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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; Reprint edition (1 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781681171
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781681176
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Praise for A sud di Lampedusa: Exemplary reportage ... accurate, engaged, honest. --Corriere della Sera

A sud di Lampedusa: Liberti writes with the curiosity and passion of the great journalists of the past. --Internazionale

About the Author

STEFANO LIBERTI is a journalist at the foreign desk of the Italian daily newspaper il manifesto. He is the author of two books: Lo stivale meticcio, a short critical guide documenting the condition of contemporary foreign immigrants in Italy, and A sud di Lampedusa, a groundbreaking exploration of the routes of Sub-Saharan African migrations to Western Europe. He is the winner of the 2008 Luchetta Prize, 2010 Carletti Prize, and 2010 Indro Montanelli Prize for his writing.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stefano Liberti, foreign correspondent of Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, travels the world to look into the phenomena of foreign countries and companies of buying up massive amounts of land in Africa for the production of food and other cash crops.

Liberti starts in the Horn of Africa, with a visit to Ethiopia. The ruling party, the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) won the 2010 election with a percentage of the vote that would make Robert Mugabe blush (99.6%) though they manage to avoid the level of hostility that Mugabe's Zimbabwe routinely receive. Labour peer and the EU's high Representative Baroness Ashton describes the election as "an important moment for the democratic process"! Perhaps her previous role as Trade Representative, coupled with the fact that Ethiopia has opened its land up to foreign exploitation at bargain basement prices explains her somewhat curious statement? In fact Ethiopia is an authoritarian police state where dissent is ruthlessly cracked down on, secrecy reigns unhindered, where foreign capital is privileged at the expense of the Ethiopian peoples interests. No doubt after all the land deals GDP will rise as subsistence agriculturalists are deprived of their land, but those alienated from their land will count themselves lucky if they can earn two quid a week toiling for Saudi, Chinese, Dutch or Indian "investors".

Liberti follows the money back the way to Saudi Arabia, and attends a conference along with various African countries who pimp their land to the food poor Saudis: $1 a hectare in Mozambique, 50-70 cents retort the Ethiopians, only to be trumped by the Central African Republic who are giving theirs away for free.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 10 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who argues the case against immigration based on the argument that colonialism in Africa ended 50 years ago needs to read this book. Because that's all it boils down to. But to say that this is all that it is about would be wrong. Even for those not interested in Economics this is just a good book on cultures and the modern forces shaping us in the 21st century. It is as interesting and intriguing as any good novel. Here are some facts you might learn:

-The Ethiopian government is formed of a tribe that represents only 6 percent of the population
-China has no national policy at the time of the writing of this book to acquire land in Africa for the purpose of producing food to export to China.
-Saudi Arabia imports tens of thousands of cattle a year for their dairy farms in the desert.
- The Food and Agricultural Organisation (the U.N) defines "available" land around the globe as land which has less than 25 people per square kilometer on it. Of the 400 million hectares of "available" land, 202 million of it is in Africa.

Men like Stefano Liberti and many of those he interviews are truth-telling pioneers in their respective fields. Congratulations and thumbs up! 5 stars.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An Short Introduction to the 21st Century Land Grab 13 Feb. 2014
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Stefano Liberti, foreign correspondent of Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, travels the world to look into the phenomena of foreign countries and companies of buying up massive amounts of land in Africa for the production of food and other cash crops.

Liberti starts in the Horn of Africa, with a visit to Ethiopia. The ruling party, the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) won the 2010 election with a percentage of the vote that would make Robert Mugabe blush (99.6%) though they manage to avoid the level of hostility that Mugabe's Zimbabwe routinely receive. Labour peer and the EU's high Representative Baroness Ashton describes the election as "an important moment for the democratic process"! Perhaps her previous role as Trade Representative, coupled with the fact that Ethiopia has opened its land up to foreign exploitation at bargain basement prices explains her somewhat curious statement? In fact Ethiopia is an authoritarian police state where dissent is ruthlessly cracked down on, secrecy reigns unhindered, where foreign capital is privileged at the expense of the Ethiopian peoples interests. No doubt after all the land deals GDP will rise as subsistence agriculturalists are deprived of their land, but those alienated from their land will count themselves lucky if they can earn two quid a week toiling for Saudi, Chinese, Dutch or Indian "investors".

