Senegal is just one of several African countries experiencing acquisitions of land that lead to human rights violations and poverty. European companies buy land for growing crops needed for the production of biofuel for the European market. They buy the land with great promises to land owners and villagers, but later fail to deliver on those promises, leaving many without their land, food or a job. The issue in Senegal is young, but as dangerous as anywhere else.
Recent food crisis and renewable-energy desires of particularly Western societies have prompted intense rush for acquisition of farmland, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, by international investors, resulting in loss of land and gross human rights violations. The so-called land grabbing presents an additional way of prolonging decades of exploitation of the continent. This practice, even in the majority of cases where the land deals are arguably legal, has severe negative impact on local communities, most often denying them access to their basic livelihood and displacing them from their land necessary for their survival; or alternatively (in cases where there actually are employment opportunities for local population) making them dependent on the slavery-like working conditions in the companies. There is little evidence of positive contribution of large scale agricultural investments/land grabs to so desired development of local communities; promises of dignified employment, roads and electrification too often remain unfulfilled. Moreover, growing and exporting food for rich countries or for fuelling their cars can seriously undermine food security in the country; paradoxically for example in Ethiopia where huge land deals are happening millions of population depend on foreign food aid. The two cases in Senegal pictured in this story are just two Senegalese examples of how land grabbing practices significantly impact the lives of local population and most often threaten their sustainable small-scale food system by denying villagers access to grazing and agriculture land, water and firewood. In the region of Ndiaël in Northern Senegal, pastoral communities are fighting against the operation of large agribusiness Senhuile/Senethanol, an Italian-Senegalese company with murky history and suspicious links to the most powerful people in Senegal. If the company stays and extends its operation, more than 37 pastoral villages located in the area for more than 200 years will have to quit their traditional pastoral ways of sustainable living, leave the area or become dependent on low wages and difficult work of the company. A different case is happening in the region of Kaolac where the Italian company African National Oil Corporation grows Jetropha plants for biofuel production. The company came to the village with false development and employment promises, misleading the villagers to sell their traditional land for a small amount of money. Predominately agricultural communities in the region are now left without the income from employment, and worst, with less land that would allow them to fully fulfil their food needs and invest in further development of their communities.