Black Gold


Title Black Gold
Director(s) Marc & Nick Francis
Date released (year) 2006
Production company Speak-It   Films and Fulcrum Productions.
Length 78 minutes
Location Ethiopia
Keywords/tags Food, trade, neoliberalism, poverty
Link to film  

Synopsis From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13):

‘As westerners revel in   designer lattes and cappuccinos, impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers suffer   the bitter taste of injustice. In this eye-opening expose of the   multi-billion dollar industry, Black Gold traces one man’s fight for a fair   price (Source: Anon nda link).

The film follows Tadesse   Meskela, an Ethiopian man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee   farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest   quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world   in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price. Against the   backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of   the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes   apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and   the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal   the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for   his farmers (Source: Anon 2010).

Scenes in the film switch   between the disadvantaged coffee farming communities to the daily lives of   those at the luxury to consume it, which often exemplifies the absurdity   found in those gushing about the great wealth of a market built off the backs   of farmers who continue to live in poverty (Source: Reed 2008).

The spokesman, Tadesse   Meskela, who is the subject of Black Gold, together with the film’s English   makers, brothers Nick and Marc Francis, are a serious irritant to some of the   world’s coffee giants – in particular Seattle-based Starbucks, whose annual   turnover of $7.8bn (£4bn) is not much lower than Ethiopia’s entire gross   domestic product… ‘Our people are barefoot, have no school, no clean water or   health centre. They are living hand to mouth. We need $4 a pound minimum,   that’s only fair…Starbucks may help bring clear water for one community but   this does not solve the problem. In 2005, Starbucks’ aid to the third world   was $1.5m. We don’t want this kind of support, we just want a better price.   They make huge profits; giving us just one payment of money does not help,’   said Mr. Meskela (Source: Seager 2007 link).

By way of the farmers in the   cooperative and Tadesse’s efforts on their behalf, the film exposes the web   of trade regulations that keep farmers in developing countries poor, even   while transnational corporations in the global north prosper. Women   painstakingly sort millions of beans; and viewers observe the hunger and   substandard housing that accompany poverty. Juxtaposed with these images are   the cosmopolitan cafés of Europe and America, the comfort of conspicuous   consumption, the places of commerce where deprivation in one part of the   globe is turned into the wealth of another (Source: Fellner 2008 link).’


Reviews/discussion From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13):

‘When Marc and Nick Francis   were making Black Gold, they never expected the story – about the plight of   African coffee farmers paid a fraction of the amount a latte or cappuccino   costs – to attract the very multinationals the film criticises. ‘They want to   hear what the audience thinks,’ Nick Francis says. ‘We had this screening in   Seattle, and the head of corporate responsibility of Starbucks came to the   screening and participated in a panel and answered questions from the   audience. That’s what you call the power of film – how a film could draw in   people.’ … The film has prompted rounds of crisis management sessions at   coffee-shop chains such as Starbucks, which issued a statement calling the   film inaccurate and incomplete. Since the film’s release, the chain has also   actively promoted a new range of ‘Fair Trade’ coffee in its outlets around   the world, including those in Hong Kong. The filmmakers are surprised by the   chain’s response to their film. ‘It’s not a film about Starbucks, it’s a film   about coffee farmers struggling to survive in the coffee industry, and their   story is set against the backdrop of the coffee-consuming world of the west,   of which Starbucks is a part,’ Marc Francis says. ‘We didn’t tell it so much   about them but they’ve taken it very personally. Also, we did spend six   months trying to interview not just Starbucks but other big multinational   coffee companies to bring their side of the stories to the film. But they’ve   given us no response. Now that the film is out there and is beginning to pick   up public momentum, the companies are responding more and more to the film –   or trying to show [through] public relations where they position themselves’   (Source: Tsui 2007a).

’Black Gold’ portrays the   coffee industry as a whole, rather than Starbucks specifically. From our   point of view, this film is inaccurate and incomplete, as it does not explain   how Starbucks purchases coffee, nor does it provide any reference to   potential solutions to the world coffee crisis… Starbucks takes an integrated   approach to coffee purchasing. Our goal is to pay premium prices that provide   the coffee farmer with a profit. In our financial year 2006, we paid an   average price of $1.42 per pound for our coffee, 40% above the commodity   price and comparable with the guaranteed Fairtrade price of $1.26. Our   approach… [has] been recognised for…leadership within the industry (Source:   Starbucks 2007).

We are surprised that   Starbucks have gone out to discredit the film again. This is not a film   specifically about Starbucks, it’s a film about the winners and losers in the   global coffee industry and it shows the daily reality for millions of coffee   farmers. We spent six months during the production trying to persuade   Starbucks to participate in the film to give them the opportunity to explain   how they buy their coffee and how they work in Ethiopia, but they declined   our invitation. In a subsequent meeting with five senior Starbucks executives   at their Seattle headquarters, we asked them to tell us the exact price they   pay farmers for a pound of coffee – but they refused to disclose this   (Source: Francis & Francis 2007 link).

During the film’s most   painful sequence, his [Tadesse’s] efforts and Ethiopia’s persistent, crushing   famine are juxtaposed with the vapidly cheerful corp-speak of two Starbucks   baristas (Source: Hornaday 2006).

