Volume 4, Number 3 (2011)

Indian Companies Engaged in Agricultural ‘Land Grabbing’ in Africa: The Need for Indo-African Solidarity Linkages

Rick Rowden

Indian agricultural companies have been involved in the recent trend in large-scale overseas acquisitions of farmland, criticized as “land grabbing”. India has joined China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and South Korea among other nations heavily investing in large-scale agricultural projects in Africa and elsewhere. Several factors are driving India’s effort to “outsource its food production,” including the Government’s growing strategic concerns about ensuring long-term food security and concerns about falling ground water tables. Eager developing country governments have also courted Indian agricultural investors, offering special incentives, including offers to lease massive tracts of arable land on very generous terms at much cheaper rates than land and water in India. The Indian Government has supported this trend through high level trade diplomacy, foreign aid, and subsidized credit for its agricultural companies investing overseas. Critics call the trend “land grabbing” and claim there have been negative impacts on local peoples, who are often displaced in the process. The public disclosure of lease contracts between the Ethiopian Government and five Indian investors sheds light on the negative ethical, political, human rights and environmental consequences for local people in host countries. New and ongoing advocacy strategies are discussed, including the idea to establish international advocacy linkages between Indian activists fighting for small farmers rights and addressing “land grabbing” actions within India, and small farmers in Africa and elsewhere facing similar problems. One idea is for such linkages to inform Indian citizens who can take action to address the problem of land-grabbing by Indian companies operating overseas. International land rights advocates see a common struggle in which land deals must involve transparent and participatory relations between governments, companies and local democratic communities.

Keywords: advocacy, Africa, FDI, foreign investment, India, international solidarity linkages, land grabbing, land rights