole from us taxpaying public.

      Dean - 2011-12-08 08:58

      ... And yet our government does everything they can to make our farmers feel unwelcome and unappreciated...

      Ben Nel - 2011-12-08 09:05

      @ Sharon. That would be a colonialist guesthouse?

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-08 09:28

      Atleast these foreigners are paying for the land and not like some peoples forefathers who stole the land!

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 09:44

      @Flowingriver - a lot of it was negotiated for, is that theft? Other land was unoccupied at the time of its theft. (Stolen from nature I guess) I guess your myth makes you feel better about yourself though.

      richard.hipkin - 2011-12-08 11:54

      Use it or lose it... these countries are BUYING land which means the governments are SELLING it to them... stop moaning about the very things you are doing...

  • makesuthink - 2011-12-08 08:32

    Will the (honourable?) minister tell and show us public what the "original" inhabitants of the land have done to increase food production

  • Phumezo - 2011-12-08 08:35

    Selling land that belongs to the indiginous people to foreigners of any country should be made illegal by the UN. Even more in Africa taking into consideration our past should be treated like a war crime! By doing this we are spitting in the graves of those who gave their lives and blood for our livelyhood!

      Chris - 2011-12-08 08:49

      Who do you think sells off this land? The same fatcat politicians that are now complaining about it. The only time they seem to mind is when the money's not going into their back pocket.

      pieter.haasbroek - 2011-12-08 08:55

      The UN? What do they have to do with it? Otherwise I think you have a good point - whilst we are at it we may just as well ban the purchase of land (any land) by Africans anywhere in the world other than on the African continent. That means (as a start) you'll have about 40 or 50 million African Americans who claim their roots aas Africa who can no longer own property in America. Perhaps they can all relocate to Africa and when they arrive here they can teach all Africans to rap. That'll make a huge difference to Africa's education and skills levels. At least if we follow your suggestion then the San people will get all of Southern Africa back, which never belonged to the black tribes who came from the north and took the land from the San by war and extermination of the San people...

      Dean - 2011-12-08 09:03

      A war crime? Ok - we'll dig up Jan VanRiebek and make him stand trial.... Idiot! Oh - and 30% of all SA farmland claimed by land claims has been sold back to farmers. So you have your "brothers and comrades" to blame!

      Ibhubesi - 2011-12-08 09:12

      @Phumezo. Please Brother don't make stupid statements like this. Nobody is holding a gun at anybody's head to sell land in Africa. The land in Africa is sold by people that are greedy. You need to think objectively about this issue. Nobody is stopping you to go buy land in America. So if you buy a big ranch in America, will you be doing the Americans a big racial injustice? NO. So skip this victim, all my stuff was taken by bad people mentality and start thinking like an evolved African. We can't move this continent forward because we can't move ourselves forward. And would someone please shoot this Minister and put her out of her misery. She is an embarrassment!

      Felix - 2011-12-08 09:18

      Nice Chris, that is the real issue here. We can't blaim countries for buying the land, only the warlords who are willing to sell it.

      Marion - 2011-12-08 09:27

      @Phumezo... 'Even more in Africa' ... don't understand your logic about Africa being more special than other countries that were colonised. In case you've forgotten the TRC dealt with the so-called war crimes. And war crimes can be found on both sides of the fence. Necklacing of informants is one example.

      aardvarkie - 2011-12-08 09:29

      Ibhubesi I wish more people thought like you did. I'll have a beer with you any day.

      George - 2011-12-08 09:33

      WTF has someone told you something and now whatever happens it is the same story. You need to sometimes read and listen and then understand, then YOU can make an informed decission and not what some idiot has told you. Same old retoric answers

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 09:47

      The Chinese need to eat, they're gonna buy African land and your ruling elite are going to sell it to them. You don't exactly have a history of standing up against your own when they oppress you, I doubt thats going to change Phumezo. You were doing nothing with the land anyway, so whats the gripe? I just feel sorry for the environment.

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-08 09:47

      @Ibhubesi........Shoot the minister....! are u thinking like an evolved african?

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 09:49

      Mugabe and other African despots have plenty of extremely expensive property in Europe, which is used for one purpose - to serve their own interests. Why never complain about how Aficans abuse Africans?

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-08 10:10

      @Marion ...necklacing of informants was on the other side.....war crimes was committed on the other side.....not much really was committed on your side!

