Very little is known about the exact terms of land deals in Africa. Negotiations usually happen behind closed doors. Only rarely do local landholders have a say in those negotiations. Few contracts are publicly available. Yet, together with applicable national and international law, contracts define the terms of an investment project, and the way risks, costs and benefits are distributed. Who has the authority to sign the contract and through what process greatly influences the extent to which people can have their voices heard.
A new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development. Between January 2004 and March 2009, outside investors acquired 1.1 million hectares in Ethiopia, 1.6 million in Liberia, 2.6 million in Mozambique and 3.9 million in Sudan. Most of this land will be used to grow crops for food. As local landowners and land users find themselves with restricted access, the rush to acquire property in Africa raises the question: food security, but for whom? Interestingly, the author shines a positive light on Liberia for having fairly transparent contracts that take food security into account.