The development that threatens the pastoralists: the SAGCOT case in Tanzania

Among the first victims of "land grabbing", especially in Africa, are the pastoralists. Expropriations, forced expulsions, burned houses, fines, in addition to the imposition of methods and models that put profit first in the name of agro-industry and a new "green revolution": these are the violations that projects like the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, commit to the detriment of human rights of pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania. Terra Nuova, CELEP and HOTL denounce it in a newly published policy brief.

21 December 2017 - The word "land grabbing" referring to African countries and large-scale land deals for speculative use has entered our vocabulary for at least ten years, but few know that amongst the first victims of these practices are pastoralists, whose lands used for grazing are considered "empty", i.e. unused because they do not have a "formal" property. These are common lands used according to customary land tenure arrangements. For this reason, although they have belonged to the communities for centuries, they are considered ‘free’ to be acquired or exploited in other more “efficient” ways. The consequence is that pastoralists see their grazing areas restricted or they are totally pushed out.

Few know that grazing lands are between one and two thirds of the earth's surface and have always been a source of food security and nutrition for local populations, as well as ensuring the reproduction of biodiversity and the maintenance of ecosystems. With their extensive knowledge of the territory and their flexible approach, pastoralists adopt a sustainable and suitable model to mitigate, as well as react to the impacts of climate change. In the Global South, this model continues to play a fundamental role in the economy, satisfying food needs (such as the production of milk, cheese or meat), and providing non-food products (wool, crafts) and economic income.

However, all this is put to the test by a thousand daily difficulties, by inadequate policies, by large investments and economic interests linked to the agro-industry, by prejudices that see the model as archaic and superseded. Pastoralists are hampered in access to land and in their management, their activity is regarded as marginal, and unimportant compared to the interests of environmental conservation or large-scale global market-oriented investments. The sanitary rules imposed for the transformation and marketing of products present an obstacle, as they conform to the standards of large-scale retail trade to which a small-scale and artisanal production struggle to adapt. So-called development interventions, such as those promoted by the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition [1] may provide a threat rather than aid for these production models and for the thousands of producers who depend on them. This is the case of SAGCOT, the subject of a policy brief published by Terra Nuova in collaboration with CELEP and Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty (HOTL).

"Pastoralism under Threat: Human Rights Violations" analyses, adopting a human rights approach, the violations against pastoralists in Tanzania, suffering personal violence, forced to evict their lands and to abandon their traditions, with serious consequences to their right to food. These violations, as documented by the literature, are the consequences of the implementation of so-called corridors "for agricultural growth", that envisage the creation of large-scale infrastructure at the service of industrial and export agriculture. The latter attract external investments, which are neither planned in consultation with nor bring benefits to local populations. "Neo colonialism" is the term used for this extractive model imposed from above, which threatens the true potential "development" of the country, and which is found according to the African peasant organizations supported by Terra Nuova, in family farming (80% of the population) and on territorial markets. The policy brief is based on interviews that reveal cases of expropriation, forced expulsions, burned houses, imposition of fines or theft of livestock, to ensure that pastoralists leave the lands within the corridor. Is this the "growth" that our governments must support? Is it right to trample on human rights in the name of alleged economic development?

"States should support practices that respect ecosystem management systems adopted by pastoralists and enhance their traditional knowledge," say the authors of the recently published document, "in a world where malnutrition is increasing and obesity is reaching the numbers of hunger, we must put the right to food back in the centre, recognizing the importance of this type of producer in supplying nutritious food, suited to the cultures of the territories, supporting their marketing on local markets ".

The final recommendations presented in the policy brief call on governments working with the New Alliance to ensure transparency and accountability for the agreements they sign; to reject projects that jeopardize the right to food, access to land and economic interests to the detriment of populations and the environment; to comply with the land guidelines approved by the CFS in 2012 and the guidelines on territorial markets.

The document can be downloaded here.