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Farmland Theft of the Century?

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Touch the Soil News #651 (Feature Photo courtesy of ACT NOW)

Down under – on a large island nation north of Australia called Papua New Guinea – one of the world’s largest land thefts is being uncovered and challenged.

At the heart of the matter is a growing contention between the locals and their government. The locals accuse their government of illegally issuing SABLs – Special Agriculture Business Leases. At issue is that over the past few years massive amounts of land have been taken away from local holders without their foreknowledge or consent.

Most of the SABLs are 99 year leases, to foreign companies and foreign interests – leveraging corruption in government agencies and bribes to officials. A special commission has been formed to look into the leases and determine their legality. Steam is building with the Papua New Guinea citizenry to cancel the leases and return the land. At the forefront of the effort to cancel the SABLs is a group called ACT NOW http://actnowpng.org/

The land that has been converted to foreign use is colossal – almost 13 million acres – which is equivalent to 10 percent of the entire nation of Papua New Guinea. The inquiry commission has found that out of 42 reported leases, only four had genuine landowner consent and a commercially viable agriculture project has been undertaken. In the other 38 leases there was no official landowner consent and evidence of abuse, fraud and lack of coordination between government agencies.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea is now coming forward and publically acknowledging that the SABls are illegal. This is all well and fine, but how are you going to get back 10 percent of your nation – farmland equal to a farm that is 50 miles wide and 400 miles long? The SABLs cover an amount of land that is almost four (4) times the size of State of Connecticut.

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