Once upon a time, in the land of Tumbleweed, there lived a group of inhabitants who called themselves the Land Possums. The Land Possums didn’t have much except the land that was allocated to them, which they relied on to grow their crops in order to feed themselves and their families. One day, a group called the Land Barrons bought all the land that the Land Possums were using. The Mighty Overlords, who ruled over Tumbleweed and the other arable lands around the area sold the land at a very discounted price to the Land Barrons. The crops the Land Barrons were going to grow wouldn’t be given, or even sold, to the Land Possums. Instead, those crops would be going back to the Land Barrons’ home country, which was already affluent and prosperous. The poor Land Possums found themselves in a conundrum because they didn’t know how to do anything other than farm work. And since they were forced to leave their lands, they found themselves homeless with little-to-no job skills.
The story of the Land Possums isn’t that far from reality. All we need to do is turn to Africa, specifically Soumouni, Mali where the government is telling farmers, who are dependent on that land for their livelihoods, to pack their bags and leave. Why? Because the government has been “leasing it [the land the farmers were using], often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.”
Where does that leave the farmers? “Farmers have been displaced without compensation, land has been leased well below value, those evicted end up encroaching on parkland and the new ventures have created far fewer jobs than promised, it [World Bank study released in September] said.”
According to Kalfa Sanogo, who is an economist at the United Nations Development Program in Mali, “The land is a natural resource that 70 percent of the population uses to survive. You cannot just push 70 percent of the population off the land, nor can you say they can just become agriculture workers.”
Sadly for farmers who are voicing any opposition, they find themselves being “beaten and jailed by soldiers.” For many of them, they have “no alternative livelihood” with the possibility of many unemployed farmers “flooding the capital.”
Shouldn’t the government’s first duty be to help its citizens instead of “uproot[ing] tens of thousands of farmers and create[ing] a volatile mass of landless poor?”