"land grabbing"


m à j : 07 Février 2013




01. définitions
wiki > Land grabbing is the contentious issue of large-scale land acquisitions; the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. While used broadly throughout history, land grabbing as used today primarily refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007-2008 world food price crisis [1]. By prompting food security fears within the developed world and newfound economic opportunities for agricultural investors and speculators, the food price crisis caused a dramatic spike in large-scale agricultural investments, primarily foreign, in the Global South for the purposes of food and biofuels production. Initially hailed by investors and some developing countries as a new pathway towards agricultural development, investment in land has recently been criticized by a number of civil society, governmental, and multinational actors for the various negative impacts that it has had on local.


Defining Land Grabbing

The term "land grabbing" is itself a controversial issue. Borras and others describe that "the phrase 'global land grab' has become a catch-all to describe and analyze the current explosion of large scale (trans)national comercial land transactions". Meanwhile, Ruth Hall of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies notes that "the popular term 'land grabbing', while effective as activist terminology, obscures vast differences in the legality, structure, and outcomes of commercial land deals and deflects attention from the roles of domestic elites and governments as partners, intermediaries, and beneficiaries".

Current Situation and Details

The most comprehensive estimate of the scope of land acquisition, published in September 2010 by the World Bank, showed that over 46 million ha in large scale farmland acquisitions or negotiations were announced between October 2008 and August 2009 alone, with two-thirds of demanded land concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.


It is important to note that of the World Bank’s 464 examined acquisitions, only 203 included land area in their reports, implying that the actual total land covered could more than double the World Bank’s reported 46 million ha. The most recent estimate of the scale, based on evidence presented in April 2011 at an international conference convened by the Land Deal Politics Initiative, estimated the area of land deals at over 80 million ha.

Of these deals, the median size is 40,000 ha, with one-quarter over 200,000 ha and one-quarter under 10,000 ha.[3] 37% of projects deal with food crops, 21% with cash crops, and 21% with biofuels.[3] This points to the vast diversity of investors and projects involved with land acquisitions: the land sizes, crop types, and investors involved vary wildly between agreements. Of these projects, 30% were still in an exploratory stage, with 70% approved but in varying stages of development. 18% had not started yet, 30% were in initial development stages, and 21% had started actual farming.[3] The strikingly low proportion of projects that had actually initiated farming signifies the difficulties inherent in large-scale agricultural production in the developing world.

Investment in land often takes the form of long-term leases, as opposed to outright purchases, of land. These leases often range between spans of 25 and 99 years.[3] Such leases are usually undertaken between national or district governments and investors. Because the majority of land in Africa is categorized as “non-private land” as a result of government policies on public land ownership and a lack of active land titling, governments own or control most of the land that is available for purchase or lease.[5] Purchases are much less common than leases due to a number of countries’ constitutional bans on outright sales of land to foreigners.

The methods surrounding the negotiation, approval, and follow-up of contracts between investors and governments have attracted significant criticism for their opacity and complexity. The negotiation and approval processes have been closed in most cases, with little public disclosure both during and after the finalization of a deal. The approval process, in particular, can be cumbersome: it varies from approval by a simple district-level office to approval by multiple national-level government offices, and is very subjective and discretionary.[3] In Ethiopia, companies must first obtain an investment license from the central government, identify appropriate land on the district level and negotiate with local leaders, then develop a contract with the regional investment office. Afterwards, the government will undertake a project feasibility study and capital verification process, and finally a lease agreement will be signed and land will be transferred to the investor.[6] Meanwhile, in Tanzania, even though the Tanzania Investment Centre facilitates investments, an investor must obtain approval from the TIC, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Lands and Housing Development, and the Ministry of Environment, among which communication is oftentimes intermittent.[6]
[edit] Target Countries

The target locations of most land grabs lie in the Global South, with 70% of land grabs concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa (fact). Other primary areas of note are in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

One common thread among governments has been the theme of development: target governments tout the benefits of agricultural development, job creation, cash crop production, and infrastructure provision as drivers towards economic development and eventually modernization. Many companies have promised to build irrigation, roads, and in some cases hospitals and schools in order to carry out their investment projects. In return for a below-market-rate $10/ha annual payment for land, Saudi Star promised "to bring clinics, schools, better roads and electricity supplies to Gambella.”[7] Governments also count new job creation as a significant feature of land acquisitions.

