'Land grab': an environmental issue?
'Land grab': an environmental issue?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

'Land grab': an environmental issue?

3 Senegal and land acquisition/land grab

Natural capital may be defined as those features of the natural environment that people rely on for food, livelihood and quality of life. Natural capital includes arable and grazing land, forests, water, fisheries and minerals. Natural capital is one of the most important productive assets in developing countries as it provides livelihoods for many of the poor as well as a foundation for economic development.

Described image
Figure 2 Land grab in Senegal, by company ownership
Described image
Figure 3 Land grab in Senegal, by sector

Activity 3 Watching Land Grab in Senegal

Timing: Allow 1 hour 30 minutes for this activity

Watch the following video, Land Grab in Senegal, which lets you look at this in the context of Senegal. Keep the questions below in mind when watching the film and answer them accordingly.

Note that at the beginning of the film (time 00:52) Professor Sidy Seck of Gaston Berger University near Saint-Louis holds up two maps. These maps are reproduced as Figures 2 and 3 above.

Download this video clip.Video player: Land Grab in Senegal
Skip transcript: Land Grab in Senegal

Transcript: Land Grab in Senegal

NARRATOR:
In the Ross-Bethio region of northern Senegal, 42,000 hectares of land have been bought up by private investors in recent years. This land, traditionally cultivated by local people, is now being used for large-scale agriculture. In a country where 60 per cent of people are involved in farming, this change in land use has significant implications for both the environment and the population.
SIDY SECK:
(Subtitles) In Senegal there have been, since 2007, land purchases in virtually all regions, particularly in the river region and the region of eastern Senegal.
Indeed, it was possible to make a map, you see, just to show the different areas that were acquired either by foreigners, acquired by foreigners or by nationals. Here they are in relation to their land use: agricultural, biofuel, tourism.
MARIAM SOW:
(Subtitles) This is a process that has long existed, whether it’s foreign companies, or Senegalese companies or individuals who have the means and the resources that today appropriate the land of peasants. There is an Italian company that is tenaciously seeking land in Senegal. According to information we’ve received Saudi Arabia is also looking for land in a valley to produce rice. 70 per cent would be exported to Saudi Arabia while 30 per cent would stay here in Senegal.
We also have Spanish companies that are appearing everywhere and that also seek or already have land.
NARRATOR:
A few miles outside Ross-Bethio, a French-owned multinational company is growing tomatoes for export. Before the land was taken, local villagers were using it during part of the year to grow their crops.
ARONA SOW:
(Subtitles) My farm was not far from the river. Where you have these new greenhouses I was growing on land there.
We were farming the land but we didn’t have any legal documents so the land was declared as national property and the government allocated it to a company rather than the village. I myself work there. We get paid only CFA 60,000 (£70) a month. It would be much better if it was our own land. Then we could feed our animals and ourselves and sell crops too. There you are working so much and the smallest mistake you make you are sacked.
YAMAR SOW:
(Subtitles) The company came and they gave them the land. At first they took a huge part of the village but we complained and the size of land was eventually reduced. The agreement was that the company would employ people from this village first. But since they started, they’ve employed people from far away in high positions, and the villagers are only employed in the lowest positions. None of the men in the village have a decent job there.
MARIAM SOW:
(Subtitles) The great excuse they use is to say it will create jobs, so this is the big reason. And at the same time as they promise investment, we will build you schools, we’ll drill a well, we will do this... for example, it’s like it was in the time of the settlers for buying slaves.
It’s obvious that this will be exploitation; young people who have no qualifications will become poorly paid workers in their own land.
SIDY SECK:
(Subtitles) Traditionally, the land belonged to families. It is the right of first occupiers, who came first to an area, who cut the trees; they were owners of the land. And these people could lend, rent or give it to other families who came. With colonisation came the introduction of French law with private property. This means that at independence, we had the two coexisting systems, the traditional common land and the modern system. And in 1964 the law on the national domain was created, which is a Senegalese legislation that in rural areas basically eliminates traditional rights and creates rural communities. And rural communities are headed by an elected council called the Rural Council and it is this Rural Council, which is responsible for managing and allocating land.
KADER FANTA NGOM:
(Subtitles) So in terms of the institutions involved, it’s the Rural Council that makes the decision, approved by a representative of the state, so that a decision can be applied. But the practice in rural communities is that many people own land without going through the normal course, the institutional framework, that is to say by the Rural Council.
MARIAM SOW:
(Subtitles) The state has agreed to release these lands. First, this is a liberal regime. Secondly, with the worldwide food and fuel crisis, there are also the policies of the international community, which today rely on land in Africa.
They think that Africa could respond by taking that land. And now the state is in this dilemma, instead of thinking of investing in agriculture to achieve self-sufficiency, they think it’s easier to give the land to other companies that promise to produce or give much more.
NARRATOR:
The Senegalese government is encouraging investors, saying it aims to boost the economy and ensure productivity of land. One such company is Millennium Challenge Account, funded by the US government. Its role is to prepare land for future investment.
IBRAHIM DIO:
(Subtitles) The private companies that are involved in agricultural production help the economy in two ways. The first is when they produce rice, to replace imports. And Senegal spends a lot of money importing rice.
Secondly, they contribute to exports. For example, we have companies that have set up here and that export vegetables and fruit abroad, as happens in the Delta.
This also produces a lot of fiscal revenue that comes from imports, so all this contributes to balance the balance sheet. They also create a lot of employment. And that contributes to consumption and increases the national economy too.
SIDY SECK:
(Subtitles) If we look at specific situations, there are cases when involving investors could be advantageous for the population. We have a case here in the delta of the Senegal River, not far away, where there is a company that has established itself, but consulted with the communities to access land. And in turn this company was able to recruit people from the village, it was able to build schools, set up public facilities for the population. So we must not say that the arrival of investors everywhere is a very bad thing. The whole problem is - how is it done?
