By Mark Tran
June 12, 2012
Africa heads for ‘hydrological suicide’ as land deals hand water resources to foreign firms, threatening environmental disaster.
Millions of people will lose access to traditional sources of water because of “land grabs” in Africa, according to a report on Monday that looks behind the scramble for farmland in Africa.
The report: Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab, shows how land deals, covering millions of acres of fertile lands, also pose a threat to Africa’s fresh water systems.
“If these land grabs are allowed to continue, Africa is heading for a hydrological suicide,” said Henk Hobbelink, co-ordinator of Grain, a group that backs small farmers.
The report – the latest to raise the alarm over competition for scarce water resources – said all land deals in Africa involve large-scale industrial agriculture operations that will consume massive amounts of water, could rob millions of people of their access to water and risk the depletion of the continent’s most precious water sources.
Grain cites the Nile and Niger river basins as two examples of the “giveaway” of land and water rights. Three of the bigger countries in the Nile basis – Ethiopia, South Sudan and Egypt – have already leased out millions of hectares in the basin. Citing figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Grain said these made clear that recent land deals vastly outstrip water availability in Nile basis.
According to Grain, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Egypt already have irrigation infrastructures in place for 5.4 million hectares (13 million acres) of land and have now leased out a further 8.6 million hectares of land.
“This would require much more water than what is available now in the entire Nile basin and would amount to no less than hydrological suicide,” said the report.
In the Niger river basin, independent experts believe Mali has the water capacity to irrigate only 250,000 hectares. Yet, said Grain, the Malian government has already signed over 470,000 hectares to foreign companies from Libya, China, the UK, Saudi Arabia and other countries in recent years, virtually all of it in the Niger basin.
Grain said the secrecy around land deals makes it hard to know exactly what is being handed over to foreign companies, but from those contracts leaked or made public, it is clear they tend not to contain any specific mention of water rights, leaving the companies free to build dams and irrigation canals at their discretion…Read more.
- Squeezing Africa Dry: Behind Every Land Grab Is a Water Grab (commondreams.org)
- Africa land deals lead to water giveaway (bfreenews.com)
- UN Says Agenda 21 and African Land Grabs will Save the Forests (activistpost.com)