BBC's investigation alleges villagers losing their land to Malawi's sugar growers; includes Illovo's comments
Author: Ed Butler, BBC, Published on: 22 December 2014
"Villagers losing their land to Malawi's sugar growers"
Shaba Shirwa, a scruffy, diminutive 26-year-old, steps up from the crowd. "This was our customary land," he says. "Our parents had worked it, their parents before them. Then the police came with sticks and guns. They left us with nothing". Shaba was just one of hundreds of smallholder farmers we met in Dwangwa, telling stories of forced evictions allegedly at the hands of local police and the Cane Growers Trust, a group set up to promote sugar production in this part of central Malawi..."We can no longer pay for our kids' schooling. We can't even afford regular food. Some of us are starving." We met dozens of families with land circling this town in central Malawi, who said they had been driven out to make way for larger, industrial farm-projects...Malawi, with the help of international development aid, has been encouraged to diversify its crop yield away from tobacco, which makes up some 70% of the country's foreign earnings. The idea has been to encourage local farmers to grow cane and sell it to big sugar-refining factories, like the one in Dwangwa, run by the South African firm Illovo...For its part, Illovo told us that it "does not engage in 'land grabs' and never has...Land is an extremely contentious issue in Malawi, particularly in the Dwangwa area, and we have certainly not been involved in depriving any farmers of their land...Since Illovo acquired a majority shareholding in the Malawi operation from Lonrho in 1996, it has not expanded its land holdings beyond the areas that were leased to Lonrho back in the 1970s."