Yes, the baristas are   excessively perky as they purvey coffee and the Starbucks experience; yet   they are also model employees, supportive of each other, efficient, and proud   of their company. At the time of the filming, the young women were   entertaining a tour from the Specialty Coffee Association, to which the   filmmakers had attached themselves to avoid asking Starbucks or its employees   for permission to film. How could these young women know that they would be   featured as unwitting symbols of the harm that transnational coffee giants   inflict on poor Ethiopian farmers? (Source: Fellner 2008 link).

The Francis brothers are   good on showing the situation’s local effects – famine, ill-equipped schools   – but less so at analyzing the international economic context: the film is   frighteningly free of expert voices. More dynamism and knowledge in the   telling and fewer cheap shots at young Starbucks workers in Seattle wouldn’t   have gone amiss (Source: Calhoun 2007, np).

The baristas and shopkeepers   that the film ridicules through artful editing are the very people who are   the farmers’ best hope for teaching the public about the true value of these   coffees (Source: Marshall 2006 link).

While it may prompt some to   think again next time they’re in Starbucks, this astute insight into the   coffee business is better at lauding the good guys than taking the   multinationals to task for the iniquities of the global economy (Source:   Parkinson 2006 link).

Although some scenes   register with strong impact, there also seems to be a lot of padding, and the   overall narrative is ultimately too diffused and unfocused for the film to   have the sociological impact it so obviously desires (Source: Scheck 2006).

Compared to a documentary   like Darwin’s Nightmare, which found disturbing visual analogues for the   moral rot of global trade, Black Gold makes most of its points in words, not   pictures. (Source: Murray 2006 link)

The movie’s approach reminds   me that of the paternalistic and Western-centred [sic] 1970s-style theories   according to which only colonialism and international market (i.e. ‘us’ the   Western world) are to blame, and no others’ power and responsibilities are   recognised. Likewise, there is no mention in the movie of the roles that the   Ethiopian State could play in economic development and, for instance,   education (Source: Chiari 2007 link).

[I] found it confusing to   people outside the coffee field, partial, and intellectually not particularly   honest…In my opinion, the film completely overlooks factors such as   historical events (the Mengistu dictatorship which ruined plantations and the   coffee free flow), inept procedures such as the bureaucracy surrounding the   auctions system which hardly allows enough time for buyers to evaluate the   lots), and also the ever present corruption, probably less in Ethiopia than   in other parts of Africa, but then why generalize in the end with statements   about Africa’s share of world trade? (Source: cofyknsult 2006 link).’

Further Reading

Anon (nda) The DVD. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (ndb) Black Gold: wake   up and smell the coffee. (   last accessed j March 2011)

Anon (ndc) Black Gold:   sowing the seeds for change. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (2007) Ethiopia: smell   the exploitation. Africa News 25 December

Anon (2008a) Trademarking:   grown in Ethiopia. Marketing Week April 24, p.16

Anon (2008b) Ethiopia: Black   Gold premiere.   Africa News 24 March

Anon (2010) Mayor will take   to stage at screening to receive town’s award. Todmorden News (UK) 4   March

Calhoun, D. (2007) Black   Gold: movie review. Time Out New York 6 June (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Chiari, G.P. (2007) Black   Gold forums: about the movie’s paternalistic approach.   8 December (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

cofyknsult (2006) Black Gold   forums: the film completely overlooks key factors.   24 October (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Cycon, D. (2007) Javatrekker:   dispatches from the world of fair trade coffee. White River   Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing

Doane, M. (2010)   Relationship coffees. Structure and agency in the fair trade system. in Lyon,   S. and Moberg, M. (eds) Fair trade and social justice: global ethnographies. New   York: New York University Press

Fellner, K. (2008) Starbucks   vs Ethiopia.   Foreign Policy in Focus 15 September (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (nda) Black Gold: filmmaker Q&A. PBS Independent Lens (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (ndb) Directors’ statement. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2006) Black Gold – Fair Trade, Sundance, and Starbucks’ ‘Charm Offensive’   in Park City.   Huffington Post 2 February (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2007) Starbucks issue press statement about Black Gold: filmmakers   respond.   16 January (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Hornaday, A. (2006) A spike   in supply chain muckraking: films explore economy’s social costs. Washington   Post 10 December

Marshall (2006) Black Gold   forums: guilt & ridicule. 25 November (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Murray, N. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. The   Onion A.V. Club 5 October (,3766/   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Parkinson, D. (2007) Review   of Black Gold. Empire (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Reed, N. (2008) Wal-mart   executives discuss future of ‘Black Gold’ at U. Arkansas. University Wire   (USA) 7 April

Scheck, F. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. Hollywood   Reporter 11 October

Seager, A (2007) Starbucks   stirred by fair trade film. The Guardian (UK) 29 January (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Starbucks (2007) Starbucks   statement on Black Gold film. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre [download]

Tsui, C. (2007a) Film raises   hackles in the coffee shops of power. South China Morning Post 3 April, p.4

Tsui, C. (2007b) Using the   plot.   South China Morning Post 26 March, p.5

Source: From Tesfaye, B.   & Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13)

Links to other resources Oromia Coffee Union: Farmers cooperative union website ( under   construction 12 March 2011)

