Kenya: land acquisition at ridiculous prices |

Status: 01/27/2022 04:49 a.m

In the fight against hunger, Africa needs its small farmers – and they need their land. But the trend towards land grabs by large corporations is increasing. And German funds are also supporting the projects.

By Norbert Hahn, ARD Studio Nairobi

Peter Nzeki looks at his house, which can hardly be called that anymore. One day the excavators came near his village of Guluku, a village in southern Kenya. The vibrations from the dredging caused a wall of the building to collapse. He and a few neighbors have stayed, but most of the villagers have been resettled by Australian mining company Base Titanium over the past decade. On an area of ​​almost 2000 hectares, he mines rare, valuable minerals such as titanium oxide and zircon.

Norbert Hahn
ARD-Studio Nairobi

Nzeki stayed because the company’s offer for compensation wasn’t enough for him: “We couldn’t come to an agreement. They told me: You went to court, so you won’t get anything. That’s how they left me.”

When the resettlement of the 380 families began, the company reckoned with a land value of less than 100 euros per hectare. According to the company, they generously made 620 euros out of it – for one hectare of land. In addition, 80 cents were paid for a coconut palm and three euros for a cashew tree, just as much as a bag of nuts costs in stores.

Land grabbing in Kenya – international corporations are buying land at ridiculous prices

Norbert Hahn, ARD Nairobi, daily topics 10:40 p.m., January 24, 2022

A bad exchange

Nzeki did not accept the offer – others did. Still others were compensated by land that wasn’t always suitable for cultivation, says farmer Swaleh Mwabakari: “They gave us land with no trees or that was swampy.”

The company is not aware of any guilt, on the contrary.The company has worked closely with the villages, setting up livelihood and health programs. And whoever gets relocated is our top priority when it comes to getting a job with us,” said Simon Wall, General Manager at Base Titanium.

Base Titanum’s excavators mine rare minerals in Kenya – a lucrative project for the company.

Image: TV Studio Nairobi

Persistent injustice

The fact is: After criticism of the bargain-price land grab, the compensation for the resettlement of the next villages is said to be almost ten times as high. Faith Alubbe’s Kenyan non-governmental organization had also fought for this:The settlers in the former colony made the laws to allow for land grabbing,” said the chair of Kenya Land Alliance. “It has continued and subsequent governments have never pursued it. There is injustice in land ownership today that goes back to land grabbing.”

In Kenya, for example, it’s about acreage for foreign investors, it’s about tea, coffee, animal husbandry and, more recently, crops for fuel production. Kenya stands for many African countries:More than 40 percent of all land transactions in the last 20 years have been in Africa,” says Markus Wolter, agricultural expert at Misereor, describing the problem. “Africa has a particularly large number of weak states and weak land markets, weak land cadastre offices. There are few regulations, and that’s why investors have very good access there.”

Peter Nzeki didn’t want to be fobbed off – he stayed in his village.

Image: TV Studio Nairobi

Covetousness, greed and corruption

Twelve million hectares have fallen into the hands of financial investors, speculators or large farms in Africa in recent years, according to an inventory of the “LandMatrix” platform, which is also supported by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs. Of course, problems are not only caused by covetousness from abroad, but also by corruption and greed on the part of the domestic elite.

Everything was made worse by the pandemic, the organization “Land Alliance” complains. During this time, land grabbing was particularly easy. “70 percent of our land is owned by communities,” says Faith Alubbe. “It’s often not documented. The owner is sometimes not clearly identified in writing. Whoever could put up a building or a fence did it. They put up electric fences and locked people out. The peak of this problem came with the pandemic ” said Alubbe.

Development funds for Australian group

In Kenya, the state-owned German development company DEG has helped the Australian company with loans of over 35 million dollars. A spokeswoman explained on request: “During DEG’s commitment – in addition to multiple on-site visits by DEG environmental and social experts – the project was regularly visited by independent, internationally recognized experts to monitor compliance with international standards. Compliance with these Standards have been confirmed several times.”

The money from the loan has meanwhile flowed back from the company to DEG as planned. While Base Titanium is now making good profits, the lives of some farmers, such as Peter Nzeki and Swaleh Mwabakari, have become even more impoverished.

Do low interest rates encourage land grabbing?

Non-governmental organizations have been criticizing the work of German development bankers overseas for years: “DEG has a large loan volume,” notes Misereor’s Markus Wolter. “Although it has good regulations on paper, there are often problems when it comes to implementation.” Wolter believes that low interest rates are also fueling the trend towards land grabbing.

One thing is clear: in the Horn of Africa alone – in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia – 25 million people could not have enough to eat by the middle of this year. The UN Food and Nutrition Organization warns there “of one of the world’s worst food crises”. In Africa as a whole, more than 280 million people were undernourished in 2020. So the continent also needs small farmers – and they need their land.

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