South Korean Daewoo Group continues with plans to lease for 99 years up to 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of Madagascar's land, much of it biodiversity rich rainforests and species rich local gardens. This is but one, albeit large, recent example of over-developed, over-populated, and land and water scarce Asian and Middle Eastern nations embarking upon global land grabs eerily reminiscent of past Western colonial practices. This global "land grab" by foreign governments and companies is a result of last year's food crisis and a shortage of arable land and water. In order to produce food and agrofuels necessary for a highly consumptive lifestyle, many developed and emerging countries are increasingly willing to threaten local and global human rights, rainforest and other natural ecosystems, and regional and global ecological sustainability.
Daewoo's land grabs direly threatens Madagascar's marvelously rich and biodiverse rainforests, of which only about 10% remain fully intact and standing. Given millions of years of continental separation, magnificently unique biodiversity has involved, including about 100 species of lemurs. Madagascar's remaining intact old forests and species rich mosaic of small agriculture are to be turned into toxic, oil palm and corn monocultures. Due to the political power struggle and overthrow of the government resulting from the project's secretive negotiation, loggers and animal traders have been violating even protected areas. Daewoo Logistics refuses to accept responsibility for their land grab upon political stability and integrity of protected areas.
The vast majority of Malagasy people live in extreme poverty, malnutrition and even starvation. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line, one third are malnourished and more than half a million people depend upon food supplies from the international community. Daewoo's plans for large scale agro-industrial agriculture for export upon existing local gardens would dramatically exacerbate the situation. Dependence on food imports would continue to grow, food prices would rise and the nutritional situation of people worsen.
Actions by Daewoo Logistics and the Government of Madagascar strongly violate the customary lands and rights of the people who live there. The population living on the land to be leased by the project were neither informed nor questioned. The people need the land for food production and to generate income. Daewoo enjoys backing from the South Korean government, President Lee Myung-bak, who last year announced that Korea requires land abroad to maintain a stable long-term food supply. After months of sometimes violent protests in which dozens of people died, earlier this year the President of the Republic of Madagascar was removed from office. However defying all pronouncements of his successor, Daewoo continues to surreptitiously hold some 218,000 hectares of appropriated land.
Support our protest with a letter to Ahn Yong Nam, president and CEO of Daewoo Logistics Corp. Urge Daewoo to bring clarity and transparency to the public about the announced contract with the Madagascan government, and their contents and conditions. Make it clear that the biodiversity on the island needs the remaining natural areas to survive, the people of the country their land for food, other urgently needed commodities, and to ecologically sustainably produce income based upon standing forests.
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