Crowdfunding to save Africa’s land

africa land grab

Crowdfunding has been used to raise money for hightech coolers and video games. A group of Israelis hope the model will protect land in Africa.

Thirty years ago when I was in high school in Canada one of the great campaigns of the year was set to raise money on behalf of the school so we could buy land in South America –– precious land that was being deforested so McDonalds could raise more cattle for more burgers.

The land in South Africa was cheap and ideal for low-cost cattle ranching and some open-eyed teacher at the school must have understood that if land in an Amazon forest was up for sale to McDonalds then certainly any public person could buy it too. So we had a campaign that all of us were interested in being a part of – I think it was matchmaking – and raised money.

I remember the announcement on the PA that we had raised enough to buy a couple hundred acres of land that would be protected forever from deforestation. And now that small act of defiance against big corporations that we all support to some extent keeps reverberating. A group of Israelis have started raising money to buy land in Africa to keep developers from encroaching on it. 

Africa is to the Middle East as the Amazon rainforest is to America. It’s a great land grab for feeding rich countries that don’t have the space or water for growing their own food. Look back to our archives to see how the Middle East is displacing tribes, forests and animals with oil money. It’s the same old colonialist model repeating itself over and over again. 

But there are new projects keeping the idea alive. One of them is This is My Earth, a group that has raised money to buy 749 acres of land in the tropical Rosewood Forest in Belize and 183 acres in Maasai Mara in Kenya, according to a local paper in Israel.

The organization was established in 2015 by Prof. Uri Shanas of the Biology and Environment Department at the University of Haifa-Oranim, and with the help Prof. Alon Tal they’re aiming to roll back the extinction process and combat climate change.

The idea behind the organization is simple, according to YNet: Each year, a scientific committee comprised of experts from all over the world joins and chooses three land plots that are considered biodiversity hotspots with a high risk of extinction.

It’s a great idea that more people emerging from Israel’s lucrative high-tech careers should explore. A young Israeli couple is reported to have donated the largest sum towards buying the recent plots of land, but think of the impact if hundreds or thousands of others did the same. 

While ownership is better in the hands of the people who should be stewarding their own land, keeping it in trust out of the hands of international buyers for profit might be the best way forward until the world better appreciates the wildness of biodiverse land.

More on This is My Earth here

 

 

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