Posts Tagged ‘Land Grabs’

Jun22

African Land Fertile Ground for Crops and Investors

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Danielle Nierenberg, director of Nourishing the Planet, was featured in a National Public Radio piece, “African Land Fertile Ground for Crops and Investors,” on Friday, June 15.

The article discusses the relationship between and future for commercial and small-scale farming in Africa, interviewing representatives from both perspectives. Jes Tarp, CEO of Aslan Global Management, is helping to finance a farm called Rei do Agro in Mozambique with the hope of “building wealth in the community.” On the topic of Rei do Agro, Jake Walters of Mozambique operations for Technoserve, agrees that big companies bring value to farmers because they employ more people. Danielle Nierenberg disagrees with Walters, stating “there are better alternatives” for small farmers than growing a single crop on a mega-farm.

However, Walters and Nierenberg do agree that compromise can exist between support for small farmers and mega-farm operations.

Click here to read the full article.

Aug09

Arable land deals could be bad for food security

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Nourishing the Planet was recently featured in Kenya’s The East African newspaper.

Small-scale and rural farmers are being pushed off prime land for foreign companies. (Photo credit: The East African)

The article discusses the issue of “land grabs’ and its impact on global food security. “Investors claim that land grabs can help alleviate the world food crisis by tapping into a country’s ‘unused’ agricultural potential, but such investments often do more harm than good, disrupting traditional land use and leaving small-scale farmers vulnerable to exploitation,” according to Nourishing the Planet project director, Danielle Nierenberg.

Click here to read the article.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Jul28

UPI Article- Land Grabs Threaten African Food Security, says Worldwatch

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Check out this article on the threat of land grabs to African food security and the State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet report.

Massive land transactions are taking place in Africa and Latin America, funded by international investments, including hedge and pension funds. These multi-million dollar “land grabs” are taking place in African farming communities without farmers’ knowledge. The Worldwatch Institute calls for more oversight and fairer deals for farmers, because money from these transactions is not making it to the hands of the poor and hungry. “If all governments capably represented the interests of their citizens, these cash-for-cropland deals might improve prosperity and food security for both sides. But that’s not often the case. It’s critical that international institutions monitor these arrangements and find ways to block those that are one-sided or benefit only the wealthy.”

Click here to read the article.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Jul27

Reuters talks with Danielle Nierenberg on Land Grabs in Africa and the Affect on Food Security

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Check out this interview on Reuters with Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg about land grabs in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Africa, a continent where hunger is a prominent issue, the loss of farm land is devastating rural communities, leaving them without a source of food and without jobs. These land grabs not only affect short term food needs, but also the long-term goal of alleviating poverty and hunger in Africa. Investors claim the land purchased is an unused resource and helping to alleviate global hunger, but with a majority of the world’s hungry people living in Africa, that argument falls short of reality. Often the sales of farm land to foreign countries are not documented, leaving farmers who have worked the land for years, without any notice or any idea where their livelihood has gone.

Click here to read the article.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Jul26

“Land Grabs” in Agriculture: Fairer Deals Needed to Ensure Opportunity for Locals

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The trend of international land grabbing—when governments and private firms invest in or purchase large tracts of land in other countries for the purpose of agricultural production and export—can have serious environmental and social consequences, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute. Deals that focus solely on financial profit can leave rural populations more vulnerable and without land, employment opportunities, or food security.

In Mozambique, while land grabs can bring in development, it can also strip farmers off their land and livelihoods. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“Investors claim that land grabs can help alleviate the world food crisis by tapping into a country’s ‘unused’ agricultural potential,” said Danielle Nierenberg, Director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project. “But such investments often do more harm than good, disrupting traditional land-use patterns and leaving small-scale farmers vulnerable to exploitation.”

The trend has accelerated as countries that lack sufficient fertile land to meet their own food needs—such as wealthier countries in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China—have turned to new fields in which to plant crops. “Growing demand and rising prices for food are leading some wealthier developing countries to seek secure access to food-producing land in the territory of lower-income ones,” said Robert Engelman, Executive Director of Worldwatch. “If all governments capably represented the interests of their citizens, these cash-for-cropland deals might improve prosperity and food security for both sides. But that’s not often the case. It’s critical that international institutions monitor these arrangements and find ways to block those that are one-sided or benefit only the wealthy.”

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports that some 15–20 million hectares of farmland were the subject of deals or proposed deals involving foreigners between 2006 and mid-2009. Additional land acquisitions occurred in 2010, including deals in Ethiopia and Sudan, according to Andrew Rice, author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget and contributing author to the recent Worldwatch report State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

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Jul13

And Now for Something Completely Different; Big Powers Missing in Action on Food Price Crisis but New Leaders Emerge

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By Wayne Roberts

Wayne Roberts is a Canadian food policy analyst, speaker, and author of seven books, including Get A Life! (1995), and Real Food For A Change (1999). Roberts was chairperson for the Toronto-based Coalition for a Green Economy and served on the board of Food Secure Canada and the U.S.-based Community Food Security Coalition. He is currently serving on the board of Green Enterprise Toronto.

If freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, then revolution could be just another word for nothing left to eat.

Small farmers need the support of the big powers if global food security is to be achieved. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Nothing new in that, nor in the dreary estimates that about one billion people face an everyday reality of absolute hunger (lack of calories essential to basic functioning), while another two billion people endure chronic deprivation (lack of nutrients essential to health).

This reality of how the world’s other half lives commands special attention now for two game-changing reasons.

First, the numbers of both suffering groups are expected to rise as global food prices continue their record-breaking climb – up 15 percent over 2011, forcing an additional 44 million people onto the world hunger roll, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Second, political observers and strategists know that rising food prices propelled Arab Spring revolts, shaking up global geopolitics.

A bad case of elite jitters explains the recent spike in food and agriculture proclamations from high officialdom, including the World Bank.

Hunger and poverty have long rivaled climate change as subjects requiring solemn statements of concern from corporate and governmental powers-that-be. But now that hunger is linked to regime change from below, food ranks with oil, currency and debt as a topic requiring management by elite bodies that manage geopolitics. Food policy has arrived.

This June 22, the G20, the club of economic powerhouses that was established in 1999, held its first meeting of agriculture ministers – a guest list based on an obsolete presumption that ag ministers have anything to do with hunger, health or well-being. The ministers were called on to do something about food prices that were out of control.

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Jun22

Vandana Shiva Says Land Grabs are Burying India’s Future

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By Matt Styslinger

According to Dr. Vandana Shiva—founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) and Navdanya—the Indian government is taking land from farmers and giving it to private speculators, real estate corporations, mining companies, and recreational industries. In an online editorial published on Al Jazeera, The great land grab: India’s war on farmers, Shiva says that the land grabs are made possible by the combination of the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the 1991 World Bank structural adjustment program in India, and deregulation under Indian neo-liberal economic policies. “The largest democracy of the world is destroying its democratic fabric through its land wars,” says Shiva. “The land wars must stop if India is to survive ecologically and democratically.”

The Indian government forces farmers to sell their land for US$6 per square meter, according to Vandana Shiva, allowing developers to sell it for as much as US$13,450 per square meter. (Photo: Al Jazeera)

The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was used by colonial rulers in India to forcibly remove peasants and tribal people from their ancestral land so that it could be used for commercial purposes. After independence, India instituted land reform laws to protect land for farmers. The World Bank’s structural adjustment program (SAP), however, reversed them in 1991 believing it would stimulate economic growth. While laws that protected farmers’ rights to land were reversed by the SAP, the colonial Land Acquisition Act was untouched. Now, according to Shiva, Indian policymakers favor the agendas of multinational companies over the needs of their country’s farmers. “[The] global economy, driven by speculative finance and limitless consumerism, wants the land for mining and for industry, for towns, highways, and biofuel plantations,” she says.

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Oct28

Le Soleil Features NtP

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Le Soleil, one of Senegal’s most widely circulated newspapers, just published one of Nourishing the Planet’s weekly innovations on “land grabs”, the increasing prevalence of large-scale land acquisition in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read more about “land grabs” and both sides of the argument on how this will affect local communities you can also see:  Innovations in Access to Land: Land Grab or Agricultural Investment?Is There a “Win-Win” Solution to Land Acquisitions?, Large Scale Land Investments Do Not Benefit Local Communities

Sep14

Nourishing the Planet in the Christian Science Monitor

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This week Nourishing the Planet’s newest op-ed was featured in the weekly print edition of the international newspaper The Christian Science Monitor! The op-ed discusses the increasing prevalence of large-scale land acquisition, or “land grabs” in sub-Saharan Africa and the controversy regarding how these deals will affect the local rural populations.

To read more about “land grabs” and both sides of the argument you can also see:  Innovations in Access to Land: Land Grab or Agricultural Investment?Is There a “Win-Win” Solution to Land Acquisitions?, Large Scale Land Investments Do Not Benefit Local Communities

Aug13

Global Food System Inspires Global Activism

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By Ronit Ridberg

In part two of this two-part interview, Co-Coordinator of La Via Campesina’s North America region Dena Hoff talks about the different players in our global food system, and why we each of us needs to be an activist. To read part one, see La Via Campesina: Fighting for Food Sovereignty, Social Justice, Land Rights, and Gender Equity.

How does global agriculture and trade policy affect the environment, global hunger, and poverty?

“We want people to take an interest in the policies of their own countries, in the plight of family agriculture, family fishermen, migrant workers and landless workers, and get educated about what these people face” (photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

We had all the hype about how industrial agriculture was going to end hunger, how GMOs were going to end hunger, and look what’s happened. There’s a billion hungry people, almost a half a million of those are in the United States. Hunger is increasing, poverty is increasing, and all of the industrialization hasn’t done one single thing to end hunger, and we’ve been destroying the environment. So the solution actually turned out to be very, very damaging – far more damaging than the problems that we had before industrial agriculture was proposed as the solution to hunger and the environment.

