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Markala Sugar Project: SoSuMar/Illovo sugar refinery in Cercle de Segou, Mali


In 1999 USAID contracted the US company Schaffer and Associates to undertake a feasibility study for a sugar refinery in Malis Office du Niger. Schaffer subsequently formed the Société Sucrière de Markala (Sosumar) with African sugar giant Illovo, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, as the majority owner. In 2007, Schaffer, Illovo and the Government of Mali signed a contract allocating Sosumar a 50-year lease (renewable) on 17,000 ha of land for sugar-cane plantations, but the Office du Niger map shows a total of 39,538 ha. Illovo said the projects implementation remains dependent upon the Government of Mali fulfilling certain undertakings while a US Embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2009 indicated that the delay was due to competing claims to the land by another sugar refinery in the area, owned by China Light Industrial Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technical Cooperation (CLETC). On May 28th, 2012, lllovo discontinued their involvement with the project, publicly citing concerns of political instability and the 'deteriorating security situation' in Mali. Local people still cannot farm the lands because it remains fenced and continue to protest industrial farming in the region.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Markala Sugar Project: SoSuMar/Illovo sugar refinery in Cercle de Segou, Mali
State or province:Cercle de Ségou
Location of conflict:Segou, Sana, Sansanding
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:Water access rights and entitlements
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Sugar
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project was to develop a plantation to produce 190,000 tonnes of sugar and 15 million litres of ethanol annually, from an investment of $240 million of the Mali Government and $300 million of private companies. 8,000 direct jobs and 32,000 indirect were claimed to be created. $21 million dollars were spent at the time of nullification.

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Project area:39,540
Level of Investment:540,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,640
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Illovo from South Africa - technical partner
Associated British Foods - owns 51% of Illovo
Societe Sucriere de Markala (SOSUMAR) from Mali - 70% owned by Illovo, 4% by Schaffer
Schaffer Global Group - initial testing, development, and investment
CaneCo from Mali - cultivation of sugar, 90% owned by Malian Government, 10% by SOSUMAR
Relevant government actors:Malian government, Office du Niger
International and Finance InstitutionsAfrican Development Bank (AfDB)
Kuwaiti Funds from Kuwait
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Via Campesina,, open letter/petition,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Due to publicly released 'socio-political crisis and also the difficulties of financing' and wikileaks released 'competition from SUKALA' on May 31st, 2012, Ilovo and SOSUMAR withdrew from the agreement (two days before the second village hearing). At the time if cancellation however, damage to livelihoods, especially women's was already done and protests continue against other corporations in the area.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Oakland Institute, 2011, 'Comprendre les Investissements Fonciers en Afrique: Rapport: Mali'
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

International Sugar, 'Mali- Financing for Markala Sugar Mill secured by Illovo'
[click to view]

Wikileaks, 2009, 'A spoonful of Chinese Sugar Sourts US Investors in Mali'
[click to view]

Via Campesina, 'Malian farmers want their land back'
[click to view]

'Mali: Des paysans arrêtés alors quils travaillaient leurs champs accaparés'
[click to view]

Bloomberg, 'Illovo Pulls out of Mali Sugar Project on Security Concerns'
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

'Why Poverty' Directed by Hugo Berkeley & Osvalde Lewat
[click to view]

Other comments:According to AB Sugar's website, 'Illovo is one of the world's lowest cost sugar producers'
Wikileaks: 'Since the projects inception in 1999, Schaffer has received nearly USD 2 million in USG funding from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and USAID'
Meta information
Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update18/08/2019
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