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Land-grabbing by Congo Agriculture in Malolo, Congo (Rep. of)

Congo Agriculture took 48.000 hectares of land in Malolo district, considered as state owned but actually being used by locals for livestock and agriculture of local grains. It bankrupted but a new company took over with a new deal.


The South African government has been preparing a national land reform to take back one third of the land owned by white families to be redistributed to black African families [1]. This land reform is tightened to the history of the country. Under the British colonizer law and later on under the apartheid rule, millions of Black people were made landless. By 1994, at the end of the apartheid, whites (10% of the population), owned 90% of the land. That is the underlying reason motivating the successive governments of the African National Congress to commit to redistribute 30% of the country’s agricultural land by 2014 [2, 3]. By 2009, and while the land reform was approaching in South Africa, several other Sub-Saharan countries’ governments were offering large-scale land-deals to white South-African farmers, in order to enable their countries to become less dependent on food imports. This was perceived as an opportunity for white farmers to expand their business elsewhere than in their own country where land became a scarce and disputed resource. The government of the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) was hoping that the south-African farmers would encourage the blossoming of Congolese agriculture thanks to their financial and modern means. The Republic of Congo annually imports between 100 and 120 billiards of FCFA francs in food products [4]. The South-African government worked actively with Agri South Africa, the major cooperative of white South-African farmers, to negotiate land-deals with other sub-Saharan governments [2]. The white south-African farmers arrived to Congo-Brazzaville by the end of the year 2011, all merged under the company Congo-Agriculture. There were 28 south-African families who settled down in the department of Malolo, with a total of 48,000 hectares of arable land being leased to them in Malolo department. Yet the interests for the farmers who settled down in Congo-Brazzaville, seemed to be diverging from the government’s expectations. The farmers expressed their willingness to grow tropical fruit, that represents more profits for them than local grains, since it is meant to be exported to Europe [5, 6].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land-grabbing by Congo Agriculture in Malolo, Congo (Rep. of)
Country:Congo, Rep.
State or province: Département du Niari
Location of conflict:Plaine de Dihessé, Malolo district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In March 2011, the Congolese government signed a convention with Agri South Africa (Agri SA). Agri-South Africa is an association that represents between 35,000 and 70,000 white South-African farmers [1]. The convention leased a 25 years concession of 80,000 hectares of state-owned land to the company Congo Agriculture [2]. In the Niari department were concerned 63,000 hectares at Malalo II and 17,000 hectares at Dihesse [3]. During their first year in Malolo, by April 2012, 1,200 hectares were deforested by the farmers who seeded maize and also planted 80 hectares of soy [4]. By 2013, the south-African farmers managed to produce 2.100 tons of maize. Congo-Agriculture sold the maize to cattle breeders. Among its clients there were the companies Barreto and Coddipa [5]. This illustrates that the original motivation of the Congolese government to sign the land-lease with Congo-Agriculture, meaning reducing the country’s dependence on food imports, was not satisfied. Congo Agriculture finally bankrupted. According to independent academic research most of the farmers were lacking enough financial means to exploit their attributed plot [6]. Twenty out of the 28 families that originally settled down in Malolo district left. The 8 remaining families founded the company Todi Rivers Farm. By 2015, this new company was negotiating a new contract with the Congolese government, for a land lease surrounding the village of Malolo II [6]. In December 2017, Todi Rivers Farm signed a 60 years long lease with the Congolese government, for 40.000 hectares. The south-African farmers expressed to be willing to produce maize, rice and beans [7].

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Project area:48,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,743,300.00
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Agri South Africa (AgriSA ) from South Africa
Todi Rivers Farm from South Africa
Congo Agriculture from South Africa - Congo Agriculture, owned by 28 South African white farming families that originally initiated the agrobusiness project in Malolo district.
Relevant government actors:Both governments of South Africa and Republic of Congo, Dr. Pieter Mulder, Deputy Minister of Agriculture in South Africa, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in South Africa, Rigobert Maboundou, Congolese Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Congolese Ministry of land resources
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Emergent Asset management from United Kingdom - investment
Standard Bank Plc from South Africa
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Oakland Institute,, Conference for Peace and Human Rights, Association for Human Rights and the Prison Environment, Observatoire Congolais des Droits d'Homme (OCDH),, Grain
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
New legislation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:According to Bloomberg News, the Democratic Republic of the Congo revised a law that limited foreign ownership of projects to less than 50% - the exact figure is to be announced September 2013. This will make it easier for foreign companies to purchase land and operate. Finally Congo Agriculture bankrupted but still a new company took over, although in a different location of Malolo district.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Mélanie Favrot, Elisabeth. Dorier, Quels enjeux liés à l’arrivée d’investisseurs agro-industriels étrangers en République du Congo? Contexte agricole et foncier, Natures Sciences Sociétés, 24, 334-346 (2016)
[click to view]

Accaparement des terres et souverainete alimentaire en Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, grain, Aout 2012
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Des Sud-Africains à la rescousse du Congo, 5 mars 2016
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Développement agricole : une société sud-africaine prévoit d’investir 200 milliards FCFA, 2 Décembre 2017
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South Africa’s white farmers prepare to trek to the Congo, October 21st, 2009
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Les fermiers sud-africains engagés à développer leurs activités au Congo, 10 juin 2016
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S.Africa farmers sign Congo farmland deal, October 20, 2009
[click to view]

Land grabbing and food sovereignty in West and Central Africa, 19 September 2012
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South African farmers hit gold in Congo, May 3rd 2012
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SA farmers in Congo 'not desperate',March, 5th, 2014
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South Africa's white farmers are moving further north, May 1st, 2011
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Congo-Agriculture exploite déjà 1200 hectares de maïs à Malolo, April, 12nd 2012
[click to view]

Commercial farming in the Congo not for the faint-hearted, October 26th, 2012
[click to view]

South Africa's white farmers are moving further north, The Guardian, May 2011
[click to view]

Afrique du Sud: Pretoria veut accélérer les expropriations de fermiers blancs, 24 juillet 2018
[click to view]

Farmer's wife in Congo tells of her experience, March 29th, 2013
[click to view]

The Guardian, South Africa's White Farmers are Moving Further North
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Afrique du Sud : les fermiers blancs invités à s'expatrier, 12 octobre 2009
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Les fermiers afrikaners colonisent le continent, 3 mars 2011
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Congo-Agriculture exploite déjà 1200 hectares de maïs à Malolo, 12 avril 2012
[click to view]

Bientôt les fermiers sud-africains au Congo, JTV-CONGO du 8 Novembre 2011
[click to view]

Other comments:According to one source published June 10th, 2013, after three farmers were suspended pending disciplinary hearings following allegations against locals, Congo Agriculture changed their name to †œCongo Farmers†™ Association†, elected Mr. Willie du Plessis as chairperson, and Mr. Fred Daly as deputy chairperson. Details about this case are vague.
Meta information
Contributor:Aliza Tuttle & EnvJustice Team (updated by Camila Rolando)
Last update12/02/2019
Conflict ID:102
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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