Investments without yield – Norwegian aid to commercial plantations in Tanzania

Investments without yield – Norwegian aid to commercial plantations in Tanzania

Once again the "U-landsseminar" was held in Auditorium 3 at Eilert Sundts Hus. The topic was investments in large-scale agricultures in African countries, especially Tanzania. Economics claim that large-scale agriculture will lift African countries out of poverty and the organizers wanted to discuss the assumption «How should Norwegian aid contribute to commercial plantations?». The auditorium was filled up by members of SAIH, the debate Co-Organisator FIVAS (Foreningen for internsjonale vannstudier), the center for development and environment (SUM) and others.

One of the leading Norwegian companies in the field is Norfund (The Investment Fund for Developing countries). They invest in industrial agriculture, among others the Tanzanian industrial "Kilombero Plantations Limited" (KPL). FIVAS published a report: "Merge results from a large investment," criticizing the developmental effects of KPL. The report analyzes how Tanzania lacks a firm basis for private sector development within KPL. It also looks at water use by KPL and how it affects people dependent on local water resources.


The panel consisted of Elin Ersdal, Catherine Wilson, and Hans Morten Haugen. Ersdal is the Investment Director of Norfund. Wilson is the author of "Merge results from a large investment". The latter, Haugen, is a professor at Vitenskapelige Høgskole (VID). Aksel Nærstad, the senior policy advisor for The Development Fund (Utviklingsfondet) was the moderator of the evening.

Agriculture is an important tool to reduce poverty; the question is how Norwegian aid should be invested in Tanzania. Should one invest in large-scale agriculture or small? Ersdal emphasized that Norfund do not prefer large-scale agriculture from the other, which Nærstad confirmed as he had worked with Norfund earlier. Haugen said that agriculture in African countries can be intensified, but one should not focus on quick fixes. The problem emerges when the state wants exactly that.

Another topic was the communication between individuals affected by large-scale agriculture and the company. Is the dialogue between them good enough? Ersdal said that an independent committee was made to deal with complaints, and that no complaints meant nothing to complain about. Wilson did not fully agree with this and argued that the KPL is not representing the people well enough.

If the focus is to erase poverty among people, should they not be the ones in focus? Is politics an important measure in this matter?

Another important issue is the access to good quality seeds developed to the specific area, and more information on how to invest in small-scale farmers. The goal should be to lift countries like Tanzania out of poverty and not the opposite.

Read the full report here:

Written by Dharshika Christopher, SAIH Blindern