Just what does a title justify?
Africa, Indonesia, Cambodia -- land rent is fought over
Competing needs -- some need Earth for food, others for money -- plays out constantly around the world. That is, until we recognize the worth of Earth is for us all to share. Such sharing we can implement via geonomics, a sane shift of taxes toward natural resources and subsidies to everybody. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) the Jakarta Post, Aug 9, on Sulawesi by A. Hajramurni; (2) BBC, Aug 12, on Cambodia by R. Walker; and (3) BBC, Aug 5, on Africa by K. Hunt.
by Andi Hajramurni, by Robert Walker, and by Katie Hunt
Villagers clash with police in South Sulawesi
Villagers clashed Sunday with local police at a sugarcane plantation field in Takalar regency, South Sulawesi, which belongs to the State Plantation Company (PTPN) XIV, wounding 10 people.
Six of the injured people were civilians and the rest were police officers.
The brawl began when villagers banned PTPN XIV workers from the plantation field in Timbuseng village, North Polongbangkeng district. Villagers claimed they owned the land. Police came to break up the two parties.
Then someone threw a stone to the villagers, who responded by throwing more stones to the police. Police then hunted the villagers who ran to residential areas.
The villagers re-grouped, returned to the plantation field, and fought against the police.
The land rent agreement ended two years ago. PTPN XIV spokesman Bahrun said his firm had a land usage permit, due on 2024 from the Takalar regency administration. “So if anyone claims that they own the land, they should take legal action.”
JJS: Their legal action should downplay ownership and emphasize sharing the rent. When rent is shared broadly, one has less motive to try to monopolize the land.
Cambodia: A land up for sale?
In north eastern Cambodia for the past five years, the Jarai people of Kong Yu village have been fighting for, and losing, their land.
Local officials said they wanted to give part of the land to disabled soldiers. They said if you don't give us the land, we'll take it. So farmers agreed to give them 50 hectares.
The villagers were invited to a party and when many of them were drunk they were asked to put their thumbprints on documents. "Most of us don't know how to read or write, and the chiefs did not explain what the thumbprints were for," said Mr Fil. The villagers later found they had signed away more than 400 hectares -- and the land was not for disabled soldiers, but a private company who began making way for a rubber plantation.
Businesswoman Keat Kolney insists she bought the land legally. She is married to a senior official in the ministry of land management. It is not the only case where those closely connected to senior government figures have taken land from poor Cambodians.
Chamran, a farmer in the area, said “we organized a demonstration. The military police pointed a gun in my stomach and said if you hold another demonstration we will kill you."
Beginning in the 1990s, large swathes of the country's rich forests were bought up by logging companies. Now mining and gas concessions are being granted to insiders. Global Witness says members of the government, right up to the highest levels, are using Cambodia and its assets as their own personal slush fund.
Cambodia's recent stability, following decades of violence, has attracted a rapid boom in tourism and a race for prime real estate on which to build new resorts. Many of the country's beaches have already been bought up.
Rights groups estimate that 30,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in the capital Phnom Penh over the past five years to make way for new developments. The UN estimates hundreds of thousands of Cambodians are now affected by land disputes.
JJS: If landowner, government, and military act in concert, aren’t they really one body, as they’ve always been, since hunting and gathering ended?
Africa investment sparks land grab fear
African land has rarely been associated with financial reward. But population increase, changes in eating habits, and demand for bio-fuels are putting sub-Saharan farmland at a premium worldwide while its prices are the lowest in the world.
Countries short of arable land, such as China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Kuwait, have been seeking agricultural investments in Africa.
South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics was forced to abandon a project to lease one million acres of land in Madagascar to produce corn earlier this year. The country's new president scrapped the deal following criticism that local people had not been consulted, and Daewoo was unsettled by unrest on the island.
LAND PRICES PER HECTARE
Sub-Saharan Africa - $800 to $1000
Argentina/Brazil - $5,000 - $,6000
Poland - $6000
US - $7000
UK - $18,000
Germany - $22,000
"We only operate in counties where we can have clear land title. If we can't get this, or we don't have a 99-year lease from the government, then we won't operate in that country," investor Ms. Payne says.
Investors say their ownership leads to better harvests and creates jobs paying above-average wages.
For now, the vast majority of the food stays in the country in which it is produced although it can be exported.
Since the state often owns the land and favors the investor, they’re prone to push out the poor.
As Africa's land becomes more sought after by international investors, the risk only grows that a continent that has often extended a begging bowl to the world could instead feed its richer neighbors.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
A cost benefit analysis of trees vs logs
Can't rise out of poverty when one must pay bribes
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