President Peter Mutharika has dismissed reports that his administration has allowed big name multinationals to grab land from poor smallholder farmers to diversify from tobacco farming.
Mutharika’s denial is contrary to reports issued by land rights organisations such as ActionAid Malawi and LandNet Malawi earlier this year which indicated that Malawi had entered into an agreement through the G8 New Alliance Initiative to release 200 000 hectares of large-scale commercial agriculture land by 2015.
The organisations have said the initiative, which Malawi signed up for, was against the backdrop of proven research that 11 percent of the country’s population has no access to land for subsistence farming.
But in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hardtalk programme, Mutharika questioned the credibility of the LandNet Malawi claim which journalist Zeinab Badawi quoted.
Said the President: “Grabbed by multinationals? Who is grabbing? Well, I just don’t think that’s true. Some of these civil society organisations [CSOs] should be questioned on how they analyse issues. There is a law on how land is going to be alienated. No foreigner can acquire land except in cases where they are going to industrialise for a certain amount of time.”
There are two land bills which were due to be tabled in Parliament during the just-ended meeting, but have been pushed to the next sitting.
Mutharika also rubbished the source of the report which Badawi quoted, scoffing that Peter Kaunda, who the story quoted as having his land grabbed, probably did not exist.
In its report on the impact of the G8 New Alliance on smallholder farm land ownership launched in June this year, ActionAid Malawi said the Green Belt Initiative, which was part of the New Alliance, was offering one million hectares to local and international investors along Lake Malawi and Shire River, relocating villagers in the process. n