Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Boris Berezovsky was deputy secretary of Russia's security council. He is now an enemy of Putin. ('I am plotting a new Russian revolution')...



The Moscow subway blasts, in March 2010, could give Mr Putin an excuse to wrest back power from his successor, President Dmitry Medvedev. (Moscow blasts may spur a Vladimir Putin takeover‎).

Certain bombings in Russia in 1999 were blamed on 'rogue' Russian government agents. (Evidence of FSB involvement in the Russian apartment bombings)

It is not clear whether or not these 'rogue' Russian agents were working for friends of the CIA or enemies of the CIA.

Alexander Litvinenko was an officer of the KGB and its successor the FSB.

Litvinenko was an associate of Boris Berezovsky.

Litvinenko was granted asylum in London.

Litvinenko then accused certain agents of the FSB of being behind the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power.

However, it seems unlikely that Putin, unless he is an agent of the West, is trying to wreck Russia with a long series of terror attacks?

Brzezinsky wants to weaken Russia.

The CIA and its friends have a motive for causing the Moscow Subway Blasts of March 2010.

Think of the USA's wish to grab economic assets and ensure US military superiority. (The outrageous strategy to destroy Russia [Voltaire] )

And the CIA and its friends have attacked Russia in the recent past.

Think of the gas explosion in Russia in 1982. (Reagan approved sabotage -theage.com.au )

1. Stephen F Cohen, in The Nation magazine, July 10, 2006, wrote that "the real US policy has been ... a relentless, winner take all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness.

"...it has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to Soviet Communist Russia.

"Consider ... a growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases." (The New American Cold War by Stephen F. Cohen)

2. According to Thomas Reed, a former White House official and member of the National Security Council, in 1982, President Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the Soviet Union's economy.

This was done through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a gas pipeline. (Reagan approved sabotage to wreck Soviet economy - World - www.theage.com.au)


3. A former British military official has backed a claim that the Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, was torpedoed by US forces in August 2000. (US 'torpedoed Kursk nuclear sub')

4. 28 March 2010 "Russia hailed a new nuclear arms treaty with the United States, but warned that U.S. missile defence plans could derail its implementation." (Russia disputes US claim on missiles )

The USA and its allies want to surround Russia, weaken Russia and control the oil in the Caspian.

5. The "Chechen conflict began at the precise moment the USA-UK began their encroachment on Caspian oil reserves during the mid-1990s." (Terrorism suspected in deadly Moscow metro blasts, death toll rises)

6. The USA does not want to see the emergence of a group of rival states which could include Russia, Iran, China, India and Brazil.

On 28 March 2010 we read that the "Russian ambassador to Tehran Alexander Sadovnikov on Sunday described Moscow-Tehran relations as 'excellent', the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Despite the West's pressure on Russia, Moscow still supports a diplomatic solution to Iran's disputed nuclear program." (Russia hails Moscow-Tehran relations as "excellent": envoy )

7. The CIA seems to be flooding Russia with Afghan heroin, causing immense problems for Russia.

"NATO and Russia clashed on 24 March over how to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan.

"Russia is keen to pursue an aggressive eradication strategy, while Western allies fear that such an approach risks antagonizing the local population, who rely on selling poppy crops to survive, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported." (NATO rejects Russia's demand to destroy Afghan poppy fields )

Suicide bombers or agents of the security services?

If female suicide bombers were involved in the Moscow Blasts, we should remember that the CIA and its friends have a reputation for brainwashing Moslems into becoming patsies.

If any agents of the Russian secret service are involved, then we have to suspect that they are working for the CIA and its friends.

iraqwar./ provides the following timeline of major attacks on Russia, allegedly carried out by assets of the CIA and its friends

(Terrorism suspected in deadly Moscow metro blasts, death toll rises / TIMELINE MAJOR ATTACKS IN RUSSIA 1994 2009.. Updated)

Nov 2009 - A bomb caused a Russian train crash that killed dozens of people.

1994-1996 - Tens of thousands of CIA and MI6 operatives are killed in the first Chechen war.