New Internationalist shop: Oromia Coffee Union products (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on Oxfam’s ‘Make trade fair’ campaign website (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   Movie website ( last   accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   YouTube channel (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on US PBS TV ‘Independent lens’ series website (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

Starbucks’   ‘Corporate social responsibility’ webpage (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa

Title Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Danwatch
Length 5.11mins
Location West Africa
Keywords/tags Toxic waste
Link to film
Synopsis This investigative film produced by CI’s corporate watchdog partner   DanWatch reveals how a staggering 500,000 used PCs arrive in Lagos every   month – 75% of which go straight to landfill. This is just the tip of the 6.6   million tons of European e-waste dumped on the developing world every year,   despite international bans.
Reviews/discussion Greenpeace’s   supporting discussion:

How does it get to   Ghana?

Containers filled with old and often broken   computers, monitors and TVs – from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell,   Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony – arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea,   Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand   goods”. Exporting e-waste from Europe is illegal but exporting old   electronics for ‘reuse’ allows unscrupulous traders to profit from dumping   old electronics in Ghana. The majority of the containers’ contents end up in   Ghana’s scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers. Some traders report that   to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept   broken junk like old screens in the same container from exporters in   developed countries.

What’s the   solution?

While working computers and mobile phones   can have a new lease of life in some African countries, they create pollution   when thrown away due to the high levels of toxic chemicals they contain. This   is why we are pressuring the biggest electronic companies to   phase out toxic chemicals and introduce global recycling schemes. Both of   these steps are vital to tackle the growing tide of toxic e-waste.

Some companies are making progress towards   taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. However, Philips and Sharp stand out for refusing to accept that they are   responsible for recycling their old products. The stance of these powerful   multinationals is ensuring there will always be a digital divide that they   prefer remains hidden, a dangerous divide with unprotected workers in   developing countries left with the toxic legacy.

Behind the story

Mid-2008   a Greenpeace team including campaigner Kim Schoppink and photographer Kate   Davison went to Ghana to document and gather evidence of what really happens   to our electronic waste.


Links to other resources Earth Times:

Fabrice Babin’s 2011 film on e-waste in Ghana:

The Story of Electronics :

Africa: States of independence – the scramble for Africa

Title Africa: States of   independence – the scramble for Africa
Date released (year) 2010


Production company AlJazeeraEnglish
Length 45mins
Location Africa
Keywords/tags Africa
Link to film
Synopsis Seventeen   African nations gained their independence in 1960, but the dreams of the   independence era were short-lived.

This film tells the story of some of those countries – stories of mass   exploitation, of the ecstasy of independence and of how – with liberation – a   new, covert scramble for resources was born.

Reviews/discussion Whether in bustling cities or remote   villages, the 1880s and 1890s were years of terrifying upheaval for Africans.   Fleet upon fleet of foreign soldiers armed with new weaponry – and a sense of   entitlement – descended, seemingly overnight.

In the space of just 20 years, 90 per cent of Africa was brought under   European occupation. Europe had captured a continent.

Europe was in the throes of the Industrial   Revolution. The advent of the machine was transforming the cities there into   the workshop of the world – a workshop in need of raw materials. It was the   dawn of industrial-scale production, modern capitalist economies and mass   international trade. And in this new industrial era the value of Africa   rocketed – not only for its materials and as a strategic trade route, but   also as a market for the goods Europe now produced in bulk.

But the scramble for Africa was not just about economics. Colonialism had   become the fast-track to political supremacy in Europe. Rival European powers   convened in the German capital and in February 1885 signed the Act of Berlin   – an agreement to abolish slavery and allow free trade. The act also drew new   borders on the map of Africa, awarding territory to each European power –   thus legalising the scramble for Africa.

But with the Second World War – which saw the peak of Europe’s dependency on   African troops – a powerful genie was released from a bottle – African   nationalism. The tipping point came on February 3, 1960, when Harold   Macmillan, the British prime minister, gave his ‘wind of change’ speech.   Within 10 months, Britain had surrendered two key African territories and   France 14. The rate of decolonisation when it arrived was breathtaking.

Seventeen African nations gained their independence in 1960, but the dreams   of the independence era were short-lived. Africa … states of   independence tells the story of some of those countries – stories of mass   exploitation, of the ecstasy of independence and of how – with liberation – a   new, covert scramble for resources was born.


BRICS bloc’s rising ‘sub-imperialism’

Is this the latest threat   to Africa?

Patrick Bond

2012-11-29, Issue 608

Like   Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up Africa   more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided as   ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights.

The heads of state of the   Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) network of governments are   coming to Durban, South Africa, in four months, meeting on March 26-27 at the   International Convention Centre (ICC), Africa’s largest venue. Given their   recent performance, it is reasonable to expect another “1%” summit, wreaking   socioeconomic and ecological havoc. And that means it is time for the first   BRICS countersummit, to critique top-down “sub-imperialist” bloc formation,   and to offer bottom-up alternatives.

After all, we have had some bad experiences at the Durban ICC.

In 2001, in spite of demands by 10,000 protesters, the United Nations World   Conference Against Racism refused to grapple with reparations for slavery and   colonialism or with apartheid-Israel’s racism against Palestinians (hence Tel   Aviv’s current ethnic cleansing of Gaza goes unpunished).

