Sunday, January 04, 2009

The New Land Rush

Last year's food crisis that saw record food prices and food riots around the world has touched off a rush by wealthy but food reliant nations to purchase farming land in poorer countries in South and Central Asia, Latin America, and East Africa. Countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and India have been buying up fertile farm land in order to secure their own food supplies.

China's serious water problems and creeping deserts led it to lease lands in Laos, Kazakhstan, Tanzania and Brazil. With $1.8 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China has had ample funds to buy up land. Similar water problems in India led it to lease land in Burma which already supplies a quarter of its lentil imports. South Korea has secured farmland in Indonesia and Madagascar. South Korea is continuing to negotiate with Madagascar for a deal which would encompass half of Madagascar's arable land. Saudi Arabia has given up its efforts to feed itself and has plans to buy 400,000 hectares of land by early 2009 in Australia, Croatia, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The new land rush has sparked controversy in some of the selling countries. Calling the new land deals "neo-colonialism," the UN's top food expert Jaques Diouf has remarked that "Some negotiations [between host countries and the investors] have led to unequal international relations and short-term mercantilist agriculture." In Brazil, the government has become concerned that foreign groups' ownership of land was a "threat to sovereignty."

The possibility of resource wars has concerned many people who foresee growing shortages in coming years, but this new food colonialism has shown that there may be many ways that countries scramble to compete for scarce resources.


At 3:24 AM, Blogger Richard Mercer said...

Imagine if this was all done in a spirit of cooperation.

Made me think of a proposal I just read about to build solar thermal power plants with heat storage in North Africa, the Mideast, and possibly southern Europe. It's called TREC, or Trans Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation.

It would supply non intermittent base power to Europe, North Africa and the Mideast. It includes an HVDC transmission network. The solar thermal plants would also provide (CHP)Combined Heat and Power, and desalinize seawater. The authors remark on the social economic benefits and improvement in relations between nations that may result. Clean inexpensive power, fresh water, jobs etc.

If the kind of cooperation can be mustered to accomplish this, anything is possible.

It's similar to what we should do in the southwest U.S. and that will take some cooperation too.

A couple of good articles on solar thermal, or (CSP)Concentrated Solar Power.
Using molten salt heat storage, or other methods, solar thermal plants can run at night, and don't fade in and out when clouds pass.
The TREC article also has a thorough analysis of solar thermal.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Jennifer Jackson said...

This sort of plan has probably been in the works for quite some time, most assuredly in Madagascar. President Ravalomanana won the first Millennium Challenge Corporation (not a corp. but an actual Bush Administration government entity) compact, which had as one of its projects to reform the way the Ministry of the Interior deals with the country's "land tenure" system. Most of us scholars who've been working in M'scar knew this was unusual and must have been motivated by something yet to be disclosed. And then, "oil" was discovered in M'scar and now S Korea will lease land (at $0) for 99 years. How else have these land deals been made if not for the reformed bureaucracy at the level of the state to redefine land tenure and pay off (slowly and poorly) the cattle and ag farmers who held this land? Another aspect of the MCC compact was to seek out exportable ag products to build M'scar's export economy. Where's that plan gone? And none of these plans have ever mentioned M'scar status as an environmental hotspot. It's as though the past 25 years has gone missing from the political/international development memory of these bi-national agreements. What do we do?

At 2:51 PM, Blogger VannyBean said...

Living in a top agricultural producting state (Iowa), I wonder how this would effect the long term economic forcasts of agricultural producing states here in the U.S.. But, most of all, it reeks of unsustainability, further dependence on transportation and further use of resources, maybe unnecessarily. It seems that it appears to be a cheaper way for now for countries buying up such lands. But, what are they eating? Is the palette changing for some of the countries as well that it require a different ecosystem and conditions for them to grow that which cannot be done in their own countries. It might be wise to review the models of time's past in their own countries and embrace pre-colonial methods in a modern way.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Efraim Neto said...

Sustainable means of financing local authorities and water systems will be discussed during the 5th World Water Forum, held between 16 and 22 March.

5.1.1 Financial Sustainability: Importance, progress and emerging issues. Without financial sustainability, the water sector will not deliver on established targets nor contribute to economic growth. It is vital to develop a financial system that can and will invest in water. What recent progress was made after the Camdessus Report and the Gurria Task Force on financing of water services? What additional funds were leveraged due to the MDG agenda?

5.1.2 Addressing the Local Financial Demand. Financiers face a lack of effective demand for lending. For financial flows to improve, local authorities and service providers need to find ways to make their investments more appealing and secure for international financiers. In what ways can their borrowing capacity, creditworthiness and cash flow be built up in order to become more reliable financial partners?

5.1.3 Financial Resources: Optimizing use of public budgets The need for finance in the water sector is potentially Limitless. However, absorption capacity and willingness of investors is certainly limited. Therefore, realistic goals must be set. Can integration and optimization of financial flows close the finance gap for water? What financial strategies can increase financial flows to the water sector?

TBC 5.1.4 (joint session with 2.3 topic?) Financial Strategies to Support National Water and Sanitation Policies. Financial sustainability requires closing the financing gap by acting on the demand and supply sides of finance. How can the gap between lenders and local authorities / utilities borrow Needing toe be bridged? What can the different actors of borrowing to increase the capacity of service providers?

The World Water Forum is the world's premier event on water. It gathers over 15 000 participants from around the world to bring concrete solutions to the world's water challenges. A stepping stone towards global collaboration on water problems, the Forum offers the water community and policy-and-decision-makers from all over the world the unique opportunity to come together to create links, debate and attempts to find solutions to achieve water security.

The World Water Forum is organized every three years as a joint venture between the World Water Council and the government of the host country. After previous Forums in Morocco (1997), the Netherlands (2000), Japan (2003) and Mexico (2006), the 5th World Water Forum will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in March 2009. Get involved!

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Efraim Neto said...

The Children's World Water Forum points to the existing concerns over the question of childhood and uses of water

Established in Quito during the 3rd World Water Forum, a section aimed at children makes connections between childhood and the question of water.

By: Efraim Neto

In developing countries, one third part of deaths in children can be traced to the disease of water way. The problem could be reversed with clean water and adequate sanitation. While 91% of the population has access to drinking water is still a large amount of people who still do not have this essential element for life. In the world 1.8 million children die each year from diarrhea victims, for example.

The Children's World Water Forum (CWWF), which occurs between 17 and 14 March, during the 5th World Water Forum, is a tradition that was established in Kyoto at the 3rd World Water Forum, where about 109 children, from 32 countries participated, and worked on issues of great importance to the welfare of children around the world. During the 2nd CWWF in the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico, 107 children from 29 countries shared 55 actions to help encourage local solutions to these issues. The children have developed actions in workshops and educational activities.

The involvement of children in dealing with global issues exemplifies the need for policy decisions that lead to activities that put children in the front line of action drawn to the issue of water and sanitation. In addition, children engage in effective action for social transformation is an opportunity to build a unified dialogue, and that has as objective the imposition of a significant change to the issue of water. Children are key actors in the water and in their deliberations or the decision-making.

For more information, see the Guide. Fill out the Registration Form for Children, Registration Form for Activities, Chaperone Form and List of Delegates.


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