June 1995 – Washington and London financed terrorists seize hundreds of hostages in a hospital in the southern Russian town of Budennovsk. More than 100 people are killed. All CIA operatives were liquidated during the Russian Commando, Spetsnaz raid.

Jan 1996 – CIA and MI6 trained Chechen Terrorists take hundreds hostage in a hospital at Kizlyar in Dagestan, then move them by bus to Pervomaiskoye on the Chechen border. Most bandits including many CIA operatives are killed but some hostages died

Sept 1999 – CIA and MI6 operatives detonate explosives; destroy apartment blocks in Moscow, Buynaksk and Volgodonsk. More than 200 people are killed. There is obvious connection to Chechen Bandits and their western backers in Washington and London..

Aug-Sept 1999 - Hundreds of Russian soldiers killed battling western financed Chechen Bandits in the mountains of Dagestan. The second Chechen war begins and Russia bombs the Terrorists. Tens of thousands of CIA Operatives , Bandits are killed in the war. Russia re-establishes direct rule in 2000.

Oct 23-26, 2002 - 129 hostages and 41 CIA and MI6 Operatives and Chechen Bandits are killed when Russian troops storm a Moscow theatre where rebels had taken 700 people captive three days earlier. Most of the hostages are freed.

July 5, 2003 – US /UK financed terrorist kill 15 other people when they blow themselves up at an open-air rock festival at Moscow's Tushino airfield. Sixty are injured.

Aug 1, 2003 - A US /UK financed terrorist driving a truck packed with explosives blows up a military hospital at Mozdok in North Ossetia bordering Chechnya. The blast kills at least 50.

Dec 5, 2003 - An explosion tears through a morning commuter train just outside Yessentuki station in Russia's southern fringe. Forty-six people are killed and 160 injured. CIA and MI6 are the culprits.

Dec 9, 2003 - A CIA operative detonates explosives , kills five other people near the Kremlin. At least 13 people are wounded.

Feb 6, 2004 - A CIA operative detonates explosives, kills at least 39 people and wounds more than 100 on an underground train in Moscow.

May 9, 2004 - Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov is killed in a bomb blast in Grozny. CIA MI6 are responsible for the blast.

June 22, 2004 – Western financed bandits seize an interior ministry building in Ingushetia, near Chechnya, and attack other points in lightning attacks. At least 92 people are killed including the acting regional interior minister, Abukar Kostoyev. All bandits were liquidated.

Aug 24, 2004 - Two Russian passenger planes are blown up almost simultaneously, killing 90 people. One Tu-134, flying to Volgograd, goes down south of Moscow. Moments later a Tu-154 bound for Sochi crashes near Rostov-on-Don. It was listed as a CIA, MI6, MOSSAD operation.

Aug 31, 2004 - A CIA operative detonates explosives in central Moscow killing 10 people and injuring 51.

Sept 1-3, 2004 - 331 hostages - half of them children - die in storming of School No.1 in Beslan, after it is seized by US/UK financed Chechen Bandits demanding Partition of Russia .

Oct 13, 2005 - Up to 100 US/UK Financed Terrorists attack key security points in Nalchik, main city of the Muslim Kabardino-Balkaria region. Twelve local residents are killed as well as 12 police. Twenty CIA pigs are killed and 12 are seized by security forces. They are in Siberia now doing their time.

Feb 10, 2006 - Seven Russian policemen and 12 CIA /MI6 operatives are killed when special forces storm houses to fight US financed bandits holed up in a village in the Stavropol region of southern Russia.

Aug 21, 2006 - A CIA operative detonates explosives, kills 10 people in a Moscow suburban market.

April 27, 2007 - A Russian helicopter is shot down by CIA operatives in Chechnya, killing 18 people.

Aug 13, 2007 - A CIA /MI6 operative detonates explosives, derails the Nevsky Express between Moscow and St Petersburg, injuring 60 people.

Aug 31, 2007 - A CIA /MI6 operative detonates explosives on a bus in the Southern Russian city of Togliatti kills eight and injures 50 during the rush hour.

June 22, 2009 - Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is seriously injured when a A CIA /MI6 Operative detonates explosives beside his car. He later recovers and returns to work.