The African Union got off to a bad start here, with its 2002 launch, due to   reliance on the neoliberal New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad)   promoted by Pretoria.

The 2003 World Economic Forum’s African regional meeting hastened   governments’ supplication to multinational corporate interests in spite of   protests.

In 2011, Durban’s UN COP17 climate summit – better known as the ‘Conference   of Polluters’ – featured Washington’s sabotage, with no new emissions cuts   and an attempted revival of the non-solution called ‘carbon trading’, also   called ‘the privatisation of the air’.


Like Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up   Africa more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided   as “Western” concerns about democracy and human rights. Reading between the   lines, its resolutions will:

– support favoured corporations’ extraction and land-grab strategies;

– worsen Africa’s retail-driven deindustrialisation (South Africa’s Shoprite and   Makro – soon to be run by Walmart – are already notorious in many capital   cities for importing even simple products that could be supplied locally);

– revive failed projects such as Nepad; and

– confirm the financing of both land grabbing and the extension of   neocolonial infrastructure through a new ‘BRICS Development Bank’, likely to   be based just north of Johannesburg where the Development Bank of Southern   Africa already does so much damage following Washington’s script.

The question is whether in exchange for the Durban summit amplifying such   destructive tendencies, which appears certain, can those few of Africa’s   elites who may be invited leverage any greater influence in world economic   management via the BRICS? With South Africa’s finance minister Pravin   Gordhan’s regular critiques of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund   (IMF), there is certainly potential for BRICS to “talk left” about the   global-governance democracy deficit.

But watch the ‘walk right’ carefully. In the vote for World Bank president   earlier this year, for example, Pretoria’s choice was hard-core Washington   ideologue Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister who with IMF   managing director Christine Lagarde catalysed the Occupy movement’s near   revolution in January, with a removal of petrol subsidies. Brasilia chose the   moderate economist Jose Antonio Ocampo and Moscow backed Washington’s choice:   Jim Yong Kim.

This was a repeat of the prior year’s fiasco in the race for IMF managing   director, won by Lagarde in spite of ongoing corruption investigations   against her by French courts, because the Third World was divided and   conquered. BRICS appeared in both cases as incompetent, unable to even agree   on a sole candidate, much less win their case in Washington.

Yet in July, BRICS treasuries sent US$100 billion in new capital to the IMF,   which was seeking new systems of bail-out for banks exposed in Europe. South   Africa’s contribution was only $2 billion, a huge sum for Gordhan to muster   against local trade union opposition. Explaining the South African   contribution – initially he said it would be only one tenth as large –   Gordhan told Moneyweb last year that it was on condition that the IMF became   more “nasty” [sic] to desperate European borrowers, as if the Greek, Spanish,   Portuguese and Irish poor and working people were not suffering enough.

And the result of this BRICS intervention is that China gains IMF voting   power, but Africa actually loses a substantial fraction of its share. Even   Gordhan admitted at last month’s Tokyo meeting of the IMF and world Bank that   it is likely “the vast majority of emerging and developing countries will   lose quota shares – an outcome that will perpetuate the democratic deficit.”   And given “the crisis of legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the   IMF”, it “is simply untenable” that Africa only has two seats for its 45   member countries.

Likewise, South Africa’s role in Africa has been “nasty”, as confirmed when   Nepad was deemed “philosophically spot on” by lead US State Department Africa   official Walter Kansteiner in 2003, and foisted privatisation of even basic   services on the continent. In a telling incident this year, the Johannesburg   parastatal firm Rand Water was forced to leave Ghana after failing – with a   Dutch for-profit partner (Aqua Vitens) – to improve Accra’s water supply, as   also happened in Maputo, Mozambique, (Saur from Paris) and Dar es Salaam   (Biwater from London) in Tanzania.

As a matter of principle, BRICS appears hell bent on promoting the further   commodification of life, at a time when the greatest victory won by ordinary   Africans in the last decade is under attack: the winning of the Treatment   Action Campaign’s demand for affordable access to AIDS medicines, via India’s   cheap generic versions of drugs. A decade ago, they cost $10,000 per person   per year and only a tiny fraction of desperate people received the medicines.   Now, more than 1.5 million South Africans – and millions more in the rest of   Africa – get treatment, thus raising the South Africa’s average life   expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 60 today, according to reliable statistics   released this month.

However, in recent months, Obama has put an intense squeeze on India to cut   back on generic medicine R&D and production, as well as making deep cuts   in his own government’s aid commitment to fund African healthcare. In Durban,   the city that is home to the most HIV+ people in the world, Obama’s move   resulted in this year’s closure of AIDS public treatment centres at three   crucial sites. One was the city’s McCord Hospital, which ironically was a   long-standing ally of the NGO Partners in Health, whose cofounder was Obama’s   pick for World Bank president, Jim Kim.