Liberti follows the money back the way to Saudi Arabia, and attends a conference along with various African countries who pimp their land to the food poor Saudis: $1 a hectare in Mozambique, 50-70 cents retort the Ethiopians, only to be trumped by the Central African Republic who are giving theirs away for free. During his stay Liberti meets other Saudis with potentially less damaging solutions to the Saudis food problems, unfortunately they are not well connected to the patronage networks which criss-cross the Wests favourite fundamentalist kleptocracy.

Next stop is Geneva, Switzerland - the parasitical tax haven par excellence - also home to the FAO (The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation) where Liberti visits a conference whose ostensible subject is food security. There the business as usual tedium (ie. Businesses blowing their own trumpets) is relieved by the Four Farmers of the Apocalypse (receiving end): namely four Via Campesina activists who bluntly make clear what the land grab means for the worlds small farmers. Minimally (many deals are secret) 45 million hectares of farmland has vanished into the hands of a motley crew of Private Equity Firms, various Investors of all sorts, cash rich/food poor foreign governments. All this is clearly at the expense of indigenous farmers and the targeted countries food supplies. The process is pushed forward by the World Bank, and other ostensibly international institutions which frequently provide guarantees to reduce the risk of the so called investors. One institution that is not entirely in the hands of the "investors" is the UN as Liberti's interview with Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter makes clear while talking about the World Banks (voluntary) Responsible Investment in Agriculture (RAI) initiative:

"These principles assume that every government only has two options to choose from: to welcome an investor or not to welcome him. In actual fact, the real question, the real choice is: should we invest in small family farming, distributing land, building infrastructure, supplying storage facilities, or should we bank on large plantations? This question is crucial, but it is avoided, because it would imply agrarian reform and deny the government the advantage, immediate in the short term but potentially counterproductive in the long term, which comes from opening the market to big investors."

Liberti moves on to a small conference of small to medium sized private investors. Here the account is less satisfactory, he never seems to penetrate through the thickets of sweet sounding care and concern that effortlessly stream from the participants.

Next stop - Chicago, location of the largest exchange in agricultural commodity futures in the world. As far as responsibility for the rising food prices that accompanied falling stock prices during the Credit Crunch they are quite clear: It wasn't us, nor was it the surge of speculative money into the market. Hardly plausible though the argument that the prices reflect real world developments is not without some merit. It's a short leap from Chicago to Newton, Ohio where Liberti meets the Iowa Corn Growers Association at the Indy 500 race ("The only race in the world that uses renewable fuel"). The corn grower are as happy as the proverbial pigs in . . . and no wonder, the ethanol fuel that 25% of their corn is converted into is heavily subsidised and the increase in demand has made them money by the bushel load. Not so happy is Lester Brown, director of the Earth Policy Institute:

"The transfer of corn to ethanol production is creating a problem on a world scale. This year in the American Midwest, a quarter of the 400 million tonnes of corn produced was set aside for fuel production as opposed to consumption. This has created an imbalance, given that stocks have diminished. Seven of the past eight years have registered a deficit in cereal production, and reserves worldwide have plummeted to their lowest level in the past thirty-four years. So prices have shot up. Over the last two years at the Chicago Board of Trade, corn has more than doubled in price. There is one main reason for this increase: the euphoria for ethanol that has struck producers in the Midwest, not least because of the generous subsidies provided by the federal government."