      Tony - 2011-12-08 10:28

      @ibhubesi,a honest and intelligent comment.Give this man a bells!Africa is forever crying foul to the world, yet its Africas leaders who do their best in running it to the ground.

      Marion - 2011-12-08 12:06

      @flowingriver... you have totally lost me...

  • DieSeL - 2011-12-08 08:36

    This could work either way depending on how its managed. If the country isn't using the land (maybe they cant afford to) then why not let foreign investors come in and utilise it? It still brings money into the country. U still going to tax the cr@p out of them. just setup proper rules etc and obviously govern the type of land sold. Sell them land that has been identified for agricultural use and not indigenous forests. then set rules like that they must employ local workers etc. just my 2c...

      PB - 2011-12-08 08:45

      Die SeL Great post

      JazzyBlues - 2011-12-08 08:49

      That makes sense to me DieSel. It can be a win win situation for both countries if managed right (and no corruption creaps in fro the Gravy train)

      Hunter - 2011-12-08 08:54

      @ DieSel, they cannot get the register in place in 12 months, are you sure they will be able to manage what you are suggesting? We all know that China and India are taking over Africa. On recent trips to the DRC and Zambia I could see how much of the mining and forestry (and lately beef production) they have taken over. See, they enjoy the corrupt governments that run African countries and have no business ethics. They know the highest bribe gets the land/mine/contract. The minister's register will only give them a list of where to go search for more bribes.

      DieSeL - 2011-12-08 09:07

      @ Hunter - I agree with you 100% I'm not saying that they will be able to pull it off. What i am saying is that if they did pull it off it could be beneficial to all parties involved and they should not complain about it happening. They need to stop shifting blame and accept that they (the african governments) are the ones to blame for not effectively managing it. Unfortunately the truth is that all those foreign countries are taking advantage of the corrupt africa governments. Highest bribe gets you just about anything you want... Speaking of corruption have you all seen the figures of how many government officials are/have been investigated for corruption? Cant remember the figures but its ridiculous!! Then there is the amount of money being spent paying the salaries of those who are suspended and under investigation... Getting paid for sitting at home... I want that life!!

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 09:51

      Too simple DieSeL, it will take away the excuse to whine if they solve the problems.

      baudoux1 - 2011-12-08 12:31

      Its not the point Africans always want to blame all their problems on the evil colinizers who just happened to bring civilization to this continent. Its just easier that way!!

  • PB - 2011-12-08 08:36

    "They bring in their own labour, they bring in their own equipment, soil, seeds, they use the soil of the host country and then they move off. They leave very little behind or they may leave depleted land" No Sh*t Sherlock. I am glad you are at least acknowledging that the anc's biggest chommies - the Chinese - are involved in this practice. The rest of us knew this for years - how come the anc has only just waken up to this? Look at the Eastern Cape, where landownership is mainly black South Africans. All of that fertile land - how much of it is cultivated??? The rest of Africa has the same mindset. They are all waiting for 'someone else' to come and develop their countries, and when they do, they are dumbfounded when it boomerangs. Here is a thought for the anc - instead of pocketing all those billions, spend it on our own food production. Why can't the whining African dictators do their own development, bit by bit?

      Vicker - 2011-12-08 08:56

      Eish because it is too hard wek - easier to let the whities develop, then "indeginise" it all....

  • Horst - 2011-12-08 08:37

    "People will basically do anything to alleviate poverty. And what you see in the continent is countries selling off prime agricultural, prime forestry, to alleviate their own poverty." ??? whats wrong with that? Surely these 'foreigners' have increased the GDP of the host country? And employed local people? Me thinks this new colonialism is one way of helping Africa out of its misery.

  • gary.hagemann - 2011-12-08 08:40

    I am sure they will farm it and not sit on their backsides!

  • Kaizer - 2011-12-08 08:42

    errrmm - so why sell? Its not like they are holding a nuke to the thick head of whatever country sells off their land.

      martin.berowsky - 2011-12-08 09:05

      Why take land from people who have lived there for generations if there is so much spare land available (LAND GRAB/CLAIM) ever heard of it.

      Kaizer - 2011-12-08 09:57

      ermm - you are off topic. Concentrate. Think REALLY hard. You are talking about land redistibution by government i take it. The article is about FOREIGN countries BUYING land FROM a WILLING seller.