The issue of agricultural development is also a significant driving factor, within the larger umbrella of development, in target governments' agreement to investment by outsiders. The Ethiopian government's acceptance of cash crop-based land acquisitions reflects its belief that switching to cash crop production would be even more beneficial for food security than having local farmers produce crops by themselves.[8] Implicit in the characterization of African agriculture as "underdeveloped" is the rejection of local communities' traditional methods of harvesting as an inadequate form of food production.

On a smaller scale, some deals can also be traced to a personal stake in the project, or possibly due to corruption or rent-seeking. Given the ad hoc, decentralized, and unorganized approval processes across countries for such transactions, the potential for lapses in governance and openings for corruption are extremely high. In many countries, the World Bank has noted that investors are often better off learning how to navigate the bureaucracies and potentially pay off corrupt officers of governments rather than developing viable, sustainable business plans.[3]
[edit] Responses in Target Countries

Since 2010 Brazil enforces in a stricter way a long existing law that limits the size of farmland properties foreigners may purchase, having halted a large part of projected foreign land purchases.[9].

In Argentina, as of September 2011, a projected law is discussed in parliament that would restrict the size of land foreign entities can acquire to 1000 hectare.[10]
[edit] Drivers and Types of Land Investment

Investors can be generally broken down into three types of investors: agribusinesses, governments, and speculative investors. Governments and companies in Gulf States have been very prominent along with East Asian companies. Many European and American-owned investment vehicles and agricultural producers have initiated investments as well. These actors have been motivated by a number of factors, including cheap land, potential for improving agricultural production, and rising food and biofuel prices. Building on these motivations, investments can be broken down into three main categories: food, biofuel, and speculative investment. Forestry also contributes to a significant amount of large-scale land acquisition.
[edit] Food

Food-driven investments, which comprise roughly 37% of land investments worldwide, are undertaken primarily by two sets of actors: agribusinesses trying to expand their holdings and react to market incentives, and government-backed investments, especially from the Gulf states, as a result of fears surrounding national food security[3].

Agricultural sector companies most often view investment in land as an opportunity to leverage their significant monetary resources and market access to take advantage of underutilized land, diversify their holdings, and vertically integrate their production systems. The World Bank identifies three areas in which multinational companies can leverage economies of scale: access to cheap international rather than domestic financial markets, risk-reducing diversification of holdings, and greater ability to address infrastructural roadblocks[3]. In the past few decades, multinationals have shied away from direct involvement in relatively-unprofitable primary production, instead focusing on inputs and processing and distribution[11] . When the food price crisis hit, risk was transferred from primary production to the price-sensitive processing and distribution fields, and returns became concentrated in primary production. This has incentivized agribusinesses to vertically integrate in order to reduce supplier risk that has been heightened by the ongoing food price volatility[6]. These companies hold mixed attitudes towards food imports and exports: while some concentrate on food exports, others focus on domestic markets first.

While company-originated investments have originated from a wide range of countries, government-backed investments have originated primarily from the food-insecure Gulf States. Examples of such government-backed investments include the government of Qatar’s attempt to secure land in the Tana River Delta and the Saudi government's King Abdullah Initiative[12][13] . Additionally, sovereign wealth funds acting as the investments arms of governments have initiated a number of agreements in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the population of the Gulf states is set to double from 30 million in 2000 to 60 million in 2030, their reliance on food imports is set to increase from the current level of 60% of consumption[14] . The Director General of the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development echoed the sentiment of many Gulf leaders in proclaiming, “the whole Arab World needs of cereal, sugar, fodder and other essential foodstuffs could be met by Sudan alone”[6] .
[edit] Biofuels

Biofuel production, currently comprising 21% of total land investments, has played a significant, if at times unclear, role. The use and popularity of biofuels has grown over the past decade, corresponding with rising oil prices and increased environmental awareness. The total area under biofuel crops more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, expanding to 36 million ha by 2008[15] . This rise in popularity culminated in EU Directive 2009/28EC in April 2009, which set 10% mandatory targets for renewable energy use, primarily biofuels, out of the total consumption of fuel for transport, by 2020[16] . Taken as a whole, the rise in biofuels popularity, while perhaps beneficial for the environment, sparked a chain reaction by making biofuels production a more attractive than food production and drawing land away from food to biofuel production.