Aug 17, 2009 - A US /UK financed terrorist drives a truck into the gates of the main police station in Nazran, the largest city in Ingushetia, killing 20 people and wounding 138 others.

Nov 27, 2009 - CIA /MI6 Operatives detonate explosives, derail the Nevsky Express with about 700 people on board. At least 26 people are killed and 100 injured.

March 29, 2010 US sponsored terrorist attacks on the Moscow subway.

There is also a report that the CHERNOBYL catastrophe was not an accident. (blasts, death toll rises)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

فكر مرتين عن ماذا يخاف اللبنانيون التكلم؟

فكر مرتين عن ماذا يخاف اللبنانيون التكلم؟
هي أمور متعلقة بطييعة، بشخصية، بفكر أو بمجتمع يكاد يتعود الخوف والتطنيش لأنهم يريدونه مجتمعاً خاضعاً مستزلماً يخاف حتى العدل لأن عدل الأرض أبعد من أن يحق الحق ويحمي المظلوم فتبقى السترة هي أريح بال ولو على حساب كرامتك وأخلاقك.

نحن نعيش في مجتمع يتصف بالكذب أو التكاذب، بالسخافة أو الإستهزاء بالعقول الراجحة. نحن نعيش في غابة يربح القوي لبطشه ويرزح الضعيف لأنهم بمالهم وسلطتهم وضعوا الشروط والحدود.

من يتجرأ على مواجهة السياسيين وأزلامهم بالفساد؟ من يتجرأ ويتكلم عن الكنيسة أو دار الأفتاء أنهم فاسدون؟ من يتجرأ على قول الحقيقة مهما كانت صعبة ومكلفة؟ ولماذا أصلا يجب أن تكون مكلفة؟ كان علينا الشد على يد كل قائل كلمة حق ومهاجم الباطل والمزيف!

إلا أننا في مجتمع فاسد يعيش الجبن لأنهم أوصلوه الى أن يهتم بالأساسيات، الأكل والشرب، ولو من فتات موائدهم. من يتجرأ ويصف السياسيين والدولة والقضاة والقوى الأمنية ورجال الدين والمجتمع المدني وأصحاب الأموال بما يفكر عنهم وبالعلن، فيقول من هو الفاسد وليس ذكياً ومحتالاً، من هو القاتل والمجرم وليس زعيماً ومناضلاً، من هو الفاسق والمبيض وليس الغني وصاحب الأعمال الخيرة، من سرقني وجعلني أصبح شحاذاً مقابل أن يعلّم أولاده ويوظفهم من ضرائبي وأموالي. من يتجرأ ويقول إننا نعيش في بلد يكذب فيه المرء على نفسه ومن يتكلم بالشرف فهو غبي والكرامة تقف عند الخط الأخضر حيث تتحول الأخلاق الى سيارة أجرة يستقلها كل من يدفع.

من يتجرأ ويواجه الحقيقة أن السطحية مستشرية، فهم مصرون على أنهم يحبون الحياة وملوا من السياسة والحرب يريدون التمتع بالسهر والكأس و... ولكنهم جاهلون الى حد الثمالة أنهم يأخذون بلداً ويهدوه الى مجرمين وفاسدين يتشاركون المغانم ويتوزعون على سلطات البلد كلها دون استثناء بداية بالدينية ولوكنت مؤمناً فأني أبعد من أن أرى وجه الرب بهؤلاء.

أنتم لا تتجرأون على قول إنكم جائعون وهم من جوّعكم، إنكم فقراء وهم من أفقركم، إنكم عاطلون عن العمل وأولادهم يعملون، إنكم ترون كل ما هو حولكم غير منطقي وغير طبيعي. أنتم تصمتون! ترون السرقة، الفساد والنفاق، تسمعون العظات من دجالين، ترون الشواذ ولا تثورون.

إعلام مزيف وأقلام مأجورة، الذي يتحفنا برأيه وتحاليله يتلحف ليلاً بالمال بدل الغطاء كي لايبرد حتى أنه أصبح يشعل موقده بأوراق خضراء. أدنى المستويات وأقل العقول فكراً تسيطر وتتريس على شعب وأعناق لأن هناك من يمولها ويدعمها. إننا في بلد غاب عنه المنطق كل لحظة من يوم عادي فتقع فيه الجرائم والسرقات، الفضائح والغرائب، ولا يتحرك إ‘نسان. وإن استغرب لحظتها ينسى في اليوم التالي وكأن شيئاً لم يكن.

