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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Columnist: Adrah, Prosper Senayah

The Alarm-Bell from Kpandu

By Prosper Senayah Adrah

The wailer cried, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has come true.” This is the heart with which I am writing this piece of article. Please do take a little bit of your precious time to read it; perhaps you may appreciate my concern. carried an article on the General News of Sunday, 19th June, 2011with the header: “Indian engineer turns big farmer in Ghana” The contributor portrayed Mr. Prabhpreet Khinda as one of the resourceful investment entrepreneurs contributing to the development of Ghana by acquiring 2200 hectare farmland at Dzigbe, near Kpandu for export food production. He has planned to obtain additional 2000 hectares for an integrated farming project.
Most people hearing this news at home and abroad are likely to see it as a development project at the best interest of Ghanaians and of the local people in particular; but this is the worst fear entertained in some quarters of the international community when the plan was unveiled in New York at the Marriott Hotel under the theme “Global Ag-investing 2009”.The attendees were made up of Investors, fund managers, business tycoons and big landowners.
For more information on this issue, read an article by Horand Knaup and Juliane von Mittelstaedt entitled “FOREIGN INVESTORS SNAP UP AFRICAN FARMLAND”
In short this is how the Global Agricultural Investing program works: It is estimated that by the year 2050 the global population could hit 9.1 billion; meaning 2 billion more mouths to feed. In the coming 20 years or less, worldwide demand for food is expected to rise by 50%.
This prognosis painted a gloomy picture for the future of poorer countries where widespread hunger and deprivation already exist. But for the investors and landowners meeting in that hotel room, it was good news at the best time to make big money by acquiring land in places that are fertile but cheap to grow crops for the global market. In other words, they will buy your land, grow crops on it and send them to another country where the price is high. The host country has very limited control or none at all.
Africa, south of the Sahara has been identified as the “Alpha place” according to the article, the term means an investment for which the return is greater than the risk. “We have the money, machinery, fertilizers and the technology, they need the funds for development; they have the land, we need the land for agriculture, this is a win-win situation,” they declared. But in actual fact the risk to us as Africans is far more perilous than can ever be imagined.
Our land is the final strength we as Africans are holding on to. We are powerless when it comes to any form of global negotiations because money, technology, science and innovation which are the currencies of the 21st century are in short supply in Africa so we are always at a weak position in global dealings. But are of the hope that our children or our children’s children will one day acquire those essential skills and knowledge to build and develop their homeland that God has given to them; therefore selling it under the guise of leasing is abomination.
The promoters and political leaders, who support this program and see it as developmental model, reject the claim that they are selling the land; they call it leasing for agricultural purposes. Below are some of the deals in some parts of the world where the project had already taken off.
? The Sudanese government has leased 1.5million hectares of prime farmland to the Gulf States, Egypt and South Korea for 99years.
? Egypt plans to grow wheat and corn on 840,000 hectares in Uganda.
? The president of the D.R. Congo has offered to lease 10 million hectares to South Africans.

What is a hectare? A hectare is 100x100metres. It is bigger than a standard football field which is 105x68metres
The price ranges from $350-500 per hectare.

Between the states are the middle men and women who would come in first as harmless engineers trying to see if the ground is soft politically before allowing the big dragons to take hold of the lands.
? The small scale farmers who are the providers of Ghana’s food requirement will lose the land to the International farmers who will sell their produce abroad.

? Food prices will be unaffordable because the international farmers will not produce the food we need but those that are demanded elsewhere. Even when they grow what we eat, their prices will be determined by speculators and by the global demand and supply dynamics just like the oil. Nigeria is still queuing for fuel.

? The foreign farmer will use agro-chemicals in uncontrollable proportion on the land for a very long time to maximize yields. Some could be banned substances because of their effect on the wider environment which the Ghanaian Authorities may not know. Rivers would be polluted as a result when it rains. The contamination would be wide-spread.

? Large commercial farming will displace local communities and villages. It has already happened in Kenya where Dominion Farms, a U.S. agricultural producer acquired 3600 hectares of land for 45years at the yearly rate of 12,000 Euros has displaced 400 families.

? Large commercial farming will demand irrigation and the international farmer will have no regard to the local population whose livelihood depends on the water.

? Conflicts will emerge between the local population and the international farmers. Contract killings and political lobbying from the international farmers whose investments are at risk from the local dissidents will infest our peaceful country; like it is in Nigeria where the oil giant, Shell influenced the murder of the Nigerian activist Saro-Wiwa and 8 others at the hand of their own president Sani Abacha for protesting against the environmental destruction in the Niger delta.

? We will be robbing the future generation of homeland and livelihood by selling off their land.

I had thought this would never come to Ghana; a situation where our leaders would be selling out our lands in the name of development but I am wrong. What I have feared has become true.

Chiefs are custodians; they are not owners of the land so the citizens of the country need to know the following:
1. How much money did Mr. Prabhpreet Khinda pay for the 2200 hectares of the fertile farmland in Dzigbe, Kpandu? (2,200 hectares released to the Indian engineer/farmer is about 2,500 football fields)
2. How many years is the land leased to him and under what conditions may he have to vacate the land?
3. Is he allowed to irrigate the land? Where will he draw the water from?
4. Which chemicals is he allowed to use on the soil?
5. How many hectares of uncultivated land are around the periphery of the released land to serve as sanctuary for the affected wildlife population?
6. Is the Ghana government aware of the contract?
7. What is the share of the government?
8. How is the project going to benefit the future generation of the community?

Folks, my belief is that we, you reading this article and I are the only protectors of our land. We are the only people the global exploiters fear. We are the ones they cannot pay money to corrupt and therefore we are the real custodians of our land. This deal is dangerous for our country and it will threaten our peace and stability as well as our young democracy.

We need to act now before this Kpandu project becomes a replica in other parts of the country. The Indian engineer has plans to take more lands and is inviting other Indians to come to Ghana for some cheap grabs. A lot of chiefs are also willing to give out the community lands for a peanut fee.

Today it is Kpandu, tomorrow it will be Kwamekrom. It is utterly naïve to think that an Indian farmer is the one that will work for the best interest of Ghanaian communities. Apart from hiring our brothers and sisters to work for him as farm labourers and house maids for those he will bring from India to head all the departments what else can he offer?

In my opinion, no matter how good some people may find it, the project is undesirable because of its inherent risk to the larger environment. Chiefs cannot just be signing off lands without regard to the larger implications for wildlife, rivers, insects and birds which know no borders. A chemical contamination in Kpandu will end up affecting marine life in Ada. There are instances where chemical contamination of water has caused deformation in babies, cancers and lots of diseases; something very difficult to connect to water contamination in the initial stages.

A wrong pesticide used on crops will devastate the bee population which will affect pollination with consequences for fruits like mangoes and pawpaw.

The Big question is what shall we do? I don’t know, what I do know is that we can do something to protect our land for the future generation. If you also think as I do, send me e-mail; my address: