Across the continent, Africans are witnessing their most fertile agricultural lands being sold-off for the global biofuel industry at unprecedented rates, fueling social anxiety and unrest. In Madagascar, unrest intensified so much in 2008 that populist protests against a government land deal with South Korean multinational Daewoo Ltd. led to a military coup. In response to the crisis, a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter noted, “Africa has become a biofuel battleground.” How are Africans reacting to recent large-scale land deals, with wide-spread resistance, or general acquiescence? What is the nature of social resistance and emerging politics? Are adequate land tenure policies and institutions in place to protect Africans from land seizure?
This study focuses on a well-known biofuel battleground in Madagascar, highlighting the first case of successful social resistance against contemporary land grabs. Given recent critique of biofuels, producers have begun to shift away from large-scale commercial acquisitions and towards smaller integrated production alongside social and economic development. Parallel to this new wave of agrofuel capitalism, there is a push to secure tenure and stimulate agricultural investment in land and markets, and while foreign aid projects are beginning to address land rights in Madagascar, most of its agricultural zones remain under extremely complex tenure systems of overlapping state and customary claims. As competing visions of land securitization take hold, significant questions remain regarding whether new laws are an adequate alternative for protecting rural Malagasy from dispossession of livelihood resources under agrofuel capitalism. I demonstrate how new land reforms have helped to create an environment of confusion and mistrust around land reform and have facilitated access to land and labor through the fracture of tenuous social relations and promotion of rural differentiation.
Neimark, B.D. LDPI Working Paper 26. The land of our ancestors: Property rights, social resistance, and alternatives to land grabbing in Madagascar. The Land Deal Politics Initiative, (2013) 25 pp.