مجموعات مجموعات، أصحاب فكر وآراء تقوم كلها على الكراهية والحقد. الهدف هو النفوذ والمال ولاشيء آخر. أفراد ضائعون يكرهون الكل ويتكلمون عن يأسهم من السياسيين وهم ضعفاء الى حد أصبحوا يصدقون زعامة نفسهم لنفسهم فيستقلون. أما من يحاول مدنياً، يقف عند فكرة رفضه لللأحزاب ويتعلق بأيدولوجية سياسية متشعبة يفهم هو جزء منها فكيف يُفهمها أو ينشرها.

أما المواضيع الشائكة فهي مسموحة ليتكلم عنها متحاورون على شاشة التلفزيون ولو بالسطحية والموضوعية الكاذبة. صحافيون يقال عنهم محللين وإن تابعتهم تعتقد أنهم يجلسون مع الخالق فهم تخطوا من يديرون الأمور دنيوياً. سياسيون مسيرون يقولون ما يحفظون ويتقيدون بما قال زعيمهم وان لم يعرف يوماً هذا الأخير أن يفرق بين شهادته الغير موجودة وشهادة من تعلم سنوات حتى يرى غيره يأخذ الشهادة من جهل فتصغر.

عن ماذا يخاف اللبنانيون التكلم؟ عن رجال الدين مثلاً الذين يعيشون المسامحة والتقشف فتسمع عنهم الأخبار وترى حياتهم كحياة النجوم والزعماء ويعطون المجد ويطلب منهم الغفران وهم لا يتمتعون بالأدراك ولا الوعي إلا للبكاء والمناشدة والإفصاح عن أراء غير نافعة فلمن يغفرون والرب لا يعرفهم.

أنتم تخافون من القول إنكم تخشون بعضكم وتغارون من بعضكم، إنكم متجذرون بالطائفية والمذهبية، إنكم تريدون مصلحتكم الشخصية ولا شيء غيرها، إنه طالما لا يتعلق الأمر بكم "كتر خير ألله، ما خصني، بعاد عن الشر، ما بتعاطى، شو بدي بهالشغلة" وأنتم بذلك تؤذون أكثر ولا تتحملون المسؤولية لأنكم معدومون...

هل هي نقمة أو أنها الحقيقة؟ هل هو كلام أم أنه الواقع؟ هل أكذب أو أتجرأ؟ أليس هذا ما تخافون التكلم عنه أم تريدونني أن أفصّل وأشرح؟ هل أفكر مرة أو مرتين؟ أو بلا ما تفكر بفكروا عنك...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Food, water driving 21st-century African land grab

Food, water driving 21st-century African land grab


We turned off the main road to Awassa, talked our way past security guards and drove a mile across empty land before we found what will soon be Ethiopia's largest greenhouse. Nestling below an escarpment of the Rift Valley, the development is far from finished, but the plastic and steel structure already stretches over 20 hectares -- the size of 20 football pitches.

The farm manager shows us millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1 000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 320km to Addis Ababa and flown 1 600km to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13-million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least three million hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world's most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations.

The 1 000 hectares of land which contain the Awassa greenhouses are leased for 99 years to a Saudi billionaire businessman, Ethiopian-born Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, one of the 50 richest men in the world. His Saudi Star company plans to spend up to $2-billion acquiring and developing 500 000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years. So far, it has bought four farms and is already growing wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market. It expects eventually to employ more than 10 :000 people.

But Ethiopia is only one of 20 or more African countries where land is being bought or leased for intensive agriculture on an immense scale in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era.

Land rush
An Observer investigation estimates that up to 50-million hectares of land -- an area more than double the size of the UK -- has been acquired in the last few years or is in the process of being negotiated by governments and wealthy investors working with state subsidies. The data used was collected by Grain, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the International Land Coalition, ActionAid and other non-governmental groups.

