Zambian farmers’ livelihoods threatened by German agribusiness
Amatheon Agri Zambia Ltd is Africa’s largest German agribusiness investment. Local farmers complain that the company — a subsidiary of Berlin-based Amatheon Agri – has restricted their access to water, denied road access to local services, failed to pay for produce or land and even confiscated stray livestock. A local official claimed that Germany has a responsibility for the company, which highlights the urgent need for a binding UN treaty to hold translational corporations to account.
The company began farming operations in Zambia’s Mumbwa District in 2012 and grows soya and maize for export and domestic sale on around 40,000 hectares of land purchased from the local community. Some families say they have yet to be fully paid for their land. Amatheon also established an outgrower program for quinoa, chia seeds and chili and many local farmers who agreed to supply produce complain that the company failed to honor agreements when market prices fall.
Amatheon has built two dams in the area to irrigate the plantation, which has reportedly severely reduced water supplies to as many as 200 households downstream. This has forced farmers to reduce their livestock numbers and stop cultivating vegetables, which had provided a major source of income and nutritious meals.
One small hold farmer told FIAN Germany that the company had wrongly demarcated his land as being inside their property and had destroyed his well, forcing his family to get water two miles walking distance away. He also reported being threatened at gunpoint.
“A senior Amatheon employee came to my house and threatened me with a firearm, he later fired gunshots in the air, after that he told me to move out of (the) land,’’ he said.
Amatheon has confiscated community animals that stray onto its land and charges typically 500 Zambia Kwacha (USD 28) to return each animal, which is a large sum for the local farmers.
Local community members are demanding that the Zambian government properly regulates Amatheon’s activity in Mumbwa District and brings an end to the harassment and intimidation of local farmers. When confronted with farmers’ complaints Amatheon has denied most accusations.
In a recent meeting of community members and local officials, the District Administrator suggested that Germany had a role in regulating a German-based company in Zambia. He recommended calling on the German Embassy in Lusaka to intervene in the case. However there is no binding international legal framework governing situations like this which leaves the local people with recourse to justice.
This is yet another case which illustrates the need for a binding UN treaty with the teeth to hold transnational corporations to account in their home countries for their human rights impacts overseas.
For more information, please contact Valentin Hategekimana: email@example.com