Links to other resources Thomas Pakenham (1992) The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s   Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. See:  


World Bank Refuses to Stop   Funding African Land Grabs, October 8, 2012, African Globe.  Source:

Activists Challenge African ‘Land Grab’


Title Activists Challenge African ‘Land Grab’
Date released (year) 2012


Production company TheRealNews
Length 5 mins
Keywords/tags Land grabs, activism, social   movements, neoliberalism, neocolonialism
Link to film
Synopsis The World   Bank and Wall Street firms targeted for African land deals displacing   hundreds of thousands.
Reviews/discussion From John   Vidal and Claire Provost,,   Monday   23 April 2012:

Campaigners claim World Bank helps facilitate land grabs in Africa

Food shortages and   rural deprivation exacerbated by World Bank policy, says NGO ahead of land   and poverty conference

Forest clearing takes   place on a plot of land in Uganda that has fallen into the hands of a palm   tree plantation owner. Photograph: Jason Taylor/FOEI/ATI

The World   Bank is helping corporations and international investors snap up   cheap land in Africa   and developing countries worldwide at the expense of local communities,   environment and farm groups said in a statement released on Monday to   coincide with the bank’s annual land and poverty conference in Washington DC.

According to the groups, which include NGO Friends of the Earth   International (FOEI) and international peasants’ group La Via Campesina,   decades of World Bank policies have pushed African and other governments to   privatise land and focus on industrial farming. In addition, they say, the   bank is playing a “key role” in the global rush for farmland by   providing capital and guarantees to big multinational investors.

“The result has often been … people forced off land they have   traditionally farmed for generations, more rural poverty and greater risk of   food shortages”, said FOEI in a separate report launched   ahead of the World Bank conference.

The event, which promises to focus on “land governance in a rapidly   changing environment”, is billed as a forum to discuss “innovative   approaches” to land governance challenges including climate change, the   growing demand for key natural resources, and rapid urbanisation. But   campaigners say the conference mistakenly focuses on how to improve   large-scale land deals rather than on helping local communities to secure or   retain access to their land.

The FOEI report suggests land grabbing is intensifying and spreading,   especially in rural areas of Africa and Asia. “High levels of demand for   land have pushed up prices, bringing investment banks and speculators into   farming,” it says.

“The World Bank’s policies for land privatisation and concentration   have paved the way for corporations from Wall Street to Singapore to take   upwards of 80m hectares (197.6 acres) of land from rural communities across   the world in the past few years,” said the groups in a statement   accusing the bank of promoting “corporate-oriented rather than   people-centred” policies and laws.

In 2010, the World Bank spearheaded the development of new principles for   responsible agricultural investment to better ensure that land deals respect   local rights, livelihoods and resources; these guidelines have also been   criticised for legitimising, rather than challenging, the global rush for   land.

Allegations of land-grabbing have hit countries around the world and have   been accompanied by growing concern about whether large-scale land deals are   delivering promised income and employment for local people. This week, a   coalition of NGOs and research institutes is expected to release the latest   findings of the Land Matrix project, which has attempted to systematically   document recent land acquisitions.

Current estimates suggest that 80-230m hectares of land have been leased   or bought in recent years, largely to produce food, feed or fuel for the   international market.

World Bank money has been involved in many recent international land deals, says the FOEI   report. In Uganda, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the bank’s   private sector lending arm, contributed $10m for a project to clear 10,000   hectares of land for palm oil plantations on Bugala Island in Lake Victoria.

But FOEI research has shown that local people were prevented from   accessing water sources and grazing land, suggesting that – despite promises   of employment – many people have lost their means of livelihood.

Resistance to land grabs is growing: Harvard University has come under   intense pressure to ensure its investments do not contribute to land grabs in   Africa, while Iowa State University has withdrawn from a deal in Tanzania   that could have displaced an estimated 160,000 people. In South Sudan, the   government halted a land deal after local communities erupted in protest,   saying their lands had been secretly leased to an American company.

This month, farmers and land   rights activists from across Sierra Leone converged on the   country’s capital for a national assembly of communities   affected by large-scale land deals, where groups launched a new   civil-society watchdog to monitor agribusiness investments. The meeting   followed the first international farmers’ conference   to tackle land grabs, held in Selingue, southern Mali, in late 2011.

On Tuesday, food justice activists, environmental organisations, students   and Occupy Wall Street groups are set to gather in front of New York’s   Waldorf Astoria hotel to challenge the fourth annual Global AgInvesting (GAI)   conference, where institutional investors and fund managers are meeting to   discuss opportunities for agricultural investments overseas.

“Governments around the world need to stop land grabbing, not just   try to mitigate its worst impacts. Governments must abide by their human   rights obligations on land and drastically reduce demand for commodities such   as palm oil from the west,” said Kirtana Chandrasekaran, FOEI’s food   sovereignty co-ordinator.

David Kureeba, from the Ugandan national association of professional   environmentalists, said: “People’s rights to land [in Uganda] are being   demolished. Small-scale farming and forestry that protected unique wildlife,   heritage and food is being converted to palm oil wastelands that only profit   agribusinesses.”

Government officials, civil society, experts and the private sector will   gather at the World Bank conference, which ends on Thursday, to discuss   large-scale land aquisitions, land governance in the context of climate   change, and rapid urbanisation.



Future Agricultures Policy briefing, 2011: Land Grabbing in Africa (…)


Africa, a continent plagued by   chronic food insecurity, is now considered to be the future breadbasket of   the world, and is expected to help meet its rising food needs. In the process   of cashing in on the opportunities offered by cheap land and water,   large-scale investors are displacing land uses and land users in ways that could   aggravate the already severe challenges of rural poverty and hunger.