From Chicago Liberti heads south to Brazil. The main focus of his visit is on the two contrasting models of agriculture large scale corporate and indigenous/small scale farming. Liberti speaks to indigenous Indians: "Here, until the 1970s, it was all forest, there were trees, there were animals. It was another world. They've taken our world away"; large farmers: "there's all this talk about this [work on his plantation] being back-breaking work. Of course its backbreaking, but it's no worse than that of a miner going down into a mine to extract coal. Everybody has got their own economic potential: people earn according to their culture and what service they provide. Somebody has to work. Otherwise, if we all laze about in air-conditioned rooms, there'll be no more wheat, no more sugarcane, no nothing. It boils down to this: if we want the TV, the air conditioning, somebody's got to do the dirty work," though it's not to long before this farmer confesses that he would prefer to do without his dirty workers, "I have to take on a certain number to satisfy the agreement I made with the local government. But the land here is flat: all the harvesting and sowing could be done by machines."; the patron saint of Bio-fuels Roberto Rodrigues, "Lula" da Silva's agriculture minister who revived the ethanol industry and later on, in cahoots with Jeb Bush, promotes ethanol production in Central America where the implications for local farmers and peasants are even more disastrous than in Brazil; and finally Joao Pedro Stedile, spokesman for the movement of landless workers who views Bio-fuels as "another step towards driving small farmers from their land". The Brazilian chapter is the least satisfactory in the book. Liberti doesn't really seem to push hard with his questioning, in particular with the large farmer and the patron saint of Bio-Fuels Rodrigues, though the background information on the rise and fall of Brazils Bio-fuel industry was definitely of interest.

Liberti's last stop is Tanzania, where the tale would be familiar to say students of the settling of the American west, un-fulfilled agreements, false promises, playing village off against village in order to remove resistance to outside "investors" primarily concerned with growing crops for the European Bio-fuels industry, or in one case stripping the land of its primary forest, selling the hardwoods, and buggering off with the profits. He speaks with Abdallah Mkindi, one of the Directors of Envirocare, and NGO focusing on the environment and human rights that has been following the questions of foreign investment in agriculture, who has interesting insights into the crisis of agriculture prior to foreign investment as well as the attractions of large scale investment, primarily as a source of hard currency to the government. At the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, the vacuous Styden Rwebangila of the ministries Bio-fuels unit gives an idea of the total lack of resources that governments in targeted countries have for dealing with large well-resourced investors. Perhaps, giving the opportunities for government personnel getting their hands on hard currency, there is also a lack of will?

Overall I'd consider "Land Grabbing" to be an excellent, accessible and readable introduction to the subject, if you like a 5-star book, though Liberti's apparent interest in the girth of those he interviews and how well they fit into their clothing was of zero interest to this reader, and the publishers puff about it being in part a travel book hardly lives up to the contents of the book. I suspect that readers who have already followed the story, its origins as newspaper articles (albeit lengthy ones), likely to lack the systematic and comprehensive out-look to make it a necessary book.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Economics explained from a human perspective 18 Mar. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who argues the case against immigration based on the argument that colonialism in Africa ended 50 years ago needs to read this book. Because that's all it boils down to. But to say that this is all that it is about would be wrong. Even for those not interested in Economics this is just a good book on cultures and the modern forces shaping us in the 21st century. It is as interesting and intriguing as any good novel. Here are some facts you might learn:

-The Ethiopian government is formed of a tribe that represents only 6 percent of the population
-China has no national policy at the time of the writing of this book to acquire land in Africa for the purpose of producing food to export to China.
-Saudi Arabia imports tens of thousands of cattle a year for their dairy farms in the desert.
- The Food and Agricultural Organisation (the U.N) defines "available" land around the globe as land which has less than 25 people per square kilometer on it. Of the 400 million hectares of "available" land, 202 million of it is in Africa.

Men like Stefano Liberti and many of those he interviews are truth-telling pioneers in their respective fields. Congratulations and thumbs up! 5 stars.
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