Home > Newsletter > Newsletter n° 23 GB

23 March 2013

Newsletter n° 23 GB

English français

<span lang=EN-US
breadbasket of the Indian Ocean":

<span lang=EN-US
risky plan to be handled with care

Under the
initiative of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Madagascar is the focus of a
large project to produce and export agricultural products to ensure the food
security of this regional space. But this process, which was drawn up in the
midst of a deep political crisis in Madagascar, raises the spectre of land
grabbing, against the interests of Malagasy peasants and people, which would go
against the objectives of the project. A meeting of investors, engineers,
technical and financial partners that will take place in Mahajanga, west
Madagascar, on 25-27 March 2013, with the participation of the transitional
government of Madagascar as well as regional authorities, will be a critical
step toward "concrete commitments" of the different parties.

Upon learning of the upcoming meeting on "Food security in the Indian
Ocean: Investing in agricultural production" which will take place in
Mahajanga on 25-27 March 2013 under the auspices of the Indian Ocean Commission
(IOC), the Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Lands - TANY wants to draw
the attention of participants, project planners and decision makers involved in
this project which aims to make Madagascar "the breadbasket of the Indian

Several issues
need to be taken into consideration during this meeting which forms parts of a
vast ongoing agricultural project in Madagascar, drawn up by the IOC and
relying on the Malagasy Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI). The IOC,
composed of five member states — Comoros, La Réunion/France, Madagascar,
Mauritius and Seychelles — risks going against its own mission, which is to
"strengthen the ties of friendship and solidarity between people and build
regional projects for sustainable development aimed at protecting and improving
living conditions and preserving the natural resources upon which people

The project is in a very advanced

While supporting
the process to resolve the political crisis in Madagascar, the IOC has been
developing an agricultural program since 2011 2. The Commission has
taken on board a report produced by Shafick Osman 3, a Mauritian
expert and consultant, in September 2012. After a "brainstorming"
meeting in Antananarivo, the project was elevated to the rank of proposal during
the 8th Indian Ocean Islands Forum in La Réunion 4, in which a
Malagasy delegation of 80 people participated. A preparatory workshop for the
Platform meeting was held mid-January 2013 in the Malagasy capital.

In the current
political context, it is illegitimate to try to bring such a project forward in
Madagascar. The Commission should wait until Madagascar’s presidential,
legislative and municipal elections have been held so that elected
representatives of the Malagasy people can participate in the discussions. This
project, which aims to ensure the food security of the people of the five
islands, would require huge land areas of Madagascar.

According to
several sources, the Secretary-General of the IOC, Jean-Claude de l’Estrac, has
referred to a request for a land concession for the project which was approved
by the Malagasy authorities 5. The concession concerns 20,000
hectares in the region of Menabe 6. The Malagasy transitional
government does not have the power to take such decisions 7, and
both the national and regional authorities have been strangely silent on the
means and objectives of this project.

the legitimate land rights of the Malagasies

The IOC project
is founded on the dangerous idea that Madagascar should be a "reservoir of
arable land" for the West Indian Ocean as it represents “90% of the Indian
Ocean arable land” and because of the existence of large uncultivated areas
there 8.

It is important
to stress that part of the land of Madagascar is composed of mountains that are
too steep to farm, millions of hectares of quarries, forest zones and protected
areas. Land areas that some consider "empty and unoccupied" are in
fact occupied by peasants who live and farm there since generations or use them
for extensive livestock production and herding. Conflicts over the most fertile
lands pitting local communities with their family-based models of food
production against new investors seeking large areas of farmland are well known
in Madagascar and
competition between interested
investors due to "scarcity of lands suitable for agro-industry"
lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Arial","sans-serif";
color:red'> has been documented by the Land Observatory

Like the FAO
Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries
and Forests in the Context of National Food Security 10, the latest
report of the World Bank entitled "Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential
of Agribusiness"11 underscores the necessity of respecting
rural families’ rights to use land for their own subsistence and livelihoods.

These legitimate
land rights must be taken into account in a serious and effective way by all
parties to the IOC program. Otherwise, this project aiming to ensure the food
security of the people of the Indian Ocean will become a source of land
grabbing in Madagascar, undermining the rights of Malagasy people and
threatening their own food security.

The need for transparency and benefits
for the peasants

Three regions
have already been identified as pilot zones. Were the local communities in
Menabe consulted, especially regarding the 20,000 hectares already mentioned?
How about those in Vakinankaratra, where rice will be grown for export, and
those in Sofia, which will produce onions? 12 What concrete
proposals were made to the peasants who will be affected?

transparency on this IOC project is necessary, whether that concern the mapping
of the target areas, the type of land acquisition and transaction proposed
(long-term lease, purchase, etc), the agricultural production model planned for
each crop (agribusiness or contract farming with small peasant producers), the
number of jobs for Malagasy workers to be created by the companies involved,
the anticipated export tax revenues, etc.

In La Reunion as
in Mauritius, public institutions and authorities are carrying out, in the
framework of this project, an investment strategy in farming on Malagasy lands.
Since March 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mauritius Arvin Boolell
has encouraged Mauritian economic actors to take an interest in Madagascar13
while the Regional Council of La Réunion has invested in Malagasy organic rice 14
and would like to acquire rice paddies according to some sources 15.

The former
president of the Chamber of Agriculture of La Réunion has expressed
reservations on the proposal to turn Madagascar into "the breadbasket of
the Indian Ocean". He insists that the project should be limited to rice
only and warns that other Malagasy farm products could flood local markets in La
Réunion and discourage producers there.

In Madagascar,
the Minister of Agriculture has himself stated that "The objective is
self-sufficiency in rice by 2018, with a production level of 12 million
tonnes"16 but no concrete elements support this proposal. On
the initiative of the CCI, regional representatives have been negotiating
directly with investors during the latest Indian Ocean Forum in La Réunion 17.

The different
impacts and benefits for small Malagasy producers require more studies and
clarifications. Any project aiming to ensure the food security of the Indian
Ocean through regional cooperation must be focused on the future for peasants
in Madagascar as well as on the other islands.

Paris, 22 March 2013

The Collective
for the Defense of Malagasy Lands – TANY

lang=EN-US style='color:#0000CC'>
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'>
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'> 
href=""><span lang=EN-US
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'> 

References :

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'>

-18.0pt'> 115%;color:windowtext;text-decoration:none'>(2) 

-18.0pt'> 115%;color:windowtext;text-decoration:none'>(3) 

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 

-18.0pt'> 115%;color:windowtext;text-decoration:none'>(5) 

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%'><a
style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%'> article 8

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> <span

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
lang=EN-US style='color:#0000CC'><span
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'>,

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
lang=EN-US style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%;color:#0000CC'><a

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
style='font-size:8.0pt;line-height:115%'> articles 3b6, 3b8, 3b9, 7.3, 9.9,

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 


style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 

-18.0pt'> font-style:normal'>(15) <span

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 

style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'> 
: Madagascar est de la partie