Land Grab Awareness and Prevention in Ghana’s Volta Region 2019

Land Grab Awareness and Prevention in Ghana’s Volta Region 2019

A project of the Africa Faith & Justice Network, Funded by Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities And the Dominican Sisters of Peace Authored

Authored by Mr. Ntama Bahati, Policy Analyst, Email: bahati@afjn.org
Edited by Fr. Aniedi Okure, OP, Executive Director , Email: director@afjn.org

Objective
To empower traditional and civic leaders and local communities in Ghana’s Volta region to work to address the issue of large scale land acquisition (land grabbing) and dislocation of families by multinationals, to prevent environmental pollution by commercial farmers including byproducts associated with genetically modified plants, and to secure natural seed and food sovereignty for the community .

Challenge
While campaigning against land grabbing we were encouraged to be “politically correct” to avoid being silenced or killed by those who benefit from these deals. This means not questioning the government particularly not to call local officials to task for their failure to protect Ghana’s future. This is so familiar because our Policy Analyst was detained for six hours at a police station in the city hours from Ho in Volta Region for exposing police corruption. One would expect that Ghana of all places, with a strong history of democracy, people should not be afraid to speak their mind. But this not the case.

The Campaign

Since 2004, the Africa Faith & Justice Network has conducted ongoing awareness and prevention campaign against land grabbing in Ghana to promote responsible investments. What we hear at our town hall meetings and live radio programs is very shocking. People complain that they have been deceived by the multinationals and their collaborators; that they have not received their rent money they were promised for their land and that social programs promised to the communities are not implemented. They report that the chemicals used by the agribusiness companies are polluting their water sources, affecting their health and much more. The youth are feeling powerless in decision making regarding land lease.

The 2019 advocacy and awareness campaign brought the Africa Faith & Justice Network back to Dorfor and Battor traditional areas in North Tongu District in Ghana’s Volta region. Of the seven activities, five were specifically for chiefs, elders, opinion leaders, land owners and youth, while two were designed to educate the general public through live radio discussions which were later rebroadcast three times each.

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We launched the activities with a one hour live show at Klenan Radio station discussing the issues of land grabbing and responsible investment and announcing the different locations where we were going to have our meetings. People called in for comments, asking how they can participate. However, we could not accommodate some of these requests because the trainings were not designed this time in town hall meeting format but targeted specific groups. Two journalists from Klenam attended our first gathering and interviewed participants for the evening news. Halfway we held another live show at Dela Radio station for an update and further discussion. People called requesting that we bring the program to their communities. Some leaders who could not attend the day they were invited came to the event in Volo. Each radio station reaches people in three regions namely Eastern, Volta and Greater Accra.

At Battor Traditional Area Hall we had a turnout of 43 key leaders, in Adidome Assembly Hall 53 attended exceeding the number of invitees, at Adidome Senior High 46 youth attended out of 5o invited, at Volo Senior High 172 youth and two community leaders attended far exceeding the 50 youth invited, in Agoverme more than 50 people participated.

These activities had and continue to have impact on the population of North Tongu District where we held our gatherings and on the communities in Eastern, Volta and Greater Accra regions which are reached through radio programs from Klenam and Dela Radio stations which hosted our programs. According to the 2010 Population and Housing census by the Ghana Statistical Service, North Tongu population was 89,777, eastern region 3, 244,834, Greater Accra region 4,943, 075 and Volta Region 2.607, 996.

Following the activities, many leaders have requested more training in their locality to bring the awareness directly to their people. Participants and listeners continue to share the information. We are sure that with the empowerment provided through this information, landowners will start doing serious due diligence before consenting to leasing their land. They continue to learn from each other through experience.

Landless Future Generations

At the National Forum on Land Grabbing in Ghana, held in Accra, AFJN Executive Director Aniedi Okure, OP, noted that “Populations continue to increase, but land size does not increase correspondingly. In Ghana for example, in 1960 the land size was 238,533 square kilometers. Today, the land size is still 238,533 square kilo-meters. On the contrary in 1960, Ghana’s entire population was 6.7 million, in 2015, the population of Ghana stood at 27.41 million, so we can assume at least 28 million in 2016. If you do the math, there are 21.3 million more people in Ghana today than in 1960, occupying the same land size.

