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Faith Leaders in Africa Decry “impunity of corporate, elite capture of African land”

Fr. Aniedi Okure, Executive Director, AFJN addressing participants at a conference on land grabbing in Africa. Credit: AFJN

Representatives of various Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and Civil Societies Organizations (CSOs) in Africa have, in a joint statement, decried the “capture of African land and natural resources” by what they have called “private actors” and condemned the “impunity” enjoyed by those involved.

Some of the FBOs and CSOs include the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the Rural Women Assembly (RWA), and the Pan-African Institute for Citizenship, Consumers and Development (CICODEV), among others.

In the Friday, October 22 collective statement ahead of the planned Summit of the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) leaders, the representatives of the FBOs and CSOs under “Our Land is Our Life” platform say the large-scale grabbing of land is causing “damage” to various sectors on the African continent. 

“The impunity of corporate and elite capture of African land and natural resources and the damage this is doing to Africa’s food systems, to our environment, our soils, lands and water, our biodiversity, our nutrition and health, is a major concern,” the representatives of FBOs and CSOs in Africa say in their statement shared with ACI Africa. 

They add, “Large-scale land acquisitions by private actors are encouraged and financially supported by governments and their public development banks. A complex web of financers, including private equity funds and European Development Finance Institutions, finance the land acquisition projects.”

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The representatives of the Africa-based entities appeal for an end “to the financing of large-scale land acquisition projects, corporate agribusiness operations, and speculative investments by public development banks.”

They outline some of the consequences of land grabbing in Africa saying the practice pushes “people off the land, fueling conflicts and provoking displacement and subsequently migration in search of food and livelihoods.”

“In 2021, over 25 million hectares land deals have been concluded in the African continent,” Africa’s faith-based and civil society representatives observe, and add that in most of these cases of land grabbing, “women are often the first to suffer.”

Making reference to the AU Draft Land Governance Strategy. the representatives of the entities in Africa say, “Land is a key factor of production for most economic activities; more especially that Africa is an agro-based economy.” 

“This narrow economic lens obscures the much broader African land context. For most Africans, land is neither a tradable commodity nor an individual possession; it is a gift from God and our ancestors, a common good,” they add.

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As a way forward, the representatives of FBOs and CSOs in Africa call on AU-EU Ministers “to strive to reach agreements that ensure the sustainable use of land for the hundreds of millions of Africans who rely on it, particularly women.”

“Security is also about families having enough food and providing a future for our children,” they note, and pose, “Would our young people really risk their lives crossing to Europe if they could gain a decent living at home?”

The representatives further call on AU-EU Ministers “to embrace the need for transformational change in agriculture and food production.”

“We call on governments to put agroecology on the policy table and recognize its track record of success in producing food with low input costs, with huge potential to create jobs for youth, provide healthy diets, and make farming communities more resilient to shocks,” they further say.

“Let us not forget the climate crisis that is already presenting major challenges to those living on and off the land, despite Africa having contributed so little to the problem,” the FBOs and CSOs representatives in Africa say in their October 22 collective message. 

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They say they need “urgent support to enable our food producers to adapt to the challenges.”