Some Kyrgyz disapprove of renting land to Kazakhstan
A Woman Burns in China, a Village Heals in Africa
China’s land grab drives some to suicide while some Africans are actually resolving land disputes. To settle disputes permanently -- and in a way that fosters development -- society needs geonomics, or, mutual compensation, whereby members of society pay land dues (not taxes on earnings) and receive rent dividends (no more subsidies to special interests). We trim, blend, and append four 2010 articles from: (1) New York Times, Jan 25, on China by Roger Cohen; (2) BBC, Jan 30, on Kazakhs by Rayhan Demytrie; (3) News Agency ETH, Jan 19, on Kyrgyz; and (4) Christian Science Monitor, Jan 30 on Africa by Jina Moore.
by R. Cohen, by R. Demytrie, by ETH, and by J. Moore
A Woman Burns
A familiar conflict in China stems from the confluence of murky property rights, soaring real estate prices, land-hungry businessmen, and rampant corruption linking party officials with developers.
The financial interests of a lot of powerful people hinge on China’s real estate boom. That’s where the big capital gains are.
The self-immolation of a woman evicted was caught on video by a neighbor and spread across the Internet. An outcry ensued. A local inquiry found the demolition process legal, but deemed the eviction “mismanaged” and a city official was fired.
Professors at Beijing University Law School wrote to the People’s Congress, in theory the highest legislative body, suggesting changes to the law to ensure compensation is adequate, that it’s paid before demolition, that violence is never used, and that owners can sue to contest eviction rulings.
Across China, anger rages at the real estate game in which the party plays such a central role. On a vast half-built development in Chongqing, a dozen banners had been draped from windows: “Try to support our peasant brothers in getting the blood, sweat and tears money owed to them by the developers.”
In Chengdu, on entire city blocks marked for demolition, there were banners urging China’s leaders to “reflect the wishes of the people” by reforming the way land is acquired.
Meanwhile, property seizures continue apace.
JJS: What elites do to their compatriots, they do to other nations as well.
Kazakhs protest against China farmland leased
Several hundred people have gathered in the Kazakh city of Almaty to protest against what they call "Chinese expansionism".
China, a leading investor in oil-rich Kazakhstan, seeks to lease Kazakh farmland.
Kazakhstan shares part of its eastern border with China. Despite being one of the largest countries in the world it has a population of just 16 million.
The protest follows the announcement by the country's leadership of a proposal to lease land to China.
Public demonstrations are usually banned in Kazakhstan. Despite this meeting being sanctioned by the authorities there was a heavy police presence.
JJS: What big nations do to their neighbors, little nations do to theirs, as well.
Kyrgyz parliamentary committee approves renting land to Kazakhstan
The Parliamentary Committee for Agrarian Policy, Environment and Regional Development today ratified the agreement with the Government of Kazakhstan on land rent.
Kazakhstan will have to pay rent in form of land tax and other taxes. The amount is the same for foreigners as for Kyrgyz citizens. The price for 1 hectare is 24 thousand som.
Suerkul Bakirov, Secretary of the State Property Ministry, said not all land issues have not been resolved so far.
JJS: China’s and India’s land grab in Africa contributes to tension there.
Africa's continental divide: land disputes
Only 20% of Africa's land is arable. What can be cultivated is quickly being swallowed up by countries like China and India, whose populations outstrip their agricultural capacity. Since 2004, 2.5 million acres of land have been allocated by five African governments to foreign countries, often without compensating farmers with traditional claims to that land. Meanwhile, Africa's population is swelling; it's expected to double to nearly 2 billion within 40 years.
Roughly 90% of rural Africa -- 500 million people -- have access to their land because their ancestors did. In the old system, an entire community owned land, managed by the elders.
Colonial rulers brought private property: Those who walked away with legal deeds for the land and those who worked on those lands for generations were usually not the same people.
In the Congo, Burundi, and others, government is corrupt. Those who have the most power take rights from the people who have the least power.
Scientists, field officers, and academics urge governments, the United Nations, and activists, to settle land disputes before they turn into war.
* The Rwandan genocide, some argue, was as much about the dwindling land availability in Africa's most densely populated country as it was about enmity between ethnic groups.
* The wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia saw land grabs by warlords.
* The violence following Kenya's 2007 election reflected generations of dissatisfaction with land policy that favored different ethnic groups.
* Beneath the genocide in Darfur is a broken land tenure system struggling against climate change that is making soil increasingly unproductive.
* Somalia's pirates hide behind political chaos in the country, whose warring clans fight for lands.
* And beneath last week’s Muslim-Christian riots, which killed at least 260 people in Nigeria are grievances about land.
By the time land conflict gets an international audience, talk turns to tribe and ethnicity or local politics and corruption. Nonprofits focus on the worst symptoms -- refugees, rapes, massacres. They miss the structural problem that can, it turns out, be solved.
Ethiopia is legalizing customary land holdings, essentially giving traditional arrangements the same legal weight as deeds. Tanzania is leaving local communities in control of the land around them. Botswana is experimenting with community-based land negotiations. Across Africa communities are brokering solutions to land conflict.
The government of Malawi has worked with the World Bank to provide funds for communities to purchase portions of large estates and distribute them to new households. Rwanda is giving women the right to hold property.
Fixing the land problem may lay the foundation for fixing so many others. If farmers feel their claims to plots are sound, if social groups feel land policies are impartial and just, and if women and men have equal rights to the soil, famine and ethnic conflict will be easier to treat. With land security comes stability, and with stability, Africa has the potential to ease poverty. The end of land conflict might just mark the ascent of Africa.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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