publié by Admin, le Sunday 9 December 2012
LET US SUPPORT the HERDERS and their HERITAGE
against THE LAND GRABBING
of HUGE AREAS by the company TOZZI GREEN in MADAGASCAR
The Italian company Tozzi Green, a subsidiary of the Italian group Tozzi Renewable Energy, mainly cultivates jatropha, a biofuel crop, on the Ihorombe plateau in the Central South of Madagascar and what it hopes will reach 100 000 ha. The company says that it set up in this region with the agreement of the local people: who exactly were consulted and gave their agreement?
Complaints and claims of the local populations
On November 16th of this year, ten representatives of nine villages situated in the municipalities of Satrokala, Andiolava, Ambatolahy and Ihosy, in the region of Ihorombe, came to Antananarivo and held a press conference to show their opposition to this project and “to express their distress”. They travelled to the capital to make their complaints known because the rights of their communities were trampled. “We have no more control over our lands, people with no connection to our customs are imposing their own laws on us”. They gradually expanded their cropping areas and are using our own lands now. We, small farmers, are obliged to leave because there are armed people who are evicting us from our lands. The loss of grass where zebus can graze is leading to the death of our animals on the spot. They have destroyed the graves of our ancestors. Our sacred places have been destroyed by tractors”. They are completely distraught right now because they feel helpless in this situation, are appealing to the State [..], most of the inhabitants are leaving in exodus and becoming homeless. Facing these land seizures, the fokonolona (base communities) stress that “this land grabbing by Tozzi Green will have grave consequences”. The people are hungry and the customs of Bara are being trampled (1). The reactions of the media to the press conference were diverse: some kept quiet, others wrote it without naming the company in question, yet others reported on it by accusing the village representatives of being accomplices of the dahalo (bandits, zebu thieves)
Then, on 18 November, 350 inhabitants of 17 Fokontany of the municipality of Ambatolahy, signed a petition, which they sent to the local and national authorities asking them to intervene to stop the expansion of the plantations and to prevent their eviction from the areas being targeted by Tozzi Green and by the Indian company Landmark.
grievances come on top of the reports and claims of the inhabitants of the
villages of Satrokala, Andiolava,
Soatambary and Ambatolahy
from whom the TANY Collective received testimonies. They say they have
inherited the lands of their great-grandparents who had farmed according to the
ancestral customs there. These lands are not titled and do not have boundaries
but are customary family possessions since several generations. These lands
also carry the history of their ancestors. If the State obliges them to give up
these lands, they will be lost, their descendants will be decimated because
their lands are pasture areas for their cattle and the income they get from
raising zebus is used for buying food, like a salary. Thanks to this, they were
able to send their children to school. Certain farmlands have become unusable.
The plowing of lands by tractors has made it impossible for the zebus to pass
through the fields. The jatropha plants are not
edible neither for zebus, for children or for the family, they say. They thus
ask the State to acknowledge the situation and to protect them.
Certain villages accepted the company requests, they added, and those who resisted received threats. They were allegedly promised various compensations but these did not materialize. They all speak of the necessity if defending their rights, their lands, their traditional sources of income, their cultural heritage.
The main victims are the zebu herders of the pastoral zones
Indeed, a big part of the population in the Ihorombe plateau is composed of Bara breeders and the wide open spaces which certain city-dwellers see as idle land are the pasture zones of their zebus. Some countries respect and strictly manage these pastoral zones through a Charter or a Rural Code, but the successive leaders and decision-makers of Madagascar have neglected them. If the Tozzi Green company and its executives despise the traditional culture of the people, we might not be surprised, but it is inconceivable that the local and national authorities do not protect them because representatives of the Malagasy State have ratified the international Pact on economic, social and cultural rights (2). At present, of the 8 000 ha already granted, 2 000 ha are allegedly exploited, “the project registers 170 permanent employees and approximately 2 000 seasonal workers among which more than 50% are native of the Ihorombe region” reports a newspaper (3) following the promotional campaign of Tozzi Green. Benefits in terms of employment are miniscule compared to the economic, social and cultural damages.
Many questions about the deals and the commitments
The Tozzi Green company has allegedly rented the terrain of tree nurseries to private individuals and contracted one long lease with the administration, the duration of this lease quoted in press articles as being sometimes 25 years, sometimes 35 years. Transparency and availability for all citizens of all the details of the lease is necessary. How many hectares are covered by the current contracts? How are the procedures and the conditions of progressive land allocations for the company formulated? What criteria are used by the Steering Committee (4) to evaluate the results and to decide to approve a new extension? What does the incongruous “2 000 ha still in trial phase” hide? (5) The citizens must be informed about the complete contents of the contracts: which authorities signed them, which compensations are planned? What fate is reserved for the people who live on these lands in accordance with customary laws? etc..
Are the 2 000 000 ha of the Ihorombe plateau going to be entirely or largely granted to Tozzi Green or to other agribusiness companies? What land areas are going to be planned for the peasants and their descendants for their family farming and their livestock rearing? Clear information for the concerned communities and taking account of the people’s practices and interests by the different authorities of the State to truly improve the well-being of the majority of the Malagasies seem to us indispensable to achieve a fair and sustainable development.
These questions concern not only the national and local authorities, the leaders and the peoples of the various affected villages but also all the citizens of all the regions of the island. What occurs in Ihorombe impacts all citizens because the land area in question is the largest ever known within the opaque framework currently reigning over land deals and land grabbing in Madagascar. Watching what is happening there and refusing anything unacceptable in order not to permit precedents to take not becomes a task of national – even international – importance, aside from defending the usage rights and the culture of the region’s people. Vigilance regarding the very rich underground products of this zone is also imperative.
Herders’ communities are mobilizing to get better treatment from State leaders. In October 2012, after travelling to Europe, a high level State authority in charge of land went to Ihorombe to receive a 4x4 vehicle and computers intended for the Domains and Topography services, the “result of a collaboration with Tozzi Green” (6). Did the visit of this high authority in the region coincide with a new extension of areas allocated to Tozzi Green, increasing the justifiable concern of the populations? When Tozzi Green announces the implementation in Satrokala of a BIF – Birao Ifoton’ny Fananan-tany - land office – which is going to manage the delivery of land certificates on untitled private properties (4), we can only get outraged by the conflict of interests which is powerfully increasing at the level of land management in the region with the national authorities blessing.
Let us support the populations which defend their heritage!
No to the intimidation of the Ihorombe citizens who dared to ask that the extension of
lands granted to the company Tozzi Green stop!
Let us persistently demand total transparency of the contents of the contracts signed by the State because they shape the future of today’s and tomorrow’s generations!
It’s time to stop land grabbing in Madagascar!
Paris, 27 november
Collectif pour la Défense des Terres Malgaches – TANY
(7) Free translation of the article ‘Ihorombe - Fasana sy trano maro noravan’ny Tozzi Green’ published in Inona ny Vaovao n°1031.