Africa: Demand for land for large scale agricultural investment & commercial centres compromising livelihoods & fuelling conflict, says columnist

Author: Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times, Published on: 2 August 2017

"Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa"

...Africa itself has a land problem. The continent seems so vast and the land so open. The awesome sense of space is an inextricable part of the beauty here — the unadulterated vistas, the endless land. But in a way, that is an illusion. Population swells, climate change, soil degradation, erosion, poaching, global food prices and even the benefits of affluence are exerting incredible pressure on African land. They are fueling conflicts across the continent...

Private investors are tramping in as well. Since the 1990-2005 period, global food prices have increased by 50 to 75 percent. Many foreign companies and local businesspeople have speculated that despite soil degradation, African farmland is destined to become more valuable. Small landholders across the continent are increasingly getting priced out or even evicted to make way for big commercial farms. This has led to conflict even in usually peaceful places, like Malawi, where a land-defense movement recently started to fight back against foreign-owned tea plantations.

Farmland is also rapidly vanishing into housing tracts and shopping centers to serve Africa’s growing and more affluent population. This is happening everywhere: quiet fields’ suddenly being transformed by an army of tractors into a set of neat houses or a colossal mall.

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