The effect of the rise in popularity in biofuels was two-fold: first, demand for land for biofuel production became a primary driver of land sales in Sub-Saharan Africa; second, demand for biofuels production crowded out supply of traditional food crops worldwide. By crowding out food crops and forcing conversion of existing food-producing land to biofuels, biofuels production had a direct impact on the food supply/demand balance and consequently the food price crisis. One researcher from the IFPRI estimated that biofuels had accounted for 30 percent of the increase in weighted average grain prices[17] .
[edit] Land Insecurity

One of the major issues is land tenure: in a 2003 study, the World Bank estimated that only between 2 and 10 percent of total land in Africa is formally tenured[6] . Much of the lack of private ownership is due to government ownership of land as a function of national policy, and also because of complicated procedures for registration of land and a perception by communities that customary systems are sufficient[6] . World Bank researchers have found that there existed a strong negative statistical link between land tenure recognition and prospective land acquisitions, with a smaller yet still significant relationship for implemented projects as well[3] . They concluded that “lower recognition of land rights increased a country’s attractiveness for land acquisition,” implying that companies have actively sought out areas with low land recognition rights for investment[3] . Land insecurity aggregates when powerful nations such as the United States purchase huge portions of land in developing countries such as Sudan or India; in fact, as of 2010 and according to the World Bank, the U.S owns 40% of smallholder farmer's land in Sudan[3].
[edit] Local Consultation and Compensation

While commonly required by law in many host countries, the consultation process between investors and local populations have been criticized for not adequately informing communities of their rights, negotiating powers, and entitlements within land transactions.[citation needed]

Consultations have been found extremely problematic due to the fact that they oftentimes reach just village chiefs but neglect common villagers and disenfranchised groups. World Bank researchers noted that “a key finding from case studies is that communities were rarely aware of their rights and, even in cases where they were, lacked the ability to interact with investors or to explore ways to use their land more productively”[3] . When consultations were even conducted, they often did not produce written agreements and were found to be superficial, glossing over environmental and social issues[3] . In Ghana and elsewhere, chiefs often negotiated directly with investors without the input from other villagers, taking it upon themselves to sell common land or village land on their own[3] . Moreover, investors often had obtained approval for their projects before beginning consultations, and lacked any contractual obligation to carry out promises made to villagers[3] .

There also exists a knowledge gap between investors and local populations regarding the land acquisition process, the legal enforceability of promises made by investors, and other issues. The inability of villagers to see and study the laws and regulations around land sales severely deteriorates communities’ agency in consultations. In the case that consultations do occur with communities, it is important to note that some take place in spans lasting only two to three months, casting doubt on whether such short time frames can be considered as adequate consultation for such large, wide-reaching, and impactful events[12].

An additional concern with consultations is that women and under-represented populations are often left outside looking in during the consultation process. Large-scale projects in Mozambique rarely included women in consultations and never presented official reports and documents for authorization by women[18] . This holds true even in the case that women are the primary workers on the land that is to be leased out to companies[19]. Meanwhile, pastoralists and internally displaced people were oftentimes intentionally excluded from negotiations, as investors tried to delegitimize their claims on land[3]. This led to a lack of awareness on the part of these vulnerable groups until lease agreements have already been signed to transfer land. This oversight in consultations further disenfranchises previously overlooked communities and worsens power inequities within local villages.
[edit] Displacement

Another criticism of investment in land is the potential for large-scale displacement and of local peoples without adequate compensation, in either land or money. These displacements often result in resettlement in marginal lands, loss of livelihoods especially in the case of pastoralists, gender-specific erosion of social networks.[citation needed] Villagers were most often compensated as according to national guidelines for loss of land, loss of improvements over time on the land, and sometimes future harvests[6]. However, compensation guidelines vary significantly between countries and depending on the types of projects undertaken. One study by the IIED concluded that guidelines for compensation given to displaced villagers in Ethiopia and Ghana was insufficient to restore livelihoods lost through dislocation[6] .