The question is, if Ghanaians keep giving out large chunks of land to corporations, where will future generations of Ghanaians live, farm, and build homes and schools for their children? We are setting up conflict for future generations.” See http://afjn.org/afjn-executive-directors-opening-remarks-at-the-national-forum-on-land-grabbing-opens-in-accra-ghana/

Profile of a Land Grab

In 2015 Togbe Adela Ananze Titriki XII of Dorfor and Togbe Patamia Dzekle VII respectively Paramount Chiefs of Dorfor and Bator traditional areas in Ghana’s Volta region leased land
Land Grabbing Awareness and Prevention Meeting in Dorfor/ Agoverme with the now dethroned Para-mount Chief Togbe Adela Ananze Titriki XII ( Man with Eyeglasses) Ghana, 2017, Photo by AFJN
(Back Left) Mama Alorvi II, Queen Mother of Agoverme, Dorfor Traditional Area with Children in the Nutrition Center in Agoverme/ Ghana, 2017. Photo by AFJN

to Deepsin Implex Limited, an Indian agribusiness represented by Mr. Shaurya Sinha, in collaboration with the Chairman of the Volta Regional Land Commission, Mr. Thalamus Francis doe and seven other people representing these families: Akata/Afudego/Tumawu, Torgodzi/Abiwu and Tovie/Gakpo, Koporduhlor/Forfoe of Dorfor Traditional area and Plipa, Awitor, Tedzor and Saba families of Bator traditional area in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region. Yet these deals excluded some families who were affected. We know for example that Ameka family was not represented and their land was part of the lease. Some of these families did not want to lease and other have for a while had disputes over land boundaries.

There are other cases on grabbing family lands with the knowledge or consent of the family in the region, generating tensions in communities that had been living in peace. AFJN discovered that since June 3rd, 2015, there has been tension in Dorfor traditional area because the Paramount chief Togbe Adela Ananze Titriki XII leased land without consulting the relevant families. This was a violation of his role as land custodian. The crisis let to the removal of Paramount chief Togbe Adela Ananze Titriki XII from his leadership role as clan head. However, his demotion did not solve the legal implications since he had already appended his signature on the land lease agreement. This makes it difficult for families to withdraw their name from the lease.

What is a land grab?

The International Land Coalition members who gathered in Tirana, Albania from May 24-26 2011 define land grab as the “acquisitions or concessions that are one or more of the follow-ing:
 In violation of human rights, particularly the equal rights of women;
 not based on Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the affected land-users;
 not based on a thorough assessment, or are in disregard of social, economic and envi-ronmental impacts, including the way they are gendered;
 not based on transparent contracts that specify clear and binding commitments about activities, employment and benefits sharing, and;
 not based on effective democratic planning, independent oversight and meaningful participation.”
Source: http://www.landcoalition.org/sites/default/files/publication/1205/ILC%20GSR%20report_ENG.pdf

Supporting Small Farmers for Job Creation

African governments believe that leasing land to investors will solve the issue of unemployment. Unfortunately, this policy facilitates land grabbing and threatens the present and future of the one sector which provides employment to the majority of the population. Small farm holders produce 70-80 % of the food consumed in Africa. Large scale foreign agribusinesses are negatively impacting small scale farmers and the livelihoods of their families. Besides, their practice of acquiring land planting, harvesting and shipping abroad not only contributes to unemployment but impacts food supply (food shortage) and food system of local communities.
Governments need to reform the agriculture sector not to hand it over to foreigners.

Small farm holders need infrastructures to move produce from rural areas to markets, financial and technical support, and access to foreign markets to export fresh or locally processed foods. These kinds of reforms can support several jobs.
Agriculture is a big employer in Africa and elsewhere. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “The share of agriculture in food economy employment varies significantly across countries – in Mali and Niger it is more than 90%, whereas in Cape Verde, Ghana and Nigeria it is closer to 60%.

 78% of food economy jobs are still in agriculture.
 81% of jobs in rural areas are in the food economy.
 35% of jobs in urban areas are in the food economy.

Women account for 68% of all employed women work in the food system.

 Women account for 88% of total food away from home employment
 83% of total food processing employment
 72% of total food marketing employment.

Many of these jobs are vendors in small shops, street markets, hawkers or food stalls and street food. These mostly informal activities provide the bulk of urban food supply. In particular, poor urban households are dependent on these distribution networks.” https://www.oecd.org/swac/topics/food-system-transformations/handout-agriculture-food-jobs-west-africa.pdf

In Ghana, the massive land lease campaign in the name of job creation is contrary to the policy the Ghanaian President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo articulated in the State of the Nation address on February 21, 2017 before parliament. He said “[…] I believe the starting point in turning round our fortunes must be with agriculture. Unfortunately, the state of agriculture in our country right now is not good. Farmers are left on their own. It is not surprising, therefore, that food prices are high and we have to import almost everything we eat, including vegetables from our Sahelian neighbours. And yet, agriculture provides the best opportunity to use modern methods to change the lives of many, within the shortest possible time. We have to irrigate our lands and equip farmers with the skills needed to make farming a well-paying business. We aim to popularize farming by encouraging many people to take it up as a full or part time activity.

