Demeter International Katondo Farm Project (Bwabwata National Park) in Mbukushu District, Namibia


Dem-Inter was founded in 2004 by Mark Lewis (UK) to establish and manage large farms in Russia on behalf of investors. The company then expanded to southern Africa, establishing a 3,000-ha operation with Jumba Royal Council in South Africa in 2009 and in 2010, a partnership with Namibias Labour Investment Holdings, owned by the National Union of Namibian Workers Trust, to develop a 10,000-ha farm on a forested area of the Bwabwata National Park under the company name LIH Demeter Agribusiness. This project was controversial on many accounts: over 1000 families depend on the land for their livelihood, the vast amount of water extracted from the river would negatively impact the river downstream, the fertilizers used would endanger locals' organic certification, and lack of transparency with local organizations lead to land rights confusion. The loss of wildlife from the project would negatively impact tourism and potentially lead to increased human-wildlife interactions. The Okavango River transects multiple nations so water abstraction at such a level requires the consent of all nations sharing the river – and no project of this scale has yet been approved. The company acquired the lands in Namibia through a 25-year leasehold from the areas Traditional Authority, not individual landholders, in exchange for a 15% stake in the US$20-million investment. The local tribal organization holds none of the 15%, and the project is subsequently mired in tribal, corporate, and public land disputes. Enviro Dynamics conducted an EIA in 2010. The local tribal advocacy organization, Kyaramacan Trust, firmly rejected the project, citing livelihood endangerment, ancestral gravesites in the area, and environmental impacts. Since 2010 details of the EIA have not been released, nor has any sign of progress of the project, but the LIH website still lists the project under 'agriculture'.

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Basic Data
NameDemeter International Katondo Farm Project (Bwabwata National Park) in Mbukushu District, Namibia
SiteBwabwata National Park / Mbukushu District
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesRice
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project proposed to extract 75 million cubic meters of water annually, doubling current water usage. In 2010 the company claimed it would create 150 local employment opportunities, and would assist the community in growing labor-intensive crops for local markets. Full production is planned on a 6-year time table. The lands are in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, a multi-national project to attract tourisim, and neighbors the Bwabwata National Park.

Project Area (in hectares)10,000
Level of Investment (in USD)20,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesDem-Inter International
LIH Demeter Agribusiness from Namibia
Labour Investment Holdings (LIH) from Namibia
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Environment and Tourism, Hambukushu Traditional Authority
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKyaramacan Tribal Authority
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Project StatusUnknown
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The status of the project is unknown
Sources and Materials

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LIH, 'Areas of Focus : Agriculture'
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, 'Namibia: Will farm project mean the river runs dry?'
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IPS news, 'San fight land grab in Namibian park'
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The Namibian, 'huge tracts of land in park for agri project'

Meta Information
ContributorAliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014