There also exist a number of issues with the process of actually relocating locals to other areas where land is less fertile. In the process of relocation, often changed or lost are historical methods of farming, existing social ties, sources of income, and livelihoods. This holds drastic impacts especially in the case of women, who rely greatly upon such informal relationships[20] .
[edit] Employment

When not displaced, the conversion of local farmers into laborers also holds numerous negative consequences for local populations. Most deals are based on the eventual formation of plantation-style farming, whereupon the investing company will own the land and employ locals as laborers in large-scale agricultural plots. The number of jobs created varies greatly dependent on commodity type and style of farming planned[3] . In spite of this volatility, guarantees of job creation are rarely, if ever, addressed in contracts. This fact, combined with the intrinsic incentives towards mechanization in plantation-style production, can lead to much lower employment than originally planned for. When employed, locals are often paid little: in investments by Karuturi Global in Ethiopia, workers are paid on average under $2 a day, with a minimum wage of 8 birr, or $0.48, per day, both of which are under the World Bank poverty limit of $2 per day[21] .
[edit] Government Negotiations

In addition to the lack of coordination between ministries, there exists a wide knowledge gap between government-level offices and investors, leading to a rushed and superficial investment review. Many government agencies initially overwhelmed by the deluge of investment proposals failed to properly screen out non-viable proposals[3]. Due to the knowledge gaps between government agencies and investors, “in most countries it is implicitly presumed that investors will have the right incentive and be the best qualified to assess economic viability,” leading to a lack of reporting requirements or monitoring arrangements, key information on land uses and value of the investment, and checks on economic viability[3]. The Sudanese government has been noted as having paid minimal attention to existing land rights, and neglecting to conduct any economic analysis on potential projects[3]. In addition, many countries, including Cambodia, Congo, Sudan, and Ghana, have neglected to catalog and file even general geographical descriptions of land allocation boundaries[3] .

One addition to many contracts between governments and investors is a Stabilisation Clause, which insulates investors from the effect of changed governmental regulations. Such clauses severely restrict the government’s ability to change any regulations that would have a negative economic impact on the investment[6]. While advantageous for businesses, these stabilization clauses would severely hinder the ability of governments to address possible social and/or environmental concerns that become apparent after the beginning of the project.
[edit] Environmental and Ecological Impact

Land investment has also been criticized for its implicit endorsement of large-scale industrial agriculture, which relies heavily on fertilizers, machinery and inputs, over smallholder agriculture.[citation needed] As foreign investors begin to develop the land, they will for the most part start a shift towards such large-scale agriculture to improve upon existing “unproductive” agricultural methods. The threat of the conversion of much of Africa’s land to such large-scale agriculture has provoked a severe pushback from many civil society organizations such as GRAIN, La Via Campesina, and other lobbyists for small-scale agriculture[22] .

Foreign investors, through large scale agriculture, increase the effectiveness of under-utilized resources of land, labor, and water, while further providing additional market connections, large-scale infrastructure development, and provision of seeds, fertilizers, and technology. Proposed increases in production quantity, as touted both by investors and hosts, are exemplified by Ethiopia’s Abera Deressa, who claims that “foreign investors should help boost agricultural output by as much as 40%” throughout Ethiopia [7] . However, large scale mechanized agricultural production often entails the use of fertilizers and intensive farming techniques that have been criticized by numerous civil society actors as extremely ecologically detrimental and environmentally harmful over the long run[23] . Over time, such intensive farming threatens to degrade the quality of topsoil and damage local waterways and ecosystems. As such, civil society actors have widely accused land investors for promoting “not agricultural development, much less rural development, but simply agribusiness development”[23] . This trend towards large-scale agriculture that overrides local knowledge and sustainable local farming runs directly counter to the recent IAASTD report, backed by the FAO, UNDP, World Bank, and others, that in order to increase food security over the long term, sustainable peasant agriculture must be encouraged and supported[24] .
[edit] Neocolonialism

Foreign investment in land has been criticized by many civil society actors and individuals as a new realization of neocolonialism, signifying a renewed economic imperialism of developed over developing nations[25]. Critics have pointed to the acquisitions of large tracts of land for economic profit, with little perceived benefit for local populations or target nations as a whole, as a renewal of the economically exploitative practices of the colonial period.
[edit] Information Issues

In a joint research project between the FAO, IIED, and IFAD, Cotula et al. found that the majority of host countries lacked basic data on the size, nature, and location of land acquisitions through land registries or other public sources, and that “researchers needed to make multiple contacts…to access even superficial and incomplete information”[6]. The World Bank’s own lack of land size information on over half of the reported land grabs that it researched points to the difficulties inherent in gaining access to and researching individual land acquisitions[3] .

