US Company evicting 160,000 refugees in alleged Tanzanian land-grab

Ben Taub

17 July 2012

An American agricultural company based in Iowa could displace over 160,000 refugee farmers in Tanzania through a land deal, according to Inter Press Service.

Though AgriSol claims its mission is to “improve food security…, the health of Tanzanian children, and the livelihoods of the smallholders around our farm,” an independent think tank says AgriSol’s land deal with the Tanzanian government will come at a terrible price for 162,000 Burundi refugees who have been farming and settling the land since their country underwent a genocide in 1972.

Despite that all of the refugees recently became naturalized Tanzanian citizens, they don’t technically have any legal claim to the land which makes their livelihoods.  The government of Tanzania owns all land within the national borders, and merely leases it — or in the case of the Burundi refugees, allows people to live on it.

But AgriSol is paying just 25¢ an acre for the 800,000 plot, reports the Oakland Institute, an American think tank which has been investigating AgriSol’s Tanzania activity for over a year.

According to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign disclosure board, the company could net as much as $300 million a year from this deal.  Displaced refugees are given just $200 each, for a non-negotiable eviction, the Oakland Institute report says.  The think tank also alleges that AgriSol is asking to make changes in Tanzania’s bio-safety regulations in order to grow crops in protected forests and Wetlands.

Since the Oakland Institute released its report, AgriSol claims to have halted operations in the refugee settlements, but is continuing its projects elsewhere in Tanzania.


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