Part of our approach in fighting against land grabbing in Ghana has been to reach out to traditional leaders who then summon people in their jurisdictions to attend awareness town hall meetings held in their localities. The impact has been positive in every community with which we have shared our mission to protect, support and improve small family farm holding. The vision is an alternative to putting the multibillion dollar agriculture industry in the hands of multinationals and a few rich people at the expense of Africa’s majority self-employed farmers. Once people become aware that an unfair land deal threatens current and future generations’ livelihoods, they realize the need to be careful before applying a pen’s ink to any land lease contract. More importantly, they become very excited about the newfound possibility of advertizing their land as an asset to investors. This means landowners become shareholders and earn more in case the company becomes profitable.
In early August, two men came from Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and paid a visit to Brewaniase traditional area’s Paramount Chief Tidibo Kowura Ondamba II. The two men informed him that they were looking for land to lease. In light of what happened to a number of farmers in his jurisdiction after they signed a land lease with the US-based agribusiness Herakles Farms in 2009, Chief Tidibo told his visitors from Accra that there is land available only if the landowners are guaranteed to become shareholders in the investment. In fact, Herakles Farms convinced landowners from his jurisdiction and neighboring communities to sign a land lease for as little as $5 year per hectare for 50 years, renewable 25 years. More than 50 families signed the lease of a combined 3,715 hectares (19,056.05 acres) of prime farmland the first day they set their eyes on the contract. They never reviewed it. While the farmers were fighting Herakles Farms in court over unpaid rent fees, the farm was sold to Volta Red, a British Company. Volta Red then asked the farmers to withdraw the case from the court and amicably negotiate new terms.
At a recent yearly gathering of traditional chiefs and opinion leaders held August 20-23 , 2016 in Nsuga-Buen, organized by the Catholic Diocese of Jasikan in Ghana’s Volta Region, Chief Tidibo shared with his colleagues his work to empower small farmers and prevent them from becoming victims of land grabbing. The assembled leaders expressed interest in the campaign. The theme of the gathering was focused, among other things, on national development.
Since 2014, Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN) has been working with Chief Tidibo as the leader of our volunteer group in Ghana. Thus, we share the enthusiasm and the interest of the traditional leaders who gathered in Nsuga-Buen and those who have heard our message on their local radio stations. We believe that it is possible to establish a win-win business environment in land investment in Ghana under current land tenure laws. Special attention must be given to any land tenure reform process. This is to ensure that multinational corporations do not rewrite the land tenure laws to their advantage. It is a fact that using the power of money, multinational corporations have gained more economic and political influence in many African nations’ internal affairs. The only remedy is an informed citizenry and a strong and active civil society which remains watchful and defends the public interests.