The land rush, which is still accelerating, has been triggered by the worldwide food shortages which followed the sharp oil price rises in 2008, growing water shortages and the European Union's insistence that 10% of all transport fuel must come from plant-based biofuels by 2015.

In many areas the deals have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of "land grabbing".

The experience of Nyikaw Ochalla, an indigenous Anuak from the Gambella region of Ethiopia now living in Britain but who is in regular contact with farmers in his region, is typical. He said: "All of the land in the Gambella region is utilised. Each community has and looks after its own territory and the rivers and farmlands within it. It is a myth propagated by the government and investors to say that there is waste land or land that is not utilised in Gambella.

"The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands.

"All the land round my family village of Illia has been taken over and is being cleared. People now have to work for an Indian company. Their land has been compulsorily taken and they have been given no compensation. People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry."

It is not known if the acquisitions will improve or worsen food security in Africa, or if they will stimulate separatist conflicts, but a major World Bank report due to be published this month is expected to warn of both the potential benefits and the immense dangers they represent to people and nature.

Leading the rush are international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds as well as UK pension funds, foundations and individuals attracted by some of the world's cheapest land.

Together they are scouring Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and elsewhere. Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. Any land there, which investors have not been able to buy, is being leased for approximately $1 per year per hectare.

Saudi Arabia, along with other Middle Eastern emirate states such as Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, is thought to be the biggest buyer. In 2008 the Saudi government, which was one of the Middle East's largest wheat-growers, announced it was to reduce its domestic cereal production by 12% a year to conserve its water. It earmarked $5-billion to provide loans at preferential rates to Saudi companies which wanted to invest in countries with strong agricultural potential .

Meanwhile, the Saudi investment company Foras, backed by the Islamic Development Bank and wealthy Saudi investors, plans to spend $1-billion buying land and growing seven million tonnes of rice for the Saudi market within seven years. The company says it is investigating buying land in Mali, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda. By turning to Africa to grow its staple crops, Saudi Arabia is not just acquiring Africa's land but is securing itself the equivalent of hundreds of millions of gallons of scarce water a year. Water, says the UN, will be the defining resource of the next 100 years.

Huge deals
Since 2008 Saudi investors have bought heavily in Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya. Last year the first sacks of wheat grown in Ethiopia for the Saudi market were presented by al-Amoudi to King Abdullah.

Some of the African deals lined up are eye-wateringly large: China has signed a contract with the Democratic Republic of Congo to grow 2,8-million hectares of palm oil for biofuels. Before it fell apart after riots, a proposed 1,2-million hectares deal between Madagascar and the South Korean company Daewoo would have included nearly half of the country's arable land.

Land to grow biofuel crops is also in demand. "European biofuel companies have acquired or requested about 3,9-million hectares in Africa. This has led to displacement of people, lack of consultation and compensation, broken promises about wages and job opportunities," said Tim Rice, author of an ActionAid report which estimates that the EU needs to grow crops on 17,5-million hectares, well over half the size of Italy, if it is to meet its 10% biofuel target by 2015.

"The biofuel land grab in Africa is already displacing farmers and food production. The number of people going hungry will increase," he said. British firms have secured tracts of land in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania to grow flowers and vegetables.

Indian companies, backed by government loans, have bought or leased hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, where they are growing rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils to feed their domestic market.

Nowhere is now out of bounds. Sudan, emerging from civil war and mostly bereft of development for a generation, is one of the new hot spots. South Korean companies last year bought 700 000 hectares of northern Sudan for wheat cultivation; the United Arab Emirates have acquired 750 000 hectares and Saudi Arabia last month concluded a 42 000-hectare deal in Nile province.

The government of southern Sudan says many companies are now trying to acquire land. "We have had many requests from many developers. Negotiations are going on," said Peter Chooli, director of water resources and irrigation, in Juba last week. "A Danish group is in discussions with the state and another wants to use land near the Nile."

In one of the most extraordinary deals, buccaneering New York investment firm Jarch Capital, run by a former commodities trader, Philip Heilberg, has leased 800 000 hectares in southern Sudan near Darfur. Heilberg has promised not only to create jobs but also to put 10% or more of his profits back into the local community. But he has been accused by Sudanese of "grabbing" communal land and leading an American attempt to fragment Sudan and exploit its resources.