  • Gollum - 2011-12-08 08:43

    Makes a song and dance about "certain countries" but won't tell us which ones. What's the point? It's like saying we were robbed, we know who robbed us but I won't tell who it is. Gutless, spiness, toothless, no balls and shortsighted.

      Vicker - 2011-12-08 08:58

      Mauritius has about 100000ha of good land in the south of Mozambique. Land that was lying unused. They are turning it into a huge fresh-produce unit, to the benefit of the Mozambican people. Whats wrong with that?

  • Dave - 2011-12-08 08:47

    Seeing how the current custodians of this land do nothing except turn it into desert we may as well cede it to foreign countries (i.e. China) for their food production. I am sure the Minister needs plenty more of the money this will generate to fund her frequent stays in hotels, guesthouses and double booked accomodation. She is no different to any other ANC Executive thief.

  • sabine.gammel - 2011-12-08 08:49

    If you blame the purchaser you also have to blame the seller. And ask yourself where the incoming money goes to. And if you think global you should ask yourself how we will feed 7 billion human beings. And you should realistical see that it's high time to drastically fight population explosion worldwide!!!!!!

      PB - 2011-12-08 10:16

      Yes Sabine, cancel all subsidies to women who think that if having one child they can't afford to have, 5 more would be just a great idea.

  • pieter.haasbroek - 2011-12-08 08:49

    Let me see if I understand this correctly - the government is trying its best to attract foreign investment but when it happens they complain about it? Do I understand correctly that they don't want foreigners to grow food for Africa on African land? Where must they grow it, considering Africa can't and doesn't grow food for itself? Is that why they screamn at COP17 for foreigners to pay for the green fund? Is it just a case, as always, that Africa just want to see others hand out large wads of cash to Africa to do with as they please (read - allow those in power to steal it and put it in huge offshore bank accounts or to start war chests with)? It would appear the world will never satisfy South Africa (and Africa) - I wonder how long it will take for non-African countries to get fed-up with Africa's histrionics and tell it to go jump off a cliff? Who needs Africa anyway? Africa doesn't contribute; it just consumes. And then Africa blames the rest of the world for its failures.

  • Garth - 2011-12-08 08:53

    The problem, as always, is with the corrupt governments of those lands. No willing seller, no willing buyer. As always, the ineptocrat blames anyone but the ignorants at fault. Without colonisation, the countries of Africa would not have economies. That is a fact.

  • nicn44 - 2011-12-08 08:54

    if another country can produce in Souther Sudan, then they deserve encouragement and it is up to the host government that the locals benefit.

      Hunter - 2011-12-08 09:38

      Espacially in that war zone. They should get a discount on land prices and a premium on their produce prices as danger pay.

  • Vicker - 2011-12-08 08:54

    " they use the soil of the host country and then they move off" - Mmmm...sounds just like subsistence farming to me. It is concerning that our Minister of Agriculture has such little grasp of agriculture - a farmer doesnt "use up the land and then move off", he cultivates it, ensures that vital nutrients are replaced, so that his future crops will not only repeat, but actually improve. All this time he provides employment opportunities, and most likely to a greater or lesser degree, social upliftment of the surrounding communities. Jeeesh every time she opens her mouth she confirms that she is incompetent...

  • Hunter - 2011-12-08 09:00

    They bring in their own labour becuase the local labour are too lazy. Try to get a Congolese man to work a full shift on a mine in the DRC. It is virtually impossible... The chinese on the other side are working 12 hour shifts for a lower pay package in the same country. That is also why most of the manufaturing in the world now happens in China.

  • Fenderbender - 2011-12-08 09:01

    It is called parasites , they will drain this country without our 'competent' government ever noticing is before it is too late, then they (anc) will blame apartheid 'again' and any form which excludes them from responsibility - very rhetoric and used. Most people agree on the slack rules and regulations set for 'preferred' customers and the degree of damage they cause to the economy, when just a handful of greedy pigs benefit. China does not have the natural resources to provide for their own over populated parasitic people, Australia, New Zealand, US etc. have only learned that valuable lesson too late. Unfortunately our 'over competent' government enjoys the one way friendship more than the future and economic well being of South Africa - At least the 'minister' opened her mouth

  • Brian - 2011-12-08 09:01

    On the upside, this can be used as yet another useful excuse as to why Africa continues to wallow in poverty and 3rd world misery. If we were as creative at working hard and solving our own problems as we seem to be at abdicating responsibility, we might actually make something of this continent.

