The December 21st New York Times story, African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In, examines the trend of land acquisition in Africa by foreign governments and corporations.
This is a complex subject involving issues of food security, ethics, politics, and capital markets, among others. While Africa's situation is different than Latin America's, there are some parallels to be drawn from the story.
A topic as controversial as land rights merits two separate blog posts. Here in the first, we'll explore how land rights pertains to our business, and how that affects your investment with us. The next post will go into more depth as the topic relates to our indigenous partner Arimae.
When acquisition drives local local farmers from their land, the result is often development of new land. The article references farmers encroaching on parkland as a result of their displacement.
This trend is one of the reasons we founded Planting Empowerment in 2006.
After witnessing farmers in our area being displaced by either their own unsustainable development practices or forestry enterprises buying upland for plantations (or a combination of both), we realized that land tenure would be an important part of any efforts to improve environmental and economic opportunities.
Promoting land tenure is one of the basic tenets of Planting Empowerment's Equitable Forestry model. To do this we provide income from land leasing and profit sharing. This encourages our partners to stay on their existing land and reduces their need to develop more primary rainforest.
One of the enablers of our Equitable Forestry model is government recognition and enforcement of property rights. Fortunately Panama is progressive when it comes to property rights, allowing farmers to title to their land and assuring continued ownership. Additionally, before signing land lease contract with local partners we perform due diligence to ensure clean ownership and title of the land.
See the Arimae and Nuevo Paraiso pages for contracts signed with these partners. Planting Empowerment investors can rest assured that the land their trees are planted on is secured for the life of their investment.
Stay tuned for the next post. We'll focus on how differing definitions of "productivity" is driving development of Arimae's once-forested land.