Land Rush – Why Poverty?
Directed by Hugo Berkeley and Osvalde Lewat (2012)
Land Rush is the story of the recolonization of Africa by foreign interests (US, Britain, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia) and their collaboration with corrupt governments and tribal authorities to drive subsistence farmers and their families off their land. Their goal: to create massive for-profit industrial farms based on monoculture export crops.
Nearly 60% of remaining arable land is in Africa – the industrialized world has either paved theirs over or decimated their soils through factory farming.
The reason Africa is such an easy target is that only 10% of rural Africans own private title to the land they farm. The rest is traditionally viewed as a communally owned commons.
Lifting Africans Out of Poverty By Seizing Their Land
Land Rush specifically focuses on a US sugar baron seeking to create a giant sugar plantation and processing plant in rural Mali. His goal is to kick start industrialization in Mali and help “lift their people out of poverty.”
Prior to the 2008 economic downturn, the Mali government supported the food sovereignty movement and the right of rural farmers to access land to support their families. This has all changed now, with the government (illegally) selling off more than 30 million hectares of farmland to foreign investors in the last five years.
Farmers are told they must give up their land and either go to work for Sosumar (as sugar farmers) and accept a new plot of land elsewhere. The government’s violent mistreatment of farmers who refuse to leave their land makes them highly skeptical of these promises.
The Food Sovereignty Movement
The documentary also profiles a local organizer linked with the global food sovereignty movement. Informed by disastrous experiences elsewhere (Latin America, India and other parts of Asia) with the wholesale expulsion of subsistence farmers for corporate interests, Africa’s food sovereignty movement is growing by leaps and bounds.
The organizer explains that the constitution and laws of Mali recognize the basic right of food sovereignty, ie that countries have the right to produce their own food rather than depending on an unpredictable global market for their food needs. He maintains that Mali has strict guidelines about involuntary displacement – that the government’s contract with Sosumar is illegal, as was the prior handover of 30 million hectares to foreign corporations.
The film ends on a positive note, thanks to a March 2012 military coup that caused Sosumar to withdraw all their workers from Mali and their CEO Mima Nedelcovych to target Nigeria as the new site for his sugar plantation.