On Tuesday, over sixty CCI members gathered at the CCI headquarters to meet Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, as she shared her knowledge of Bruce Rastetter’s land grab in Tanzania.
What we learned blew us away!
In 2011, Anuradha was invited to Iowa by AgriSol executives as they tried to secure her approval that their Tanzanian land deal was not a land grab. They offered her unprecedented access to internal AgriSol documents, sat her down with ISU officials involved with the project, and wined and dined her at the AgriSol offices in Alden. Anuradha even had a one-on-one conversation with Bruce Rastetter himself.
What Anuradha learned during all of this shocked her.
The deal AgriSol officials were describing to her was not just a land grab – it was one of the worst she had ever seen. She describes it as a time when she knew she could not just stand by as injustice was done. The Oakland Institute immediately began conducting research on the ground in Tanzania and brought the facts of the AgriSol land grab to light.
Here are the ten most shocking facts Anuradha revealed to the packed room on Tuesday:
1. Time is of the essence.
The lives of 160,000 self-sustaining farmers are on hold as they wait to see if their community will be torn apart. The only reason that AgriSol hasn’t proceeded with the project is because of public scrutiny.
2. There was never a distinction between the private AgriSol project and Iowa’s government and public universities.
From the beginning, Iowa State faculty and administrators were promoting the project to potential investors as a favor to Rastetter. Anuradha was even promised a dinner with Governor Branstad, to show how much support the project already had from Iowan officials.
3. AgriSol was very careful to secure formal confirmation of everything the Tanzanian government would provide, but never committed to giving anything back.
Rastetter has insisted that his project will help the Tanzanian people, but he himself told Anuradha, “Actually, we have not determined what jobs will be created.“
4. The US media is censoring themselves on this issue.
The international media picked up this huge story, but US media was afraid to challenge people with so much power. But as Anuradha points out: “You don’t have to believe me. It’s them versus their own damn documents. They think you’re lazy. They think you’re stupid. They think you cannot read. Go online and educate yourself.” (Find the Oakland Institute’s documents here.)
5. Rastetter knew all along that their plans would displace 160,000 people, despite repeated insistence that the refugee camps in the affected area were abandoned.
Kevin Kimle, who holds ISU’s Bruce Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship, said it would be problem to do outreach to Tanzanians because they would all be shipped away.
6. Rastetter lied about wanting to feed Tanzania.
AgriSol received an agreement that they could export all of the crops they grow – even if Tanzania was experiencing a food shortage.
7. This project would only benefit Rastetter and other wealthy investors, at the expense of Iowans and Tanzanians.
The materials provided to potential investors emphasized the massive profits that would be made, then eased their consciences by making vague, non-committal promises to conduct outreach and provide food security.
8. The 160,000 people who are most affected by this deal were deliberately excluded from the decision-making process.
An AgriSol spokesman was caught on camera as saying that the only appropriate time to tell the residents of the land was after the deal was completed.
9. AgriSol is unrepentant.
AgriSol officials say that we don’t need to worry about the refugees because the project is on hold. What they should say is, “We made a mistake, we are sorry, and we will back out.”
10. The world is watching what happens at the Ethics Board hearing.
As Anuradha Mittal said, “Thursday will be a day of reckoning.”
Our meeting was Anuradha was incredible. As several members who attended said, “Everyone in Iowa needs to hear what we learned tonight.”
We need you to help us spread the truth about Rastetter. We also need as many people as possible to attend the Iowa Ethics Board hearing on our ethics complaint against Rastetter on Thursday, August 23rd.
At our meeting, Anuradha told us, “There are people in Tanzania who are wondering if democracy works.” Let’s show them that democracy does work by getting the Ethics Board to vote the right way on Thursday
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