Food Security
Large scale agribusiness export the food they produce on African soil outside the continent. A majority of them grow food that is not local to the community whose land they acquired. This practice threatens food security for Africa and in no way reduces hunger for Africans; part of the promise they used to acquire the land form the community. Some of the land is used to produce biofuel plants. The question arises, how is this going to help make Africa become food secure? With the ongoing population growth AFJN believes that technical and financial support for small farm holders is the way for Africa to be food secure, and provide for its population and beyond.

Responsible Investment

AFJN has explained to the communities in awareness sessions that a better policy is not to hand over land to foreign companies, but for the government to reform the agriculture sector and empower small farm holders. Also, like in the mining sector, whether long term or short term leases, landowners should negotiate with investors to become shareholders by applying the value of the land to shares in the company.
The “investors” acquire community land for pennies. For example, Deepsin Implex Limited acquired 6,000 hectares (14826.32 acres) for $72,000 at a rate of $12 per year per hectare for 50 years with the possibility to renew. The $72,000 a year is to be divided between the following extended families: Akata/Afudego/Tumawu, Torgodzi/Abiwu and Tovie/Gakpo, Koporduhlor/Forfoe of Dorfor Traditional area and Plipa, Awitor, Tedzor and Saba families of Bator traditional area in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region.. Given the number of people in each extended family this money is just a few dollars a year for such size land.

Herakles Farms of New York acquired 9,266 acres from 65 families in Breniase for $33,750 at $5 per hectare (2.4 acres) per year for 50 years renewable for 25 years. Taking into consideration population growth, the price paid per hectare per year this kind of arrangement is downright exploitation of the communities. Over time these companies stand to reap multibillion dollar profit at the expense of the disempowered poor.

 

Water Pollution and Toxic Dumping Prevention

The byproducts of these companies from the use of prohibited fertilizers and herbicides are polluting the water sources of the communities and their health. Chlordecone, one of the chemicals used in Africa is very toxic. The National Cancer Institute defines Chlordecone as “A very stable, colorless, odorless, synthetic chlorinated polycyclic hydrocarbon that is a degradation product of Mirex. Chlordecone has been used as an insecticide on bananas, non-bearing citrus trees, tobacco, lawns and flowers. Exposure to this substance causes neurological symptoms, such as tremors and slurred speech. Chlordecone is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. (NCI05)”.

Landowners and government must be very vigilant for potential land leases for the purpose of toxic dumping. Toxic waste trade is one of the forgotten serious threats to many communities in Africa. Our campaign against land grabbing includes a proactive stand to ensure our no community becomes a toxic waste dumping ground.

Every person leasing land or when government leases land it must know that any form of contamination be it through herbicides, pesticides or toxic waste dumping will affect people well beyond the boundaries of the contaminated location. A contaminated river has the potential to cause harm to everyone downstream from the contaminated location.

We use of toxic chemicals can harm the ecosystem under the ground, on the ground and above the ground. When pesticides kill the bees, it will affect a beekeeper livelihood. The stakes could not be higher on this issue. Land leases must absolutely include measures to protect people and the environment as well. For this reason, we suggest that every contract must contain a prohibition against toxic dumping. http://afjn.org/the-africas-struggle-for-land-water-and-seed-struggle/

Protecting Indigenous Seeds

The concerted effort to spread genetically modified crops in Africa, be it new crops or genetically modify indigenous seeds must be carefully examined. Agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto (recently acquired by Bayer) and others who patent genetically modified seeds will soon control Africa’s multi-billion dollar agriculture sector. The ongoing rush to acquire land in Africa which is a new form of colonialism called ago-colonialism will seriously impoverish Africa and keep its people under economic and food dependency for a very long time if not every.

It has been scientifically proven that cross pollination between genetically modified and indigenous seeds lead to the elimination of the latter and sadly, this process is irreversible. The loss of indigenous seeds also means the loss of a culture because food is part of a people’s identity.

For this reason, Governments should adopt an agro-ecology policy which must be reflected in land lease contracts. This means in part that when land is leased, it should be required to disclose whether genetically modified seeds will be used. Because of the scope of the potential harm, this information should be accessing to the public. If someone is leasing land close to yours, you should have the possibility to find out what kind of seeds will be planted there and possibly seek legal protection from cross pollination.

As a policy prescription, African farmers must reject any effort to take over its heritage of indigenous seeds, thus stop the inevitable irreversible cycle of food dependency. Victory against genetically modified plants means victory against the use of associated fertilizers required for genetically modified plants which contaminate the soil and the underground water system and rivers. African farmers and consumers cannot afford to give up the control of Africa’s vast agricultural economy.