  • John - 2011-12-08 09:10

    Now I know why the ANC wants to kick the white farmers off there land for free. SO they can sell it on to China for a nice fat profit, I wonder if this is what drove the Zim problem?

  • Derryn - 2011-12-08 09:11

    Well you can't really be surprised that people want some security from a continent that is ravaged by war, poverty and ignorance.

  • Zee - 2011-12-08 09:18

    please keep quiet (consider COP 17- pollution!) and pay those hotel bills, you are a woman without a conscience

  • aardvarkie - 2011-12-08 09:33

    Jeez people, this isn't about racial stuff, it's about corporate and political greed. China is well known for taking over foreign companies and buying up land. If you really want to worry about something, go and Google how Monsanto is destroying Africa with their genetically modified seeds.

  • nicosmit - 2011-12-08 09:34

    'and they will grow food for that country' and she forgot to mention jobs, oh how terrible. She's obviously not worried about food shortages or understands the meaning of it. Minister I think you should go live in Ethiopia (or pretty much any african country) and re-assess your statement once you've seen what the current inhabitants are doing with the land, and please also visit the local UN food que. You are quick to beg other countries for money and food aid, but you wont let them do something about it... look how far land claims has brought SA, we are now importing almost half our food!!!

      nicosmit - 2011-12-08 09:42

      PS it's because of colonialisation that you have a job today, else what would you be doing Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister?

  • Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-08 09:34

    Congratulations to mrs TINA peterson, she proberly hit the nail on the nail, because she knows how much african people will suffer from this kind of new colonization ,best example is SOUTH AFRICA, where the majority were left without farms and land for the next generations to live in informal locations ,

      Garth - 2011-12-08 09:39

      You should stick to religious forums - at least there you have a modicum of an idea on the subject.

      Johan - 2011-12-08 09:40

      ....and you've got no problem with Mrs. Peterson "colonizing" thundreds of thousands of rands for herself a while back?

      PB - 2011-12-08 10:26

      Caaqil, what percentage of black farmers (lets face it, that is the main whine here) are actually producing anything remotely like a decent amount of food on the ground they own? If you have a look at those huge tea plantations in Zebedila and a number of other extremely productive farms in that area that was handed over, after training the new owners and assisting even after they took over - it is STUFFED. Unless they can maintain or improve on what they get, they should loose ownership. Finish and klaar.

      Pieter Joost Oostdam - 2011-12-08 10:28

      Ummmm...... Dude, your just being stupid now. Atleast the majority of South African's have food on the table because the minority with thousands of years of experience in intensive farming own most of the land, right? Now take a look at the rest of Africa, majority own the land and there are major food problems. Doesn't that just tell you something. Bru wake up and smell the coffee, and leave the farming to the people who know what they doing.

  • Johan - 2011-12-08 09:37

    Our locals are to blerrie sleg to do anything with the land, and then they moan if other people have some innitiative? Exactly the same mentality when Zimbabweans or Nigerians come here and open shops. I've NO PROBLEM with that, they're helping themselves. But our locals attack them and burn their shops down because "they're stealing jobs". Um, no, if anything they are CREATING jobs. If you have a problem with a Zimbo opening a shop, get off your sorry ass and start your own shop!!

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-08 10:14

      @johan, its correct that most africans blame other people for their unacceptable non-productive and lazyness behaviour ,no matter wherever they are ,but remember one things will clearly change ,atleast for the next decades ,becouse millions have to gratuate, with high qualifications from top class universities around the world.

  • Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 09:41

    It sounds bad, but most of these countries were doing nothing with the land anyway, so they have not actually lost anything. As jy dom is moet jy k#k? Even here, 1000's of hectares have been taken from white farmers, but the beneficieries are doing nothing with the land - so how has it benefitted anybody? I worry more about the damage to the environment, the so called "loss" of the African people is self induced. (And probably aid induced, the do gooder western donors have created a culture of dependance on them)

  • George - 2011-12-08 09:47

    1994 50,000 productive farms. 2011 5000 producinf farms. What does this tell you. Whatever the wh@te man has the the goverment buys it and gives it to a Bl@#$ man From that day on the is no production so the loot farm that are producing. You then fix up there old farm and get it working, then they want there land back. Time to admit you cant do ANYTHING right, you will always need someone else to fix what you have broken

  • Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-08 09:51

    Two months ago, i was there in JUBA, and malakal,SOUTH SUDAN, to my suprising , unfortunately, most fertile and agricultural lands we sold to western imperialists by corrupt officials, while there is no urgent need for that,. Good example how african mentality can successfully work is that KENYA ,where 99% of the farmers are indiginous people maintaining food security and even producing surplus to feed other african countries.

