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Iowan investors in large 'land grab' in Tanzania, refugees to loose homes

10/26/2011, 5:23 p.m.
Iowan investors in large 'land grab' in Tanzania, refugees to loose homes

Oct. 25 (GIN)-A group of Iowa-based investors is winding up a deal with Tanzania for an 800,000-acre parcel, now home to over 160,000 people.

Several generations of families, made up of former refugees from Burundi who successfully re-established their lives by developing and farming the land over the last 40 years, will be displaced against their will. They will lose their livelihoods and their community. Once they are gone, AgriSol Energy will move in.

According to the AgriSol, an investment company, the land deal will benefit local farmers, increase food and energy security in the area, maintain sustainable farming practices and offer "opportunities to buy commodities at production cost." However, AgriSol will have the final say in all matters.

"Locals will have little to no bargaining power, and any development opportunities for local farmers will be on terms set by AgriSol," the Oakland Institute said. Similar deals have been struck to increase production of biofuel crops.

A letter to AgriSol from the environmental Sierra Club notes: "This will be a 99-year lease on unfavorable terms, a step back towards Tanzania's colonial past; that, reportedly, disputes are to be arbitrated under International Chamber of Commerce rules in London, which will further disempower local peoples; that AgriSol has demanded a change from the current prohibition of genetically engineered crops, which threaten the local biodiversity and contaminate local crop species; and that biofuel production will subtract from the production of local food calories in favor of an export-oriented product."

A write-in campaign by the Oakland Institute asks the company to drop the initiative. It can be found at www.oaklandinstitute.org.