Bookmark and ShareAniol Esteban is head of the Environment Programme at at nef’s centre for Global Interdependence.

madagascarDaewoo Logistics has just acquired 1.3 million hectares of arable land in Madagascar on a 99-year lease to grow maize and palm oil for South Korea. 1.3 million hectares, by the way, is about half the size of Belgium – and about 50 per cent of Madagascar’s farmland.

The world is still reeling from dramatic increases in the price of wheat, rice and other grains and Daewoo’s acquisition will only make matters worse for Madagascans. Where will they get their food from now? As other countries become increasingly worried about food security, this kind of land-grabbing will only become more common. It’s the latest step in the long march of colonialism.

Take the sea for example – for decades the EU has taken control over the fishing resources of many developing countries through various trade agreements which undervalue the resources themselves while overlooking the social and environmental costs felt by the countries. Over-fishing has badly affected the livelihoods of coastal communities, depriving them from an important source of protein and development opportunities. There is every reason to believe that this exploitation will intensify under new EU trade rules.

We cannot buy our way out of climate, food and natural resources crises. We have to work to restore the ecosystems which support human life on this planet. A recent report estimates the benefits of fishing at sustainable levels at $50 billion a year, and this doesn’t include social benefits. Funding the transition towards healthy ecosystem functioning might look costly in the short-run, but certainly less than driving ecosystems to the point of collapse.

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