By Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and the Director of the ESRC STEPS Centre at Sussex
The expansion of sugar production in southern Africa has been dramatic. From its early beginnings in Natal to the huge commercial estates across the region established during the colonial era, new investments are being planned. The land rush in southern Africa is often a sugar rush, with the ‘white gold’ promising riches to governments, local elites and large corporates alike.
Our sugar is made from sugarcane. And sugarcane is not planted in trees or in the air, it’s planted in the ground, in the soil, on land. It’s the bedrock of our investment.
—Illovo Land Champion
Much of the world’s rural landscapes are technically managed by national governments with limited recognition of, or support for, the rights and management responsibilities of the rural poor who live in these areas. In an era of large-scale land acquisitions for global commodity production, this has led, in some cases, to governments allocating vast tracts of land and resources to companies with limited or no consultation of the people affected.