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1 March 2020
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Newsletter n° 136 [ENG]

REINFORCEMENT OF THE REJECTION OF THE ELITE AGRO LLC PROJECT IN LOWER MANGOKY

One month after the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Emirati company Elite Agro LLC on 60,000 hectares in Lower Mangoky, the general public has received some additional information that we share with readers. Questions raised by other decisions and information directly or indirectly related to this project are also shared, our objective being to maintain a collective reflection and debate on the country development and future involving all citizens without exception.

What new information on the Lower-Mangoky project has been disseminated by the State officials ?

Our previous press release entitled "No to the provision of 60,000 ha of land in Madagascar for the Emiratie company Elite Agro LLC in Madagascar" quoted the written statement of the Minister of Agriculture stating that "All production will be purchased by the Malagasy State at a modest price, [...] to supply both the local market in order to achieve food self-sufficiency and export targets" (1). Reporting on the words of some parliamentarians who see no disadvantages in the partnership with the Emirati company within the framework of the Lower-Mangoky project, a journalist writes that 80% of the products purchased by the state will be exported and 20% sold on the local market (2), which denotes the lack of priority given to food for Malagasy people. It is inconceivable that citizens learn such important information about the "partnership" on 60,000 ha of land through a journalist. Knowledge of this information must have made people lose their illusions that this "partnership" would solve the food insecurity problems of the Malagasy people.

A handful of parliamentarians would have conducted surveys and consultations with the local population (3) and a Minister, returning from a visit to the project area with the Minister of Agriculture, made a statement during a special program on 10 February on the TV channel VIVA, stating that Ankiliabo, Andranopasy and Beharoana are the communes in Manja district the land of which is included in the project area. Notables and customary authorities are said to have given their blessing to the project during the visit of ministers and parliamentarians on the ground (4). If the President of the Republic has given instructions for full transparency on this project, the Memorandum of Understanding must be disseminated and made fully known to the general public.

Moreover, the blessing of the notables and customary authorities is indeed important and indispensable. However, Decree 2004-0167, relating to Making Investments Compatible with the Environment (MECIE) requires an environmental impact study, the assessment process of which requires the full participation of the population affected by the project. In its Article 18, this decree defines the public inquiry procedure as "a collection of the opinions of the affected population," and according to Article 19, it does not allow ministers and parliamentarians to appoint themselves as investigators : "The conduct of public inquiry operations shall be carried out by investigators, in collaboration with the local authorities of the project location. Persons interested in the operation, in a personal or family capacity, by virtue of their position within the Ministry, the community, the organization or the service that is responsible for the project, project management or control of the operation, may not be designated as investigators" (article 19). Articles 20 and 21 in turn describe the second form of public consultation, which is the public hearing. (5)

Thus, the spirit and the letter of the MECIE decree reflect the will of the legislator not to lock the population under the influence of political or economic interests in order to build an enlightened opinion on all the stakes of the object of the consultation.

What do Malagasy decision-makers have in store for us in the coming months regarding investments ?

Although State officials constantly repeat that the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the company Elite Agro in Lower Mangoky does not concern a sale of land, the information available on the actions of this group in other countries is particularly worrying : in Serbia (Eastern Europe), the company Elite Agro LLC together with other Emirati companies have become the biggest landowners (6).

As on January 15, 2020, the day the partnership with the company Elite Agro LLC was announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the Council of Ministers decided to set up an interministerial committee that would study the organization and regulation of each of the "emergence zones" (7), and that media reports on the subject seem to imply that the regulations governing emergence zones are likely to be "case-by-case" (8), we cannot avoid thinking of the Serbian case.

In the light of the Serbia case, the signatory organisations to this Communiqué are rightly concerned about reports in the press that the regulation of emergence zones is likely to be on a "case-by-case". They therefore call on the competent authorities within the set up Interministerial Committee to inform all Malagasy citizens of the legal regime and conditions that will govern this 60,000 hectare zone made available to the company Elite Agro LLC.

The vigilance and mistrust of citizens are the more mobilized that by the end of December 2019, a press article had informed of "possible changes to the investment code" because "several investors want to be reassured about the land security of large investment areas provided for by national legislation" , quoting an "official who recently went abroad to explore possible partnerships between the State and foreign companies" (9). What additional land security for the benefit of foreign investors is still to be considered in the Investment Code, which already authorizes the sale of Malagasy land to foreign companies on condition that they have a Malagasy partner ? (10).

Ny hamisavisàna ny ratsy, hiavian’ny soa (11).

The reasons for contesting and refusing this "partnership", whose terms appear to be unmentionable, are increasing.

Let us be vigilant with regard to Malagasy lands.

28 February 2020 (The initial French version was dated 17 February 2020)

CRAAD-OI : Centre de Recherches et d’Appui pour les Alternatives de Développement - Océan Indien Indien - craad.madagascar@gmail.com ; http://craadoi-mada.com

Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches – TANY 
patrimoine.malgache@yahoo.fr ; http://terresmalgaches.info, www.facebook.com/TANYterresm...

References :

(1) http://www.terresmalgaches.info/spi...
(2) https://www.newsmada.com/2020/02/07...
(3) https://www.newsmada.com/2020/02/07...
(4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfa...
(5) Decree 2004-0167 – Décret MECIE : http://mg.chm-cbd.net/implementatio...
(6) https://www.serbianmonitor.com/en/u...
(7) « hametraka ny lalàna mifehy ny faritra tsirairay avy » https://www.presidence.gov.mg/actua...
(8) « miankina amin’ny tetikasa tsirairay izany fepetra izany » https://aoraha.mg/11/02/2020/fampia...
(9) https://lexpress.mg/27/12/2019/mond...
(10) Law 2007-036 dated of 14 january 2008 on the investments in Madagascar : http://www.droit-afrique.com/upload...
(11) Literal translation : If we think about evil, it’s to bring about good.