Farmers return to their land in Nigeria following land grab
By: Heidi Chow
Date: 4 February 2016
Farmers from the Gassol community in Nigeria are cautiously returning to their land which was the subject of a land grab last year. Once again, they can access the public water system, continue traditional grazing practices and produce food for themselves and for their local community.
Shamefully, a UK aid scheme was involved in the attempt to push the farmers off their land. The UK government is channelling over £600m of aid money into the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, to attract big business to invest in ten countries across Africa. As part of this scheme, Dominion Farms, a US agribuisness company identified 30,000 hectares of land to develop a rice plantation in Gassol.
We exposed how small-scale farmers were being forced off their land in a report that we published with allies from Nigeria and Canada*. The local government had handed over land with thousands of plots held by small-scale farmers and a public water system to Dominion. Yet local farmers were not consulted about the deal and were not aware of any compensation or resettlement plan.
We joined up with our allies in an international campaign that saw questions raised in parliament about the UK’s involvement, thousands of emails directed to the CEO of Dominion Farms, as well as media exposure of the scandal, both internationally and in Nigeria. The Centre for Environmental Education in Nigeria returned to the Gassol community recently. They reported there has been no further development of the land by Dominion Farms and that the farmers have returned to the land for the current growing season.
There has been no official communication from Dominion Farms about their future plans for the land. But for now, the farmers and other food producers are back on the land, using it as they have done for generations.
The Gassol situation unfortunately isn’t an isolated controversy that has been connected to the New Alliance. There’s mounting evidence of land grabs and laws regarding seeds and farming being changed to benefit big agribusiness companies. In December 2015, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food submitted a report to the European Parliament, marking the start of an official EU enquiry. The report highlighted a series of inadequacies about the New Alliance, and said that it insufficiently conforms to international standards for responsible investment.
We will continue to work with our allies in Nigeria to monitor the situation. The push for big business to control food and farming is still going on through schemes like the New Alliance, which means we will continue to fight in solidarity with communities like Gassol.
* We worked Friends of the Earth Nigeria/ERA, The Centre for Environmental Education and Development and Grain on this campaign.
Photo credit: Farmers from Gassol Community, Tabara state, Nigeria. The Centre for Environmental Education and Development and Grain.