Recently i have reported from a new campaign, why poverty?. They produce short and long movies about controversial issues linked to poverty. What I like most, is that movies from this campaign are not polarizing, but trying to show the different stakes and sides from the problem.
I just watched the movie on "Land rush", and really liked the way the movie tries to show that direct foreign investment into agriculture in not per se a bad thing (also see http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.ch/2012/11/land-grabbing-or-development.html). It follows an investor who tries to buy in the local population into the project, making sure that his project benefits to development of the local community. Have a look, it is a impressive movie showing the good side but also the turn downs of such big projects.
Basically the investor tries to plant sugar (that needs irrigation), each part of the sugar farm should be maintained by smallholders (whose land has been taken away) and who becomes agricultural contractors. A similar project seem to be a great success in Zambia, where people have been lifted out of poverty, as they earn now enough and get access to free health services and education.
However what i miss out of the discussion is a bit food security, not so much at local scale (as the contracted farmers would earn enough to buy food), but at global scale shouldn't we actually focus on grain production rather than sugar and try to get the world food price down for staple food? (see http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.ch/2012/12/hunger-for-profit.html). The other point that is not discussed in the movie is water. Sugar cane is very water intensive. Where does it come from? is it sustainable? and how will the sugar project change the water access for the local population, both for the ones that buy-into the project and those who opt out?
And my last concern, how can we insure that the benefits that are given to the community are going to be there in the long term, or in financially difficult times? will the management of the sugar plant be participative? what will be done to avoid corruption?
But in general, I think it is a great try to make agricultural development based on market opportunities, allowing theses farmers to move away from their dependency on aid.
It makes me very sad to see that with the Mali Coup d'Etat, the sugar cane project lost all its support from the government and could not be implemented, whereas all the other investors that are truly land grabber just could continue. It is a missed opportunity to prove to the world that market based agricultural development that benefits to the communities is possible.