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17 July 2018
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Newsletter n° 96 [EN]



In the Sectoral Program of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries 2016-2020 (0) and in their speeches, Malagasy leaders advocate the long-term leasing of millions of hectares of Malagasy land to investors, especially foreigners, as an essential and reliable way of developing the country and its agriculture. Malagasy citizens and civil society organizations criticize and condemn this position as harmful to the national interest. They call it "selling off our ancestors’ land, selling off our homeland".

The TANY Collective would re-emphasize that the emphyteutic lease is not a simple lease ; it grants specific rights to the lessee. Indeed, from the point of view of Malagasy traditions, the emphyteutic lease amounts to a type of land sale.

The emphyteutic lease is not a simple land lease

Most people know that this lease is granted "for a period of over 18 years but not exceeding 99 years", according to the law 96-016. (1)

The other provisions of Article 1 of this law also deserve special attention : "The emphyteutic lease confers to the lessee a real right which may be mortgaged : this right may be assigned and seized under prescribed terms for seizure of real estate (...) » (2)

During the lease period, the lessee therefore has significant rights such as the use of the lease as a mortgage for financial loans from banks.

National developments over recent years have shown that :

  • the State, in particular, plans to rent out very large areas of land under these terms,
  • many investors do not have the necessary funds for their projects when they sign long-terms leases for Malagasy lands and have yet to borrow from banks, and
  • the end date of the lease is never known for sure since it is renewable,

therefore, the risks of losing control of Malagasy lands become very high.

The TANY Collective thus proposes to urgently revise the law on emphyteutic leases to remove the possibility of mortgage and free transfer which are mentioned in the current law.

This revision of the law should also consider the fact that the land is a sacred good and, often, the only means of production for most of the Malagasy people. In this sense, it is not a commodity that anyone can cede and trade like a trivial item of transaction.

The TANY Collective has already and repeatedly denounced the exclusion and expulsion of local communities and peasants caused by emphyteutic leases over the land they farm and live on.

We need to remember that land sales are governed by ancestral traditions, despite the ignorance or disregard of culture and customs by most Malagasy decision-makers and economists.

Different types of sales exist in the Malagasy tradition

Our Malagasy ancestors defined at least two types of land sales, usually made between clan members and neighbors. One is the varo-maty (dead or definitive sale) and the other varo-belona (living sale, undertaken with the aim and hope of being able to buy back the lands which one had to sell at a moment of great economic need ; it is thus a provisional sale, limited in time). This latter type is still practiced today by rural people. (3)(4)

From the perspective of local communities, there is no difference between being stripped of and expelled from their lands by the State for the purpose of issuing an investor a long-term lease and a "varo-belona". Indeed, they will not have access to their land for a long time.

In addition, rural Malagasy communities tend to avoid selling land inherited from ancestors (tanindrazana), even to neighbors. Instead, they sell plots that households have acquired through their own efforts. Nevertheless, State officials and the Malagasy laws consider all lands without distinction as likely to be leased to Investors, whether national or foreign.

These elements help explain the widening gap between the neoliberal pronouncements and ambitions of most Malagasy leaders and the convictions of most people.


A 2013 co-publication (5) of the TANY Collective with other organizations mentions in the chapter on the cultural context of land use in Madagascar that "Land occupies a privileged place in the hierarchy of values.” Apart from its economic value, land is sacred to the Malagasy people and has a quasi-religious character : in their belief, the earth is at the same time the Mother, the Ancestor and the God. (6)

Why, then, are certain political and economic decisions made to strip Malagasy citizens of the use of their land - for a few decades – in order to allocate them to economic or financial operators, some of whom do not even have sufficient means to carry out their planned projects in the framework of an emphyteutic lease but need to mortgage the lease to the banks ? Studies also show that in Madagascar, as elsewhere, these land-grabbing projects sometimes - or often - fail, bringing to the country very damaging consequences of peasants being evicted from their land. (7)

The TANY Collective proposes that instead of "selling off the land of our ancestors, the homeland" through countless future emphyteutic leases envisaged for the AIZs (agricultural investment zones), SEZs (special economic zones), etc ..., leaders should opt instead to respect, listen to and help Malagasy people develop. This includes farmers, local actors and available resources who are all considerable and valuable human capital. Indeed, they hold our land capital and ancestral knowledge and have been investing in Malagasy land for generations. Such an option would allow us to find real solutions to the country’s current problems.

Paris, July 9, 2018
The Collective for the defense of Malagasy lands - TANY ; ;



(1) Pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article 1 of Law 96-016 amending certain provisions of the Decree (Ordonnance) n ° 62-064 of November 27, 1962 on the emphyteutic lease.

(2) Paragraph 1 : the emphyteutic lease of real estate confers to the lessee a real right inclined to mortgage : this right may be assigned and seized under the prescribed terms for the seizure of the real estate [...]
Paragraph 5 : with the assent of the lessor this lease is freely transferable by the lessee to third parties on the basis of a signed and duly registered contract ;
Paragraph 6 : as a negotiable instrument, the lessee can freely leave this lease in security or pledge of a loan or any other financial transaction to third parties including banks and financial institutions ;
Paragraph 7 : the legal procedures mentioned above concerning the consent and registration of a lease are the same, whether they are public, public real estate or private, knowing that the lessor can be the State or the community that owns it […] »



(5) Re:common, SIF, TANY, « Accaparements de terre à Madagascar – Echos et témoignages du terrain - 2013 », 12)

(6) A Malagasy proverb expressing the wisdom of the elders often cited by researchers says « Ny tany vadiben-janahary : mihary ny velona, manotronany maty »