NPA: Data on foreign and domestic investments planned or underway

Summary

This report is part of a baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan prepared for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). It presents data on 28 foreign and domestic investments planned or underway across the ten states of Southern Sudan. In just four years, between the start of 2007 and the end of 2010, foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (26,400 km2) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone. That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda. If one adds domestic investments, some of which date back to the pre-war period, and investments in tourism and conservation, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares (57,400 km2), or nine percent of Southern Sudan’s total land area. While in theory, this influx of investment could provide development opportunities for rural communities, without the appropriate procedures in place there is a danger that it will serve to undermine livelihoods. Below are a series of recommendations that may help the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), its international partners, civil society, companies, investors, and rural communities in Southern Sudan to address the risks and opportunities of largescale land investments moving forward:

1. Adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure for all documents associated with large-scale land-based investments;

2. Develop clear jurisdictional roles for public institutions at all levels, including an appropriate balance between central oversight and state-level flexibility, and providing a role for the legislative branch in approving large-scale land allocations;

3. Consider establishing a graduated land ceiling in which the authorization of successively higher levels of government is required as the size of land allocations increases;

4. Consider a temporary moratorium on all land acquisitions above a certain size in order to allow time for the appropriate procedures to be put in place;

5. Establish a technical committee to review all existing contracts to ensure that they comply with relevant provisions of the 2009 Land Act, the 2009 Local Government Act, and the 2009 Investment Promotion Act;

6. Promote alternative business models that better account for the needs of local populations, such as giving communities an equity stake in the venture or maximizing the links between companies and smallholder producers living on or around the project area;

7. Explore opportunities for constructive engagement with companies that demonstrate a willingness to adhere to regulatory standards and prioritize the development needs of host communities.

Introduction

African farmland has come under increasing pressure from commercial land-based investments in recent years. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that from 2007 to 2010, foreign interests acquired 20 million hectares of land in Africa (Graham et al. 2010). Some analysts see opportunities in this trend, asserting that if African states are able to enact certain regulatory reforms, they can harness this surge in foreign investment to provide jobs and development for rural communities. For decades, the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa has been neglected in both domestic public policies and development cooperation. If done responsibly, proponents argue, the influx of foreign investment can increase public revenues and improve farmers’ access to technology and credit, leading to a revitalization of agriculture. Others are more skeptical. Critics have dubbed it the ‘global land grab’, warning that land acquisitions on this scale stand to deny millions of land users access to vital natural resources, undermine food security, and exacerbate tenure insecurity. They criticize international efforts to put in place a voluntary code of conduct for ‘whitewashing’ the problem and diverting attention away from alternative development pathways that may be more beneficial for rural populations, such as building the productive capacity of smallholder farmers. The real problem, these critics assert, lies in the global industrial food and energy complex which deprives rural populations of their land in order to provide cheap food and energy production for the developed world (Borras and Franco 2010: 515).

Sudan is among the global ‘hotspots’ for these large-scale land acquisitions. According to a recent study by the World Bank (2010: 44), from 2004 to 2009, Sudan transferred nearly four million hectares of land to private investors, more than any other country surveyed.1 With the unpredictability of the current transitional period in Southern Sudan, most of this investment activity was thought to be concentrated in the North. However, as this report demonstrates, there have also been a surprising number of large-scale land-based investments in Southern Sudan in recent years. The baseline data in this report indicates that from 2007 to 2010, foreign companies, governments and individuals have sought or acquired at least 2.64 million hectares (26,400 km2) of land for projects in the agriculture, biofuel and forestry sectors. That is larger than the entire country of Rwanda. If one adds domestic investments, the pre-war mechanized agriculture schemes of Upper Nile State, and investments in tourism and conservation, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares (57,400 km2), or nine percent of the total land area of Southern Sudan. This influx of investment could provide a sorely needed source of development for the region. However, with the nascent state of government, a society still reeling from years of conflict, and the legal ambiguity of the transitional period, there is also a danger that this influx of investment, if left unchecked, may serve to undermine livelihoods.

This report was prepared as part of a baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). It presents data on 28 foreign and domestic investments planned or underway across the ten states of Southern Sudan. Its purpose is to introduce policy-makers, academics and civil society in Southern Sudan to some of the salient aspects of land investments. The data may also provide insights for the design of initiatives to address the challenges of commercial land-based investments moving forward. Section One lays out basic background information on the region. Section Two outlines relevant legal provisions, which in theory are meant to regulate large-scale land investments in Southern Sudan. Section Three summarizes the research methodology. Section Four presents the baseline data, and Section Five offers a series of preliminary observations. Section Six concludes with recommendations for stakeholders involved with large-scale land investments in Southern Sudan to consider moving forward. READ FULL DOCUMENT

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