New colonialism
Devlin Kuyek, a Montreal-based researcher with Grain, said investing in Africa was now seen as a new food supply strategy by many governments. "Rich countries are eyeing Africa not just for a healthy return on capital, but also as an insurance policy. Food shortages and riots in 28 countries in 2008, declining water supplies, climate change and huge population growth have together made land attractive. Africa has the most land and, compared with other continents, is cheap," he said.

"Farmland in sub-Saharan Africa is giving 25% returns a year and new technology can treble crop yields in short time frames," said Susan Payne, chief executive of Emergent Asset Management, a UK investment fund seeking to spend $50-million on African land, which, she said, was attracting governments, corporations, multinationals and other investors. "Agricultural development is not only sustainable, it is our future. If we do not pay great care and attention now to increase food production by over 50% before 2050, we will face serious food shortages globally," she said.

But many of the deals are widely condemned by both Western non-government groups and nationals as "new colonialism", driving people off the land and taking scarce resources away from people.

We met Tegenu Morku, a land agent, in a roadside cafe on his way to the region of Oromia in Ethiopia to find 500 hectares of land for a group of Egyptian investors. They planned to fatten cattle, grow cereals and spices and export as much as possible to Egypt. There had to be water available and he expected the price to be about 15 birr (about $1) per hectare per year -- less than a quarter of the cost of land in Egypt and a tenth of the price of land in Asia.

"The land and labour is cheap and the climate is good here. Everyone -- Saudis, Turks, Chinese, Egyptians -- is looking. The farmers do not like it because they get displaced, but they can find land elsewhere and, besides, they get compensation, equivalent to about 10 years' crop yield," he said.

Man-made famine
Oromia is one of the centres of the African land rush. Haile Hirpa, president of the Oromia studies' association, said last week in a letter of protest to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that India had acquired one million hectares, Djibouti 10 000 hectares, Saudi Arabia 100 000 hectares, and that Egyptian, South Korean, Chinese, Nigerian and other Arab investors were all active in the state.

"This is the new, 21st-century colonisation. The Saudis are enjoying the rice harvest, while the Oromos are dying from man-made famine as we speak," he said.

The Ethiopian government denied the deals were causing hunger and said that the land deals were attracting hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign investments and tens of thousands of jobs. A spokesperson said: "Ethiopia has 74-million hectares of fertile land, of which only 15% is currently in use -- mainly by subsistence farmers. Of the remaining land, only a small percentage -- 3 to 4% -- is offered to foreign investors. Investors are never given land that belongs to Ethiopian farmers. The government also encourages Ethiopians in the diaspora to invest in their homeland. They bring badly needed technology, they offer jobs and training to Ethiopians, they operate in areas where there is suitable land and access to water."

The reality on the ground is different, according to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition. "If land in Africa hasn't been planted, it's probably for a reason. Maybe it's used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land in Ethiopia that has no owners and users."

Development experts are divided on the benefits of large-scale, intensive farming. Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva said in London last week that large-scale industrial agriculture not only threw people off the land but also required chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, intensive water use, and large-scale transport, storage and distribution which together turned landscapes into enormous mono-cultural plantations.

"We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline," she says. But Rodney Cooke, director at the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development, sees potential benefits. "I would avoid the blanket term 'land-grabbing'. Done the right way, these deals can bring benefits for all parties and be a tool for development."

Lorenzo Cotula, senior researcher with the International Institute for Environment and Development, who co-authored a report on African land exchanges with the UN fund last year, found that well-structured deals could guarantee employment, better infrastructures and better crop yields. But badly handled they could cause great harm, especially if local people were excluded from decisions about allocating land and if their land rights were not protected.

Water is also controversial. Local government officers in Ethiopia told the Observer that foreign companies that set up flower farms and other large intensive farms were not being charged for water. "We would like to, but the deal is made by central government," said one. In Awassa, the al-Amouni farm uses as much water a year as 100 000 Ethiopians. - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2010