Norfund, the UK aid department, and Capricorn are funding the British company Agrica’s industrial rice plantation in Mngeta, Tanzania, which is destroying the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, driving them into debt and impacting the local environment, according to new research by The Oakland Institute released on Wednesday June 17, 2015 in collaboration with Greenpeace Africa and Global Justice Now.
Agrica’s rice plantation in Tanzania has been used as a showcase project of the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania. But the new report, tagged: “Irresponsible Investment – Agrica’s Broken Development Model in Tanzania,” documents a catalogue of devastating impacts on local communities.
Norfund, the UK aid department, and the US investment firm Capricorn Investments (co-founded by eBay philanthropist Jeff Skoll) have all invested several million US dollars in Agrica, a British company registered in the tax haven of Guernsey.
“Although Agrica is portrayed as a responsible investment venture, its takeover of fertile land has brought misery to local communities. Labelled ‘squatters,’ smallholders were forced off the land, lost their livelihoods, received a meagre compensation for their losses, and have had to face debts resulting from doing business with Agrica,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.
Local farmers who planted rice for Agrica were required to purchase chemical fertilizers manufactured by the Norwegian fertilizer company Yara. They also had to sell the rice at a price determined by the company. “Agrica peddled chemical inputs to smallholders, leaving many in debt. In an area known as Tanzania’s food basket due to its fertile soil, this uncovers the real agenda of Agrica. They have opened up new markets for the products of international agribusiness that are damaging for both people and the environment,” explained Glen Tyler, agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.
The research findings raise concerns about the environmental impacts of Agrica’s industrial rice plantation. The prolonged use of agro-chemicals as well as the expansion of irrigation from 215 hectares to 3,000 hectares – resulting in up to one third of the nearby Mngeta River’s dry season water flow being diverted – threatens the Ramsar protected wetlands, within which the plantation is located.
“This project undermines the rhetoric of aid-sponsored large-scale agricultural investments and exposes the true beneficiaries to be agribusiness multinationals rather than small-scale farmers and local communities,” said Heidi Chow, food campaigner for Global Justice Now.
Despite claims that this is the only possible model for agricultural development, the approach is deeply flawed. More effective avenues would focus on meeting the needs of the smallholder farmers and assisting them to develop appropriate farming practices. Providing support to agroecological methods would boost yields and improve food security while preventing the debt cycle that comes with the regime of intensive chemical inputs.
The Oakland Institute, Greenpeace Africa, and Global Justice Now are demanding that all of Agrica’s investors cease funding and review their other agriculture investment schemes in Africa for similar abuses against African farmers. A global campaign is being prepared to mobilise against such wrongdoings by international donors in coming days.