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Al-Khorayef Group plans for Soy in Chaco, Argentina


In October 2010, in a meeting with the Governor of the Argentine Province of Chaco, Jorge Capitanich, and Saudi Sheik Mohammed Al-Khorayef put forward a proposal for 40,000 hectares to be used for a large-scale project to produce food for export to Saudi Arabia as part of King Abdullah Initiative for National Food Security. On February 22nd, 2011, representatives of Al-Khorayef Group signed an agreement with the Chaco government for a $400-million agricultural project in which the company would be allocated rights over 200,000 ha of farmland in the El Impenetrable region of the province to produce crops for the Saudi market. The project also includes major infrastructure to develop the Bermejo river channel to irrigate the crops (overseen by AISCO). Although Al-Khorayef and the government claim the land to be unoccupied, it is used by indigenous peoples for grazing and food collection. The pro Al-Khorayef lobby is represented in Argentina by Siasa latinoamericana (SIASA), which is run by Daniel Tardito, CEO of Eduardo Eurnekian, one of the biggest landowners in the Chaco, with close connections to the current and former governors of the Province. The project would begin with 30,000 hectares to be further expanded, as profits are to be reinvested in increased infrastructure and irrigation to support the project.

While the hot, ecologically fragile, insect-infested thorn-desert that is the Chaco is officially government land, many indigenous groups who roamed across the Chaco but had no land title. Forests and wilderness in the region has fallen even faster in the past 30 years than in Paraguay, impacting aboriginal groups including the Toba, Wichi, Cuom and Mocovi, as ranchers have cut down their trees and destroyed the hunting grounds they depended on.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Al-Khorayef Group plans for Soy in Chaco, Argentina
State or province:Chaco
Location of conflict:El Impenetrable Region (Northwestern Chaco)
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 :Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Infrastructure (Roads, Electricity, Irrigation), Sorghum

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

212,000 hectares of land will be converted to the development of large-scale mono-crops, livestock, and infrastructure projects for the purpose of export to Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Funded with 400 million from Saudi Arabia (which may increase to 800 million over the next 7-13 years) and result in 1,500-2,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region.

Project area:212,000
Level of Investment:400000000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:60000
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Al-Khorayef Group from Saudi Arabia - [email protected]
AISCO from Spain
DAT Group from Argentina - International Agricultural and Agribusiness Consulting, Daniel Tardito, [email protected]
Relevant government actors:Governor Jorge Capitanich, Deputy to the Governor, Juan Carlos Bacileff Ivanoff, and Ministers of Economy, Production, Infrastructure, and Environment of Argentina
International and Finance InstitutionsArabia Development Bank
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Multi-Stakeholder Forum for the Land of the Chaco (Foro Multisectorial por la tierra del Chaco), Nelson Mandela Centre

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Development of alternatives:Consultation with stakeholders, letter to Provincial Parliment to apply existing laws has been ignored
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Pressure from numerous organizations was not enough to halt the deal – no news was found concerning the conflict after July 2012 (Written August 2013)

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Articles 42 & 43 of the Chaco Constitution, Land Act, Law of Native and Forested Land

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Foreign Investment in Agriculture in MERCOSUR Member Countrie, Martin Pineiro & Federico Villarreal, 2012, Trade Knowledge Network (TKN)

Greenpeace, 2012, "El Impenetrable" en peligro” El avance de la ganadería intensiva pone en riesgo a los últimos bosques chaqueños

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Dario Chaco, 'Members are asked to review transfer of land to Alkhorayef'

Chaco Dia por Dia, Proyectan millonaria inversión en El Impenetrable

AISCO 'SiaSA Argentia'

Chaco Dia Por , 'Proyectan millonaria inversion en El Impenetrable'

The transformation of the Chaco is an ecological and human tragedy, John Vidal, The Guardian

"Lo que quieren es anexar parte del Chaco al Reino de Arabia Saudita"

Servicio Informativo RENA, Polémica en Chaco por anuncio de inversiones árabes en el Impenetrable

Primicias al Día, Denuncian entrega de tierras a grupos árabes

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Argentina: Informe audiovisual sobre el proyecto árabe en el Chaco

Other comments:This project is quite convoluted, with peasant and indigenous groups mobilizing in response to other landgrabs in the region, but no shown response to this one in particular (aside from an Open Letter to the Provincial Parliament from la asociacion Espacio). The deal also comes shortly after a massive protest on the capital from indigenous peoples and farmers from this area with sit-ins, marches, and hunger strikes, in which the demands of the people were explicitly denied. No data was found online post July 2012. No confirmation of the project moving ahead was found. It is also unclear if the project is funded by the Chaco government via loans or by Arabia Development Bank.

Meta information

Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update13/07/2017