People Stories

Denied to Purchase Fish foreign markets

During our gathering at Volo Senior High, a young man said that he asked his sister who works for a tilapia farm company to buy some in order to have a taste of the kind of fish they are producing. His sister informed her that even she cannot buy one fish for herself because the fish are for export.

Dump Rice

Local people went to salvage some rice left behind after harvest. After gathering, the company workers ordered them to dump all they had collected and leave. The company has been in the community for over ten years. The local female chief who told the story mentioned that the land belongs to her family and does not know how the rice from this farm tastes like. Based on how the company treats local people and the knowledge she had about land grabbing, she would have opposed the lease. The money they collected from the lease was able to buy 100 plastic chairs which they have been using for family related events including funerals. Plastic chairs are the only things they can point to from this transaction.

Abandoned cassava plantation
A big cassava plantation has been abandoned by an investor and the community does not know why. The community takes issue with the fact that their land was taken, cassava planted an abandoned and the community cannot use it. Beyond the financial transactions, this story and the story about rice dumping emphasize the importance of a more humane relationship between the companies and the communities.
Klenan Journalists Interviewing Traditional Leader after briefing on land grab et Battor Traditional Area Hall, Ghana, 2019, Photo by AFJN

Spray of Banana Plantation

In Bator we learned that a banana plantation is causing health problems for the people. The days the company sprays chemicals on the plantation, the community is warned to stay Indoors for hours. This is raising serious health concerns for the community and future generation.

Bringing Awareness to the Youth

“We are not informed when decisions are made, what can we do to convince our parents not to lease of our family farms or lease them responsibly?” This was echoed by several youths during the youth program at Adidome Senior High school, and at Volo Senior High school. We heard the same concern from the youth constantly. The youth understand very clearly the threat of land grabbing and are scared that they will be the one to live its effects for the rest of their adulthood. Unfortunately, as family heads, the parents and often the fathers do not seek the opinion of their children and wives before leasing the land. Furthermore, where such discussions take place, families do not have the proper information to guide their decisions beyond meeting their immediate financial needs. For this reason, we have included youth awareness program to inform them so that they can use the information to educate their families about the dangers of land grabbing.

Why are People Leasing their Land?

 Ghana is one of the countries where land grabbing is happening at a rapid rate, but why is this happening?
 The government is encouraging foreign investors to invest in agriculture with the hope that they will create jobs.
 Land owners are increasingly being pressured by government officials to lease their land and many are giving in for fear of being labeled as an anti government development plan or belonging to the previous regime.
 Pressure is coming from the ministry that governs lands through the district who then applies it to land owners.                                                                                                                                                              Also, traditional chiefs are competing to bring investors in their community. This is seen as a leadership achievement and thus a source of pride. Chiefs are willing to settle for less just to say that they brought jobs and development in their community. Job creation is on the long list of lies investors tell to get landowners and officials to sign contracts

Manipulated to Sign

AFJN advises landowners to watch out for deceitful tactics used to pressure them to sign leases quickly. Quick “agreements” often means the company avoids any due diligence. They threaten landowner to sign quickly because the investor is returning to his home country the next or the following day. Thus, the community being coerced to feeling they will lose a golden opportunity, rush to sign, only to discover later and too late, that they had been duped..The agreements are written by expert lawyers that once signed, the community is put in a bind.

Can Landowners Get Out of a Lease?

This is a very common question. To break a lease agreement requires legal action. Terms of the contracts are written by well informed lawyers generously paid to represent the interests of the investors. Most of the time landowners sign documents they were not given the time to review or did not review carefully, thus do not understand the details of the agreement. A classic example is Herakles Farms. The company hired and paid for a lawyer for landowners. The same lawyer had to work with Herakles own lawyer to reach an “agreement”. Both lawyer produced a complicated contract with implications that only one with a keen eye can catch. A section of the contract stipulates: “Any dispute, controversy or claim arising out of or relating to the agreement or the breach, termination of validity thereof that is not resolved pursuant to Section 12.2 shall be finally settled by arbitration under the Rules of Conciliation and Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (the “ICC Rules”). The arbitration shall be conducted in Paris, France and unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the number of arbitrators shall be three. The clause effectively annuls the community’s ability for arbitration.

Conclusion

The most common feeling of victims of land grabbing is regret for not knowing what it really is because of lack of information. Once enlightened by the information we offer, they wonder how they can get out of the contract. It does not bring them comfort to hear that such process is very expensive and requires, among other things, money for lawyers and travel for court proceedings. Uncertain whether in Ghana there could even be justice when fighting against wealthy companies, it becomes obvious that when the contract was signed, it was a major mistake. For this reason, we advise communities not to sign any document whose content they do not understand.

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