ActionAid USA celebrates collapse of Bagamoyo sugar project

ActionAid USA which has been campaigning against the project because of allegations of land grabbing by the Swedish company, hailed the collapse saying its victory for poor communities of Bagamoyo.

“The project is part of a large-scale agriculture initiative championed by the Obama administration and threatened to displace 1,300 farmers,” ActionAid USA said in a statement to celebrate the government’s decision to scrap the project which has been facing frustrations since 2008.

Praising its team of activists and donors for the success, ActionAid USA said the campaign petitioned US President Barack Obama’s administration.

The project was expected to produce 130,000 metric tons of sugar, 100,000 megawatts hours of electricity and 10 million liters of ethanol.

“Last year, we presented the Obama administration with nearly 6,000 signatures objecting to the Bagamoyo project and the New Alliance,” Doug Hertzler who is Senior Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA, said in the statement.

He said the petition opened the door for a meeting with Gayle Smith, President Obama’s advisor on global development issues where the issue was officially presented.

“Together with our local partners from Tanzania, we amplified the voices of local farmers at risk from forced evictions by other New Alliance projects,” Hertzler said.

The ActionAid USA Senior Policy Analyst said his team visited a longstanding local rice project that had been originally established with Japanese assistance in Bagamoyo which has since been strengthened with new public investment in the irrigation system.

“We want to see more of these projects, with governments and local communities determining the best way to develop the disputed land in Bagamoyo to meet local needs and build a strong system of local food production,” he argued.

He however pointed out that although the project has been scrapped, the fate of the land that had been grabbed in the coastal district is still not clear although some of the land included in the project has officially been recognized as belonging to local villages.

“These communities should be rightfully recognized as legitimate land rights holders,” the ActionAid USA official stressed while requesting sponsors to back the campaign to ensure that Bagamoyo farmers take back their land through donations.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance provides aid money from the G8 countries and the European Union, aiming to lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 partner countries in Africa.

It is based on the assumption that corporate investment in agriculture will increase production and automatically improve food security and reduce poverty.

But the initiative has been widely criticised by civil society organisations across the world for facilitating the grabbing of land and natural resources, undermining small-scale farmers and their right to adequate food and nutrition, and accelerating seed privatisation.

Agro EcoEnergy (T) Limited was registered in 2007 as a subsidiary of Swedish based EcoEnergy Africa AB. Agro EcoEnergy in turn formed a special purpose project company called Bagamoyo EcoEnergy Ltd (BEE) with the expressed purpose of developing a modern sugar cane plantation and factory producing sugar, ethanol and power for the local market.