The European project EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade) is currently building a global map of landgrabbing, with the aim to make an interactive online map on this and many other environmental justice issue by 2013. The project also produces in-depth resources on land grabbing, such as this video on land grabbing in Ethiopia.
[edit] Notable Cases

In Madagascar, the anger among the population about land sales led to violent protests. The South Korean corporation Daewoo was in the process of negotiations with the Malagasy government for the purchase of 1.3 million hectares, half of all agricultural land, to produce corn and palm oil. This investment, while one of many pursued in Madagascar, attracted considerable attention in Madagascar and led to protests against the government [26]. While some civil society actors claim that the Daewoo investment led to the fall of the Malagasy government, these claims are unsubstantiated.

In South Sudan, numerous large scale land acquisitions have taken place in spite of the country's unresolved political and security situation at the time. One of the most prominent, involving a former AIG partner named Philippe Heilberg, garnered attention in Rolling Stone for his provocative pursuit of land in conflict-ridden regions. Heilberg, who is planning to invest in 800,000 ha of land in partnership with many of South Sudan's top generals and civilian officials, attracted criticism with his remarks (regarding Africa and land grabbing) that "the whole place is like one big mafia -- and I'm like a mafia head
logo  > http://www.terraeco.net/

Qui rachète l’Afrique ?
(Octobre 2012)


Infographie - La carte des terres achetées par des investisseurs étrangers depuis 2000 montre que le business de la parcelle frappe avant tout l'Afrique.

Cent hectares par ici, quelques milliers par là. Chaque semaine, des acteurs publics ou privés achètent des parcelles de terres en dehors de leurs frontières. Le plus souvent pour produire de la nourriture sur des sols plus fertiles. Le plus souvent aussi sans consultation, voire au détriment des habitants sur place. Ce phénomène, appelé accaparement des terres, s’est généralisé au début des années 2000 et progresse depuis, contrat par contrat, sans faire de bruit.

Un groupe de chercheurs a décidé de rompre le silence, à coup de tableurs Excel. L’initiative, menée par un groupement d’ONG et de chercheurs spécialisés, s’appelle Land Matrix Database.

Elle vise à bâtir une base de données ouverte et la plus complète possible sur l’accaparement des terres dans le monde. Plus d’un millier de contrats ont été déjà répertoriés, sur une surface d’environ 83 millions d’hectares. Soit un tiers de l’ensemble des terres achetées dans le monde depuis 2000, selon les auteurs de l’étude.

Bien que non exhaustives (voir encadré au bas de cet article), ces données confirment plusieurs tendances inquiétantes sur ce phénomène en marche :

 1) Ces contrats sont conclus dans les pays les moins avancés et en manque de nourriture, notamment en Afrique Indonésie, Congo, Zambie, Soudan, Ethiopie, Philippines.. Les pays qui ont le plus vendus de terres font partie des pays les plus pauvres de la planète. L’Afrique est particulièrement visée : plus de 42% des terres achetées depuis 2000 l’ont été en Afrique. A l’échelle du continent, ce serait près de 5% des terres agricoles qui auraient été accaparées. Ce serait aussi là que les terres seraient vendues et louées le moins cher. L’ONG cite par exemple un contrat passé au Sud-Soudan, où un investisseur norvégien a obtenu un bail de 99 ans pour 179 000 hectares pour seulement 12 500 dollars (9 900 euros) par an. Soit un coût annuel de 0,07 dollar (0,05 euro) par hectare et par an... En Ethiopie, la location d’un hectare de terres agricoles coûte en moyenne 4,30 euros par an.

Comment ne pas rappeler que 5 millions d’Ethiopiens ont eu besoin de l’aide alimentaire internationale pour survivre en 2011 ? Et que des centaines de milliers de personnes sont mortes, lors des épisodes de famine qui ont frappé la Corne de l’Afrique lors des étés 2010 et 2011 ?

C’est donc cette partie du monde que nous avons souhaité cartographier. L’infographie ci-dessous montre les pays africains visés par les investissements, et les pays - africains ou non - qui investissent en Afrique.


Infographie animée réalisée par Félix Raymond, Quentin Le Roux et Pierre-Emmanuel Henry, étudiants à l’école de Design Nantes Atlantiques.

 2) Les terres achetées servent peu ou pas à l’agriculture vivrière
Plus de 48 millions des hectares de terres achetées dans le monde depuis 2000 sont des terres agricoles.

