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July 9, 2015

Pressure on the New Alliance continues to mount with the launch of a new report showing how the world’s largest palm oil producer, Wilmar International, has grabbed land in Nigeria for a palm oil plantation, an ingredient found in processed food, cosmetics, and the biofuels in our cars and trucks.

The evidence, part of a detailed report published by Friends of the Earth, adds to the findings of our own report showing the risks posed by New Alliance policies in Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania, and comes hot on the heels of two other cases of land grabbing for sugar and rice in Tanzania – another New Alliance country.

This land grab case, which concerns an area of land more than three times the size of Washington D.C., is unlikely to come as a big surprise to the United States, United Kingdom, and other European governments who are the main backers of the New Alliance.

When the G8 welcomed Nigeria into the New Alliance in 2013, Wilmar was one of 29 companies that submitted a letter showing that it intended to invest, taking advantage of policy commitments from the Nigerian government that included guaranteed access to land.

This came only one year after Wilmar was named the worst company in the world in a Newsweek ranking of the 500 biggest global companies, based on sustainability.

Despite clear concerns, the New Alliance embraced Wilmar’s plans to expand their palm oil plantation.

Friends of the Earth’s report tells the sad story of Wilmar’s land grab – shady deal’s between the company and a former-President, and a lack of consultation and consent from communities as a whole. The project will result in the loss of community farmland, threats to food security, increased deforestation and probably damage to climate, not to mention the habitat of world’s most endangered primate, the Cross River Gorilla.

Wilmar is one of the world’s biggest agribusiness companies, but this is unlikely to be the last case of land grabbing reported as a result of the New Alliance. The policy changes promised in the New Alliance are intended to stimulate large-scale agricultural investment from companies that have not made any commitment under the agreement.

A recent article in the International Business Times covered two land grab cases in Tanzania by companies that had signed onto the New Alliance, and also a third case where the investor accused of land grabbing is not a member but nonetheless benefits from the New Alliance policy commitments and development initiatives supported by G7 governments.

Even though the problem of land grabbing is widespread, there is plenty of evidence that cases can be stopped by community resistance with international solidarity.

In Nigeria, Dominion’s land grab for rice appears to have been halted, and in Tanzania EcoEnergy’s land grab is currently on hold as the company seeks new investors, now that the Swedish government has withdrawn its investment from the project.

Both African Union and donor countries must learn from these fiascos and drop the New Alliance, in order to prioritize investment in rural communities and small scale farmers that does not involve large-scale loss of land for indigenous communities or increased deforestation.