      Irene - 2011-12-08 10:25

      The space comes after the comma and there is no space before the comma. There's also no need to put a full stop directly after the comma.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-08 10:37

      @irene, are you still busy with learning punctuations or writing matric examinations ,or may be that information is gonna get got with maggy asss..kkkk

      Marion - 2011-12-08 12:11

      @Irene... was that really necessary?

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 12:46

      Irene, I wonder if you can speak his language? Many different languaged people express their opinions in english on this site - rather correct the english people - who insist on loose instead of lose, when something is lost.

      Johan - 2011-12-08 12:46

      And here in SA we already got some of the worlds best farmers securing our food, and yet the ANC wants them off? So much so, that we're now a food IMPORTER and not an EXPORTER anymore.

  • Aaron - 2011-12-08 10:01

    Seriously, buying land legitimately and developing it for agriculture is the "new colonisation" and this somehow contributes to drought? What utter pathetic, helpless, third world over-dependent drivel. If we as Africans have a problem with it then we should conduct large scale commercial agriculture ourselves, but since we clearly can't get our act together to do this ourselves, then we may as well let others use the land productively and feed 10000x more mouths with the same land. Blame blame blame... the droughts in Africa are entirely our own fault. We're addicted to foreign aid as if it is a drug, so we don't bother to cultivate our own land, all the while spawning huge families. Droughts happen, it's part of climate variability, but when we have done absolutely nothing to prepare or build agricultural capacity, then millions starve and it's all the West's fault so that we can get a cash handout.

  • Kevin - 2011-12-08 11:00

    Would it be far better to stop them buying a farm ,stop them employing our people. Would she rather that the land was handed over to some lazy thug who does not farm it. As for colonization you are yet to thank us for bringing civilization to Africa. you embrace the nice goodies we have brought but find every reason to try to nail the past. The way she cannot name these countries is because she is shooting from the hip and has not done her homework

  • Lesley - 2011-12-08 11:11

    Well perhaps if the farm killings were taken seriously Farmers would not feel the need to sell and leave!!! I don't blame these people one bit

  • Rustic - 2011-12-08 11:25

    Does our minister of agriculture actually do anything aside from spouting opinions and spending money. She sure as hell doesn't like "Commercial"farmers.

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-08 12:49

      I think Lulu was bad, but this lady has also turned out to be one big dissapointment. She has become a populist - do these people's brains get poisoned once they are in powerful positions. (Umthakathi?)

  • richard.hipkin - 2011-12-08 11:53

    Use it or lose it... these countries are BUYING land which means the governments are SELLING it to them... stop moaning about the very things you are doing...

  • richard.hipkin - 2011-12-08 11:54

    @Flowingriver, you actually didn't have that much land to start off with..

  • Harald - 2011-12-08 12:23

    I have often said to my friends, that the African continent is full of people who sh%$t themselves about colonialism (that actually build those countries); but are very happy to sell their country and soul to the chinese... no sweat!

  • Anwar - 2011-12-08 12:44

    Foreign Countries that buy land in Africa for cultivation, export the produce from Africa, repackage and return this food to Africa as Foreign Aid

  • EyesEars - 2011-12-08 12:49

    Selling land to foreign interests and or stealing it, makes absolutely no difference at all. Bottom line is that Africa and South Africa do not have access to it's own land, which is a shame as and I agree that our food productivety are being taken away from us, all in the name of money and personal gains. When will enough ever be enough and for how long?

  • SirFGrumpy - 2011-12-08 13:29

    Well let me understand this correctly, productive farms are being taken away from commercial farmers and are given free in the name of redistribution. These farms are then run down to nothing, the land stripped of all resources and no more farming takes place? The farmer is out of work and the farm workers are out of work. Rather sell the farms to foreigners!

  • Craig - 2011-12-08 14:25

    Would this mean that all land and property in the hands of African government officials outside off Africa will be sold off?

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