On y produit principalement de l’huile de palme (13 millions d’hectares), du Jatropha (10 millions d’hectares) et du maïs (8 millions d’hectares). La première est un ingrédient essentiel de nos biscuits, chips et savons. Pas vraiment de l’agriculture vivrière. Le second est une plante qui sert à la production d’agrocarburant. Elle a l’avantage de pouvoir pousser sur des sols moins fertiles, et donc de moins concurrencer les cultures vivrières. Reste à vérifier qu’elle pousse bien sur des sols arides. Car le rendement augmente sur des sols fertiles, ce qui amène certains industriels à délaisser les terres arides. Le maïs est la seule culture vivrière massivement produite dans le cadre de ces achats. Reste à s’assurer là encore que ce maïs ne finit pas en agrocarburant.

 3) Ces ventes se font au détriment des habitants sur place
La moitié des parcelles vendues étaient exploitées avant la signature du contrat, assurent les auteurs du rapport. Parfois, les anciens occupants sont employés par les nouveaux propriétaires. Parfois, les populations sont déplacées. En Ouganda, Oxfam affirmait en septembre dernier que plus de 22 000 personnes avaient été déplacées depuis 2004 pour les besoins de l’installation d’exploitations forestières aux mains d’investisseurs étrangers. Enfin, les nouvelles activités concurrencent les activités déjà existantes, notamment l’accès à l’eau, rappelait par ailleurs en janvier le Guardian.

La base de données repose sur une grande variété de sources : articles de journaux, rapports d’ONG, documents officiels et enquêtes de terrains. Les résultats présentés comportent plusieurs biais. Ainsi, l’information sur les contrats est beaucoup plus facilement disponible dans certains pays que dans d’autres. Ce qui explique au moins en partie pourquoi le Cambodge est largement sur-représenté par rapport au Niger, au Congo, à la Somalie. L’information est également moins complète dans ces mêmes pays. Nous avons donc dû renoncer à exploiter certaines données disponibles pour réaliser notre carte, par exemple lorsque l’on ne connaissait pas le pays d’origine des investisseurs. On peut également s’interroger sur la sur-représentation du Jatropha. Les industriels et pays vendeurs ont en effet été très probablement plus prompts à communiquer sur les mises en production de cette plante, un temps présentée comme le futur or vert, que sur les très critiqués agrocarburants classiques.
Cette base, qui sera complétée dans les semaines qui viennent, reste néanmoins la source la plus complète sur le sujet.




02. enjeux

Le land grabbing : une pratique d’une nouvelle ampleur
14 décembre 2009

Par Christelle Doudies, assistante de recherche à l’IRIS, doctorante en droit international à l’UPMF de Grenoble

La ruée vers les terres agricoles, une des manifestations de la crise alimentaire de 2008, est un phénomène qui prend de plus en plus d’ampleur au niveau international. Il y a un phénomène d’accaparement des terres par des investisseurs étrangers (Etat, multinationale) dans des Etats où la sécurité alimentaire des populations n’est pas toujours assurée. D’après Grain, ONG internationale dont l’objectif est de promouvoir la biodiversité agricole, ce sont prés de 15 à 20 millions d’hectares de terre qui ont été loués ou acquis à l’étranger par une douzaine de pays aux fortes réserves financières (Corée du Sud, Japon, l’Arabie saoudite, Emirats arabes unis, Chine). La recherche de terres arables, même si elle existe depuis des siècles, prend donc une ampleur nouvelle.

Face à la flambée des cours des matières premières, cette ruée vers des terres agricoles n’est autre que la manifestation de l’inquiétude des Etats pour assurer leur sécurité alimentaire. Selon l’OCDE, les cours des denrées agricoles devraient se maintenir à des niveaux élevés pendant les dix prochaines années. Tous les prix augmenteront, avec en tête l’huile végétale (+ 50%), le beurre (+ 30%), le blé (+ 20%), le riz et le sucre (+ 10%). De plus, avec la courbe des naissances annonçant plus de 9 milliards d’hommes à nourrir d’ici à 2050, le grignotage des terres pour cause de biocarburants, l’explosion urbaine et la spéculation financière, cette tendance à la ruée vers les terres agricoles ne risquent pas de s’atténuer.

Objectif : la sécurité de l’approvisionnement alimentaire à long terme

Selon la FAO, les pays riches achèteraient d’immenses terrains dans toute l’Afrique subsaharienne afin d’y créer des exploitations agricoles destinées soit à l’alimentation, soit à la production de biocarburants, dans le but d’assurer leurs approvisionnements alimentaires à long terme.

