ROME, Jan 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of small farmers in northeastern Nigeria are facing eviction from their ancestral lands without consultation or compensation to make way for a U.S.-owned rice plantation, according to a report released on Wednesday.
A new 30,000 hectare rice plantation, owned by Oklahoma-based Dominion Farms, will displace up to 40,000 people in Taraba state, said Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, a spokeswoman for the NGO Friends of the Earth Nigeria, one of the environmental and activist groups behind the report.
“The people living on this land didn’t even know the deal was happening,” Orovwuje told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Compensation is not coming; the people were never asked and never told. Eventually, they will all be forced off the land.”
Calls to Dominion Farms’ headquarters went unanswered.
The Nigerian Ministry of Agriculture did not respond to requests for comment.
Dominion Farms decided to create the mega-plantation in 2012 as part of an investment of $40 million, the report said.
The move is backed by the Nigerian government and the G8 group of wealthy nations through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa, according to the report “Dominion Farm’s land grab in Nigeria” written by a coalition of activist groups.
It’s part of a global trend of “land grabbing”, Orovwuje said.
Dominion Farms runs a similar operation in Western Kenya, which also allegedly has displaced local farmers.
Internationally, more than 32 million hectares of land, an area larger than Poland, has changed hands in similar deals, according to a study by Sweden’s Lund University released in November.
In Nigeria, Dominion Farms has been moving machinery onto the concession, and their representatives have told residents to leave, local farmer Mallam Danladi K Jallo said in a statement.
The land in the area is fertile, Jallo said, allowing farmers to grow millet, yams, corn, beans and rice, which they consume locally and sell in regional markets.
Another local farmer, Alhaji Mairiga Musa, said security forces employed by the company evicted him and others from their traditional lands.
“We have fish ponds that we inherited from our forefathers on that land, but Dominion Farm has said that they will sand fill all of them to give them more space to plant their crops,” Musa said in a statement.
Campaigners are considering launching legal action against the company and government over the evictions.
They say the Nigerian state should invest in better roads and infrastructure so local farmers can get their goods to market, rather than handing land to foreign investors.
Reporting By Chris Arsenault, Editing by Lisa Anderson