“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” says an African proverb, and this can be seen as an unavoidable guideline for advocacy. Agribusiness Dominion Farms defeat in Kenya is for this a good example. Let’s see what happened.
Dominion Farms Limited is a company from the United States that is part of the Dominion Group of companies which has operated private prisons and office buildings to the federal government.
The company is registered in Kenya and operates a farm on a 17,000-acre leasehold in the western part of the country. It claims to be a diversified modern, irrigated farming operation producing long grain rice, fish, and other agricultural products under the Prime Harvest brand. “The farm is blessed with perfect climate, plenty of surface water, fertile soils, the equatorial sun and a large, enthusiastic labor pool. Rice is sold in retail outlets throughout western and central Kenya and the company market continues to expand geographically as its acreage under production increases,” it is said, but something is hidden.
Dominion Farm since 2003 has been grabbing land from local communities, as it was reported in The scandal of Yala Swamp article. The reaction of local communities, supported by social movements, Action Aid, and their allies, have been strong and they recently won some important victories to stop the company harassment.Actually, Dominion Farms had grabbed the 17,000 acres of land with the stated purpose of growing rice, but is now adding sugarcane production. The community sued Dominion Farms and, in July, a Kenyan court issued an injunction ordering the company to restrict its operations to 9000 acres until a case can be heard by the courts.
Before the Kenyan government gave the company permission to farm in Yala Swamp, these beautiful wetlands that feed the majestic Lake Victoria were used by local communities for farming, herding and fishing. Local people were misled by company’s promises of development which have not materialized, and that the company has taken land, contaminated the wetlands with pesticides and built a dam that causes farms and homes outside the project area to be flooded.
Dominion Farms represents more than one land grab; the project is a model for the policies that the United States government, investors and allies in European and African Governments are trying to implement all over Africa.
In 2011, the World Economic Forum, founded the Grow Africa initiative, in which 12 African governments agreed to make changes to their national policies in order to receive large amounts of investment from international agriculture companies.
Dominion Farms signed up, along with better known agribusiness conglomerates such as Cargill, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Yara, and Walmart. The Obama administration embraced the initiative and got the G8 (now G7) governments to launch the New Alliance to back Grow Africa in 2012, promising to bring in billions more in private investment in exchange for the policy commitments to support big agribusiness. Dominion Farms promised to expand its operations in Africa with another 74,000 acre rice farm in Nigeria. Its attempts failed as local people, led a wave of international protest, before operations could get fully underway.
John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO
with consultative special status at UN