Quelques exemples marquants illustrent ce phénomène. L’Etat soudanais cède 880 000 hectares de terre arable pour 670 millions d’euros. Le Qatar a déjà acheté 200 000 hectares à Khartoum pour nourrir du bétail. L’Arabie saoudite et l’émirat d’Abu Dhabi négocient. L’Arabie saoudite est prête à débloquer 100 millions de dollars pour investir dans des fermes en Egypte, en Turquie et même en Ukraine. La Chine poursuit la même stratégie pour répondre à l’appétit croissant de sa population, au Cameroun notamment. Le Cambodge loue ses rizières au Koweït. La Corée du Sud a jeté son dévolu sur la Mongolie.

En 2006, Pékin a signé des accords de coopération agricole avec plusieurs Etats africains qui ont permis l’installation de 14 fermes expérimentales en Zambie, au Zimbabwe, en Ouganda et en Tanzanie. Enfin, en novembre 2008, Daewoo Logistics a annoncé un projet d’achat d’une concession de 1 million d’hectares à Madagascar pour une durée de 99 ans. La société sud-coréenne veut y cultiver 5 millions de tonnes de maïs par d’an d’ici à 2023 et produire de l’huile de palme à partir d’une autre concession de 120 000 hectares, en faisant appel à une main-d’œuvre principalement sud-africaine. La production serait destinée avant tout à la Corée du Sud.

Une stratégie purement économique derrière le label de la sécurité alimentaire ?

Le stratégie de ces Etats et multinationales est donc la recherche de vastes étendues de terre cultivable à acquérir dans le but de nourrir leurs populations en plein essor, et ce sans avoir recours au commerce international. Des coopérations politiques, économiques et financières qui tournent autour de contrats fonciers se sont donc mises en place. Cependant, avec l’avènement de la crise financière mondiale entre autre, on observe une autre catégorie d’acteur « accapareurs de terres », qui ne semble pas afficher une réelle volonté de sécurité alimentaire. Ce sont les fonds de couverture, les groupes de capital-risque, les banques d’investissement et autres organismes du même genre. Ces entités ont compris qu’on peut faire de l’argent en investissant dans l’agriculture, parce que la population mondiale continuant à s’accroître, les prix alimentaires demeureront élevés sur le long terme ; de plus, les terres agricoles sont très bon marché. Cela leur permet donc, au prix d’un peu de technologie et de quelques compétences de gestion de diversifier leur portefeuille tout en se prémunissant de l’inflation et en garantissant leurs bénéfices, grâce aux récoltes et à la terre elle même.

Le risque majeur de cette « mondialisation » des terres agricoles est la disparition de l’agriculture paysanne dans des pays qui ne jouissent pas de la sécurité alimentaire, comme au Pakistan, au Cambodge, aux Philippines, à Madagascar, au Soudan, en Ethiopie ou encore au Mali. Même si à la FAO, les gouvernements, les agences internationales (Banque mondiale) et les entreprises privées (Yara, Bunge et Dreyfus par exemple) sont en train de décider ce qu’ils appellent des codes de conduite ou des directives volontaires (1), on peut craindre qu’il s’agisse ici d’étendre et d’installer pour de bon le modèle occidental des grandes chaînes de valeur de marchandises. En d’autres termes, la tendance apparaît donc être à la production alimentaire contrôlée par les multinationales et tournée vers l’exportation. Il favorise un système agricole tourné vers les monocultures à large échelle, les organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM) , le remplacement des paysans par des machines, et l’usage de produits chimiques et d’énergies fossiles.

Il apparaît donc nécessaire de favoriser, dans la droite ligne développée par le G8 en juillet 2009, l’élaboration d’un ensemble de principes garantissant la transparence des grandes opérations d’acquisition de terres, le respect des droits fonciers existants ou encore le droit à l’alimentation. Enfin, face à ces méga fermes aux mains de quelques méga propriétaires, il est nécessaire que l’investissement dans la souveraineté alimentaire, dans les marchés locaux et dans les quatre milliards de ruraux qui produisent l’essentiel de la nourriture qui permet à nos sociétés de vivre, se pérennise.

(1) Ce phénomène, relégué par les instances internationales ont conduit les pays du G8 lors du sommet de juillet 2009 à L’Aquilla (Italie) à se mettre d’accord pour élaborer un "code de bonne conduite" en matière d’investissement agricole international, un engagement jugé trop frileux par certaines ONG.


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03. presse
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