Nigerian farmers forced off land for massive rice plantation project backed by DfID aid initiative
Farmers in Nigeria's north eastern state of Taraba are being forced off lands they have farmed for generations to make way for US company Dominion Farms to establish a 30,000 ha rice plantation.
The Dominion Farms project forms part of the UK-backed New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa and the Nigerian government's Agricultural Transformation Agenda, which are both ostensibly intended to enhance food security and livelihoods for small farmers in Nigeria. A new report, however, finds that the Dominion Farms project is having the opposite effect.
The report shows how the lands provided to Dominion Farms are part of a public irrigation scheme that thousands of families depend on for their food needs and livelihoods. The local people were not consulted about the Dominion Farms project and, although the company has already started to occupy the lands, they are still completely in the dark about any plans for compensation or resettlement. Dominion Farms is involved in a similar land grab for a rice farm in Kenya that has generated conflicts with local communities.
Diane Abbott MP has tabled parliamentary questions to the Development Secretary Justine Greening about the involvement of the New Alliance in the Dominion land grab.
Heidi Chow, food sovereignty campaigner from Global Justice Now said:
“Aid money should be spent supporting communities to develop sustainable agriculture rather than supporting initiatives which are enabling companies to evict those communities. Initiatives like the New Alliance seem to be more about providing opportunities for agribusiness to carve up the resources of African countries rather than trying to address poverty or hunger.”
Rebecca Sule, one of the affected woman farmers from the Gassol community in Taraba State said:
"The only story we hear is that our land is taken away and will be given out. We were not involved at any level. For the sake of the future and our children, we are requesting governmental authorities to ask Dominion Farms to stay away from our land.”
Mallam Danladi K Jallo, another local farmer from Gassol said:
"Our land is very rich and good. We produce a lot of different crops here, and we farm fish and rear goats, sheep and cattle. But since the Dominion Farms people arrived with their machine and some of their working equipment, we were asked to stop our farm work and even leave our lands as the land is completely given to the Dominion Farms project.”
Raymond Enoch, one of the authors of the report and director of the Center for Environmental Education and Development in Nigeria said:
"The local people are united in their opposition to the Dominion Farms project.They want their lands back so that they can continue to produce food for their families and the people of Nigeria."
The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a G8 initiative backed by the UK, in which certain African countries receive aid money and corporate investment but in return have to commit to changing agricultural laws and policies. Global Justice Now argues that the New Alliance acts as a means of restructuring African agricultural markets to make it easier for multinational companies to take control of Africa’s land, seeds and markets.
The report was produced by two Nigerian NGOs, Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) and Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED), with the support of Global Justice Now and GRAIN. It is based on field investigations and interviews conducted with local farmers, community leaders and government officials.