The rise of ‘land grabbing’ or   ‘responsibleagricultural investment’ in Africa is undoubtedly one of the   great challenges of our time for development in the continent. The deals   being made now are remaking the map of food production

and food distribution, in   Africa and globally. What happens over the next few years—acceleration or   reversal, regulation or laissez-faire, better governance or substantive   changes in agricultural policy—will determine to a great extent the future of   poverty and hunger in Africa.




Links to other resources World   Bank Refuses to Stop Funding African Land Grabs, October 8, 2012, African Globe.


Nigerian Activist Nnimmo Bassey Calls US Emissions Stance “A Death Sentence”


Title Nigerian Activist Nnimmo Bassey   Calls US Emissions Stance “A Death Sentence”
Date released (year) 2011
Production company DemocracyNow
Length 10.15mins
Location South Africa
Keywords/tags Climate change, global warming,   protest, climate justice, Kyoto Protocol, COP17
Link to film
Synopsis Democracy Now! continues its   week-long coverage from the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 17   in Durban, where negotiators from more than 190 nations are gathered. The   future of the Kyoto Protocol is in doubt as is the formation of a new Green   Climate Fund. With the talks taking place in South Africa, special interest   is being paid to how the continent of Africa is already being heavily   impacted by the climate crisis. Democracy Now! speaks to Nigerian   environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights   Action in Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International. He is   author of the new book, “To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and   Climate Crisis in Africa.”

“We are still in a situation   where the negotiations are being carried out on a big platform of hypocrisy,   a lack of seriousness, a lack of recognition of the fact that Africa is so   heavily impacted,” Bassey says. “For every one degree Celsius   change in temperature, Africa is impacted at a heightened level. This is very   much to be condemned.”


Reviews/discussion On ‘To Cook a Climate’ by Nnimmo   Bassey



There are   some in Africa who argue that having a valuable resource is not necessarily a   curse. They say that nature’s wealth is a blessing and that the curse happens   only in relation to how resources are grabbed, owned, extracted and utilised.   In other words, the curse is located firmly in the social structure of the   world.

Let us start with a caveat about the word ‘resource’, which implies that   nature’s wealth is a bounty, ready for corporate robbery. But we as humans   frame this dilemma of extraction incorrectly if we don’t point out the   intrinsic right of nature to survive on its own terms. Most importantly, we   are part of Mother Earth, not apart from her. Her rights to exist and   reproduce the conditions for all species’ existence are not to be violated.

That said, everyone acknowledges that Africa is resource rich. That the   continent has been a net supplier of energy and raw materials to the North is   not in doubt. That the climate crisis confronting the world today is mainly   rooted in the wealthy economies’ abuse of fossil fuels, indigenous forests   and global commercial agriculture is not in doubt. What has been obfuscated   is how to respond to this reality. Indeed, the question peddled in policy   circles is often what can be done about Africa. And, in moments of   generosity, the question moves to what can be done for Africa.

This book looks at what has been done to Africa and how Africans and peoples   of the world should respond for the collective good of all. The resource   conflicts in Africa have been orchestrated by a history of greed and   rapacious consumption. We ask the question: must these conflicts remain   intractable? We will connect the drive for mindless extraction to the   tightening noose of odious debt repayment and we will demand a fresh look at   the accounting books, asking when environmental costs and other externalities   are included: who really owes what to whom? Isn’t Africa the creditor of the   world, if we take seriously the North’s ‘ecological debt’ to the South?

What makes possible the lack of regulation in Africa’s extractive sectors,   the open robbery and the incredibly destructive extractive activities?   Leading the multiplicity of factors are unjust power relations that follow   from and amplify the baggage of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.   From a Nigerian stand-point, but within the tradition of Pan-Africanist   political economy and global political ecology, this book unpacks these   issues and sets up bins for these needless and toxic loads.

Because of my own experiences, the pages that follow pay close attention to   the oil industry in Africa, to the history of environmental justice struggles   in the Niger Delta, to the discovery of oilfields in Uganda’s rift Valley,   and to the big pull of the offshore finds in the Gulf of Guinea. As we   examine the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on the continent, we also look   at massive land grabs for the production of agrofuels and foods for export.

What can Africa do? And once our peoples decide, can the rest of the world   act in solidarity? If not, will we continue on the path laid out by elites, a   path that brings us ever closer to the brink? Must we live in denial even at   a time of a rising tide of social and ecological disasters?

One of the worst gas flares in the Niger Delta is at a former Shell facility   at Oben, on the border of Delta and Edo states. They have been roaring and   crackling non-stop for over 30 years, since Shell first lit them. The flared   gas comes from the crude oil extracted from the oil wells in the Oben field.   As at more than 200 other flow stations across the Niger Delta, these gas   flares belch toxic elements into the atmosphere, poisoning the environment   and the people. Globally, gas flares pump about 400 million tonnes of carbon   dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Here in Nigeria, the climate is   brazenly assaulted both in the short term by gas flaring and over the long   term because of the CO2 emissions from this filthy practice. In the hierarchy   of gas flares infamy, Nigeria is second only to Russia.