IBRAHIM DIO:
(Subtitles) Often there are agreements, for example the investor should build rural roads, or invest in health because often the population ask for a health project.
What we have found out is little of the work is carried out. Even if in principle the agreements bind them to it, in reality it doesn’t always happen.
KORY FALL:
(Subtitles) Two Italian and one French company came here. The Rural Council gave them lots and lots of land. The foreigners promised the Rural Council they would do things for the population, for the children, roads, water, they promised work for local people. But that didn’t happen. They took people here - women, children. They start work 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. And they are paid CFA 2000 (£2.50). When they are sick they aren’t paid. The foreigners who came here, with the big farms, they use chemical products. It’s dangerous, because people fall ill because they breathe the chemicals in, even the animals, our cows, our sheep, they have become ill due to the foreigners who came here, who grow tomatoes and corn for exportation.
NARRATOR:
The legal framework around land ownership means that some land has been taken lawfully, but many cases are under dispute. In the district of Diokul, twelve men have been imprisoned and are awaiting trial after tearing down a fence around land they believe was taken from them illegally.
DIAL FALL:
(Subtitles) My husband was not guilty; he was put in prison because he was fighting to get his land back. Now he is in prison, and he was the only one to provide food so if this neighbour wasn’t helping us we would be starving.
MAN IN BLUE:
(Subtitles) How we learned that we had been deprived of our land was because one morning we saw lorries bringing equipment to put up the fence. We asked them what was happening and they said the land had been given to a company by the Rural Council. There was no consultation.
MODOU MBAYE:
(Subtitles) You can see in this document that 2070 hectares of land to the north of Kebemer has been given to a company called Mame Tola Wade. We realised that the land in the document is not in the same place as the land they have actually taken. The two don’t correspond. We appealed straight away to the authorities but after three months nothing had happened. It was that we realised if we didn’t solve the problem, nobody would, so we decided to come and remove the fence. This land belonged to our grand, grand, grand ancestors. Many generations have used this land. My father, his father, the grandfather of his father, all those generations have succeeded each other right here. The land’s been ours for generations. All we know is farming, we don’t have education or another trade. This land is the only place we can earn our living.
BIGUE FALL:
(Subtitles) In the past we had an abundance, especially of millet and the food would even last until the next season. We would have lots to eat. We could even sell a big part of our crops and give extra to people who needed it. Now we hardly have anything and we have to buy rice to eat.
MODOU MBAYE:
(Subtitles) Since they built the fence, the people who are using this land now are only breeding cattle here. They are not growing any crops. Everything we grew before has gone now.
IBA DIENG:
(Subtitles) The fence started here, it went for 3 km. When we decided to remove it, the farmer took the rest down and built it along here this side. He said he would lend the remaining land to us but we said “No we won’t accept that. This is our land”. Both that land and this land belong to us.
MARIAM SOW:
(Subtitles) At grassroots level, everywhere where the phenomenon has occurred, people have fought back. Local people have rebelled and have said “No” to land grabbing, thanks to the action of civil society, the NGOs, who have been pushing hard to sensitise people about the risks they are subjected to from the loss of these lands, from the degradation of the environment and biodiversity.
KADER FANTA NGOM:
(Subtitles) In fact, nowadays, it’s really a phenomenon that affects virtually all African countries. For example in 2009 the World Bank told us that there were 45 million hectares of land that were either in negotiation, or were already negotiated. That means 45 million hectares of land occupied in developing countries. So there’s not a single country, especially among developing nations, that has escaped this phenomenon. People have organised themselves. But for example, in our project, we are not for or against land grabbing. Our goal is that we ensure that the legal framework is respected. And the people themselves will have the tools. So when land grabbing does not follow the normal legal channels, people will now be equipped to fight against it in their various rural communities.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
End transcript: Land Grab in Senegal
Land Grab in Senegal
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer the following questions relating to the Land Grab in Senegal film.

1. What percentage of the population is involved in farming in Senegal?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

About 60 per cent of the Senegalese population is involved in farming.

2. What are the three purposes for which leased land is used?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

Leased land is used for agriculture, biofuels and tourism.

3. Which countries are most involved in land acquisition in Senegal?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

Saudi Arabia, France, Italy and Spain are the countries most involved in land acquisition in Senegal.

4. When villagers have been consulted by a rural council and foreign buyers in the use of land, what have they asked for?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

Villagers have asked for the area of land leased to foreign interests to be reduced. They have also asked for jobs, schools and health clinics.

5. What evidence is there that rural councils are not an effective institution?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

Rural councils do not always consult villagers. Furthermore, a rural council may allocate a particular area of land but the foreign investor seizes a different area of land which is not subsequently challenged by the rural council.

6. How are villagers contesting their land being seized?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

Villagers are contesting the seizure of land by taking down fences put up by foreign investors and organising protests.

DST206_1

Take your learning further371

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses372.

If you are new to university level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. Find out Where to take your learning next?373 You could either choose to start with an Access courses374or an open box module, which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification.

Not ready for University study then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn375 and sign up to our newsletter376 to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371