Amid African Famine, Hedge Funds Buy Massive Tracts of Farm Land07:49
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A woman from southern Somalia holds tree branches for her makeshift shelter at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. (AP)
A woman from southern Somalia holds tree branches for her makeshift shelter at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. (AP)

Western hedge funds have begun buying up vast parcels of land all over Africa  (148 million acres in the last three years alone) according to a series of new reports by the Oakland Institute — that's an area larger than California. According to the reports, the purchases are displacing millions of Africans from fertile farmland and the land is often used to produce export commodities, including biofuels, cut flowers and specialized foods.

Researchers say that they have looked at the contracts and found clauses that allow foreign companies to keep exporting as much as 80 percent of what is grown on the acquired land even if the host country is experiencing food shortages.

Lead researcher Anuradha Mittal tells Here and Now's Robin Young that "the companies boast they can make a profit even without growing anything on the land," because of the way the contracts are written.

"With the collapse of the housing market, there is a drive for the new commodity to invest in,
Mittal said. "These hedge funds are promising returns of 25 to 40 percent."

Mittal called this the new investment bubble.

Guest:

  • Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the progressive think tank, the Oakland Institute.

This segment aired on August 10, 2011.

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