Big Promises, Few Results: Chinese Farms Falter in Uganda
By Peter Ford
The first Abel Mukalazi knew of the land grab was when he saw workers erecting a barbed wire fence around the pasture where his family had grazed their cattle for half a century.
He went to the police. They told him that a Chinese company, Kehong Group, had secured a lease on the land, pledging to build a giant rice farm employing 25,000 people.
Three years later, Mr. Mukalazi looks out over the barbed wire at empty fields of rough grass stretching across the valley – not a blade of rice in sight – where the wetlands used to be. “They are doing nothing with that land,” he snorts. “Just messing us up.”
Rising Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have sparked fierce international controversy, excoriated by critics as colonial plunder and hailed in Beijing as productive and beneficial to local farmers. The view from Luwero, 50 miles north of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, suggests that neither version is accurate. The picture here, at two different Chinese-owned farms, is rather one of inaction and incompetence.
Photo courtesy of Random Institute.