Gas flares and oil spills have attracted the attention of the world as the   two most visible assaults on the Niger Delta. It was no surprise that when   the Dutch parliament decided to hold a hearing on the activities of Shell in   Nigeria, journalists and parliamentarians from the Netherlands decided to   visit the region to see things for themselves.

I was at Oben on 18 December 2010 just after the United Nations’ climate   negotiations disaster at Cancun, accompanied by Sharon Gesthuisen, a   Socialist Party member of the Dutch parliament, along with a Dutch diplomat   and Sunny Ofehe of the Hope for the Niger Delta Campaign. Our journey started   in Benin City early in the evening after the parliamentarian had flown in   from Lagos. escorted by a team of Oben community people, we set out on the   hour-long ride along the highway from Benin City to Warri, a road noted for   the high number of military check- points. They would make anyone think that   Nigeria was at war. We meandered through the hazardous roadblocks made with   trash hurled from nearby bushes and veered off the highway at Jesse, just   before Sapele, from where we took a narrow winding road to Oben. Jesse is   important in the tragic history of the Niger Delta: it was the community   where a petrol pipeline fire killed about 1,000 poor villagers in 1998.

We got to Oben at about 7pm and were waved through a military checkpoint set   up to guard the oil flow station and the belching dragons. Gaining entrance   to the heavily guarded facility was easy; leaving was not. As soon as we   arrived, a worker whom we happened across gave us a little talk about what   went on there. People from the community complained about how they had had to   put up with the flares for more than three decades while their dreams of jobs   and development projects faded away.

The Dutch MP was amazed by what she saw. She was happy she had made this   trip, otherwise she would have had to depend solely on the chaperoned visits   arranged by the oil giant Shell in a bid to show how environmentally friendly   they are. The flames leapt and roared relentlessly. We inched as close as we   could before having to turn away because of the unbearable heat. As we turned   to leave, the brightness of the village sky contrasted with the darkness of   the homes that lacked electricity. But we could not leave.

Our cars were surrounded by soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF), a   military force that became infamous when an armed unit was created   specifically to punish the Ogoni people in the 1990s. The soldiers demanded   to know by what authority we visited the gas flare site. They would not let   us leave without producing an authorisation letter from the JTF headquarters.   All our explanations that we were there at the invitation of the community   fell on deaf ears. The presence of a Dutch parliamentarian as well as a   diplomat meant nothing to these guys, who apparently knew their script. Hours   went by. The darkness of the night struggled with the glow of the gas flares.   The soldiers stuck to their guns.

The JTF men demanded our car keys and threatened to deflate the tyres. We   would not leave the location that night, they insisted. Threats followed.   Rifles were raised and then lowered. They would not call their superiors.   They were the lords working at the behest of capital.

Eventually a Nigerian journalist who was on our team placed a call to the   media relations officer of the JTF. After much foot dragging the soldiers   wrote down the numbers of our cars and took our names, addresses and   statements before letting us go at midnight. We rode back to Benin City in   silence, each mulling over the hazards faced by communities living in the   oilfields and the human rights abuses inflicted regularly on those who   monitor or question the evils that go on in the land. To the Dutch   parliamentarian, the events of the evening were a good introduction to the   Niger Delta and the operations of the oil companies: exploit, degrade, abuse   and punish the environment and the people. The scenario replays across the   continent.


* This article forms the preface and beginning of chapter 1 from Nnimmo   Bassey’s forthcoming book ‘To Cook a Continent –   Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa’, published by   Pambazuka Press (ISBN: 1-906387-53-2)
* Nnimmo Bassey is a Nigerian environmentalist activist and poet, elected   chair of Friends of the Earth International   and executive director of Environmental   Rights Action. He was named co-winner of the Right Livelihood Award in   2010.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org   or comment online at Pambazuka News.



Durban COP17:   failures in the making | by Patrick   Bond:



The failure of   Durban’s COP17 – a veritable “Conference of Polluters” – is certain, but the   nuance and spin are also important. Binding emissions-cut commitments under   the Kyoto Protocol are impossible given Washington’s push for an alternate   architecture that is also built upon sand. The devils in the details over   climate finance and technology include an extension of private-sector   profit-making opportunities at public expense, plus bizarre new technologies   that threaten planetary safety.

Politically, the overall orientation of global climate policy managers,   especially from the US State Department and World Bank, eventually will be to   displace the main process to the G20. This did not happen in Cannes because   of the Greek and Italian economic crises, but is likely in future. It entails   Washington’s rejection of any potential overall UN solution to the climate   crisis – which in any case is a zero-possibility in the near future because   of the terribly adverse power balance – and the UN’s dismissal of civil   society’s varied critiques of market strategies. The COP negotiators will   also reject climate justice movement’s strategies to keep fossil fuels in the   ground and its demands for state-subsidised, community-controlled,   transformative energy, transport, production, consumption and disposal   systems.
Recall from last December how disappointed the progressive movement was that   in the wake of the 2009 Copenhagen fiasco, the primary face-saving at the   Cancun summit was restoration of faith in carbon markets. The Bolivian   delegation was the only sensible insider team, and they summed up the   summit’s eight shortcomings:

The   Cancun Summut

  •   Effectively kills the only binding   agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely inadequate bottom-up   voluntary approach;
  •   Increases loopholes and flexibilities that   allow developed countries to avoid action via an expansion of offsets and   continued existence of ‘surplus allowances’ of carbon after 2012 by countries   such as Ukraine and Russia, which effectively cancel out any other   reductions;
  •   Finance commitments weakened: commitments to   ‘provide new and additional financial resources’ to developing countries have   been diluted to talking more vaguely about ‘mobilizing [resources] jointly’,   with expectation that this will mainly be provided by carbon markets;
  •   The World Bank is made trustee of the new   Green Climate Fund, which has been strongly opposed by many civil society   groups due to the undemocratic make-up of the Bank and its poor environmental   record;
  •   No discussion of intellectual property   rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current rules obstruct   transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing countries;
  •   Constant assumption in favour of market   mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this perspective is not   shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin America;
  •   Green light given for the controversial   Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)   programme, which often ends up perversely rewarding those responsible for   deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest dwellers of their   land;
  •   Systematic exclusion of proposals that came   from the historic World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change, including   proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition of indigenous   rights and rights of Mother Nature.

Nothing   will be different in Durban, but in the meantime all the worst tendencies in   world capitalism have conjoined to prevent progress on the two main areas of   COP 17 decisions: financing and technology. The latter   includes intellectual property rights barriers which must be overcome,   reminiscent of how militant AIDS treatment activists liberated antiretroviral   (ARV) medicines in 2003 at the Doha World Trade Organisation summit. Before   that summit, Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights provisions allowed   Big Pharma to charge $15 000 per person per year for life-saving ARVs, even   though generic drugs cost a fraction of that sum. A similar push to   decommodify vital climate technology is needed, but only a few activists have   prioritised this struggle.

After all, technological processes that threaten the earth have intensified,   such as geo-engineering, shale-gas fracking (endorsed by the SA National   Planning Commission), tar sands extraction, and carbon capture and storage   schemes aiming to bury greenhouse gases. The Johannesburg company SASOL   continues to build up the world’s most CO2-intensive factory by converting   coal and gas to liquid petroleum, for which it requests carbon credits from   the UN.

And   in spite of the Fukushima catastrophe, the US and South Africa continue a   major nuclear energy expansion. The mad idea of seeding the oceans with iron   filings to generate carbon-sequestrating algae blooms continues to get   attention. In October 2010, the Convention on Biological   Diversity in Nagoya, Japan called for a halt to geo-engineering, but a year later   British scientists began experimenting with stratospheric aerosol injections   as a way to artificially cool the planet. As Canadian technology watchdog   Diana Bronson put it, ‘This so-called Solar Radiation Management could have   devastating consequences: altering precipitation patterns, threatening food   supplies and public health, destroying ozone and diminishing the   effectiveness of solar power.’

The   financial mechanisms under debate since Cancun are just as dangerous because   austerity-minded states in the US and European Union are backtracking on   their $100 billion/year promise of a Green Climate Fund to promote carbon   trading. That Fund appears set to re-subsidise carbon markets   by ensuring they become the source of revenues, instead of larger flows of   direct aid from rich countries, which activists suggest should become a down   payment on the North’s ‘climate debt’. The markets have been foiled by their   own internal corruption and contradictions, as well as by left critiques in   key sites such as California and Australia, and rightwing climate change   denialism in the US Congress.

But most importantly, the EU’s emissions trading scheme is still failing to   generate even $10/ton carbon prices, whereas at least $50 would be required   to start substantial shifts from fossil fuels to renewables. And world   financial chaos means no one can trust the markets to self-correct.

Even with a rise of 2° C, scientists generally agree, small islands will   sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas such as much of   Bangladesh and many port cities will drown and Africa will dry out or in some   places flood. With the trajectory going into Durban, the result will be a   cataclysmic 4–5° C rise in temperature over this century, and if Copenhagen   and Cancun promises are broken, as is reasonable to anticipate, 7° C is   likely.

After 16 annual Conferences of Parties, the power balance within the UN   Framework Convention on Climate Change continues to degenerate. On the other   hand, growing awareness of elite paralysis is rising here in Durban, even   within a generally uncritical mass media.

That means the space occupied by activists will be crucial for highlighting   anti-extraction campaigns including the Canadian tar sands, West Virginia   mountains, Ecuadoran Amazon and Niger Delta – the hottest spots at present.


Expanding the Enviro Fightback
Beyond defensive campaigning, transformative politics are crucial. Robust   South African community protests include sustained demands for a better   environment in townships, including increased housing, electricity, water and   sanitation, waste removal, healthcare and education. Connecting the dots to   climate is the challenge for movement strategists, for example by linking the   rising Eskom price to its decision to build new coal-fired powerplants whose   main beneficiaries are BHP Billiton and Anglo American. The post-apartheid   South African government’s lack of progress on renewable energy, public   transport and ecologically aware production mirrors its failures in basic   service delivery, which have generated among the world’s highest rate of   social protest – and to link these via the new Durban Climate Justice network   will offer a real threat, not of ‘Seattling’ Durban but of establishing a   counter power that cannot be ignored.

Patrick   Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in   Durban. His two most recent books are Politics of Climate Justice and   Durban’s Climate

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