(Ecofin Agency) - In an open letter sent to the president of Madagascar on August 17, the Tany group exposed its concerns about land grabbing by foreign investors in the country. For the civil society group, whose objective “is to support the development of Malagasy farmers and citizens and defend their lands and natural resources”, it is urgent to boost land tenure and establish a stricter framework for land related transactions.
“We noticed that, in the first months of your presidential term, you started seeking investors, foreigners mostly, to put Malagasy lands to use, across various sectors. The multiple efforts made over the past three and half years have gotten the attention of many countries, such as China, and led to the implementation of many laws to regulate investment,” the group told the leader in their letter.
Given that selling lands to foreigners is forbidden by the law, the group is questioning the acquisition of lands by foreign firms. In this regard, the organization asked the President of the Republic to sanction all those infringing the law on land in the country.
To tackle the various concerns, the group suggested the reduction of the duration of leasing contracts to less than 25 years. It also wishes to see a committee comprised of representatives of populations affected by investments take the decisions for land awarding, to insure that consent is secured, and that operations are transparent. “Regarding the size of lands, awarding will be done by plots of 1,000ha. Economic, social and environmental studies (job creation, methods used, environmental impact, etc.) will however be conducted prior to any awarding which will also depend on some criteria. A deadline for the completion of pojects must be set and if the deadline is not met, the lands will return to the concerned community,” the group added.
Last, it recalled the threat posed by the mining code, deeming it criminal in respect to the rights of locals. “In many cases, when investors settle down in Madagascar, locals are often evicted from the lands from which they get food and money and which is supposed to be inherited by their children. The loss of lands violates basic human rights but it also significantly impairs the development capacities of indigenous populations. Measures preventing eviction would allow local communities and Malagasy farmers to work peacefully and live in dignity,”the Tany group concluded.