Look at the deforestation for biofuels in Brazil, the destruction of traditional agriculture in Indonesia in favor of palm plantations for biofuels. Shoving people off the land and forcing them to the cities where there are no livelihoods is not the solution. Or forcing them to become slaves as is happening all over the world. We like to think that we’re in the twenty-first century, and slavery is something of the past: it isn’t. It’s worse. It’s getting worse every day. There are so many examples of people being forced into slavery, literally having their livelihoods taken away from them because somebody else wants to make a profit off of the resources that they made a modest living with. And then if they wish to survive they can become practically slave labor for these people who just took away their livelihood. So if that’s not slavery, I don’t know what the definition is.

Why are large scale land acquisitions, or land-grabs, problematic?

It’s problematic because there are a lot of places where land is owned communally, or there’s not a deed to the land, and it’s just land that communities have made their living with, in some places for over 1000 years, maybe more. And suddenly, this has a value beyond somebody’s livelihood, beyond somebody having to have food and shelter. And someone finds out they can make a profit, and they come in and take it.

Now in the case of Mali, Mali has put food sovereignty in their constitution – and then their President leases large amounts of arable land to the Saudis, for ten years. That’s totally against the constitution, it’s totally illegal, but there doesn’t seem to be a national or international mechanism to force governments to abide by their own laws and their own constitution. It just seems like increasingly the world is a more lawless place, where anything goes if it makes money.

What policies or programs are needed for more robust protection of land rights and land reform?

Well, first of all I wish the international court would actually take a look at what’s happening in countries where a lot of land grabbing is going on, and tell governments that this is not acceptable, and that you are being held up to international public scrutiny, and we’re not going to allow you to do this. Ultimately I guess it’s just the people having to take control. And that’s difficult, especially in governments where they just send the army in to kill you if you protest.

Do you think there’s any role for multinational corporations to play in improving the situation for farmers and peasants here and across the world?

I’m not sure that’s the role they want. Their mission is their bottom line, to pay dividends to their investors. Their mission is not to do good. Their mission is not to protect the environment or nurture societies. They’re doing what they’re set up to do, and they’ve been given far too many rights and too much power.  I mean, equal protection under the law for a corporation? A friend of mine who was inside used to say, “What kind of craziness is that?” Corporations have no soul to save and no ass to kick and they are totally unaccountable to anyone.

What happens when they do something ugly that causes people to lose their lives? If I would do something accidentally like kill someone in a traffic accident, that would be manslaughter, I would be brought up on charges, I would have to suffer the consequences. You don’t really hear about anyone in a corporation having to take responsibility for the lives they cause to be lost through their greed and negligence. They have the same protection as any individual, but I guess they don’t have the same responsibility.

How could agencies like the World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organization do a better job to support La Via Campesina’s mission?

They could do a better job by ensuring that people in countries that need food aid have access to means of production so that they can feed themselves, and not rely on charity. To make them self-reliant. Education, condemning the privatization of water, health care – the poorest people don’t get those basic things and they don’t get basic services, because they simply can’t pay. And all this hype about corporations being able to produce more – producing more is not the answer. You can go to the markets in the poorest countries and you can see mountains of food, and people starving to death right nearby. If they have no means to a livelihood, they have no means to feed themselves, and no means to make a living, then they can’t buy food. There can be all the extra food in the world, but if they don’t have money, they die.

How can people get involved to help La Via Campesina’s efforts?

We  always need people to hook up with our organizations in all of our countries, and support legislation in those countries that will turn governments around – so that they do the right thing for civil society and are not totally governed by corporations. We have six organizations in the U.S. that belong to Via Campesina. And we’re always looking for people who can help with translation.

We want people to take an interest in the policies of their own countries, in the plight of family agriculture, family fishermen, migrant workers and landless workers, and get educated about what these people face. And also how it impacts you! Because even if you think you are isolated and insulated from all the trouble that’s happening, it impacts everybody because everybody eats. Everybody eats!

If there are only huge massive plantations producing our food with basically slave labor, if workers have no rights, and the environment is just sneered at (because no-one enforces environmental laws), if human rights are not protected, and people are allowed to be brought into the country illegally or otherwise and then just dumped if they’re injured or hurt, and are not well paid – that does not reflect very well on us as a society or as people. Especially people that like to call themselves “good Christians”, and think that anybody who doesn’t look just like them should be shipped out, or denied services. That they shouldn’t be allowed to eat, that they shouldn’t have health care, that they shouldn’t be allowed to be educated because they “don’t belong.”

My family came as immigrants from Europe, and they had things to overcome too. I think people in this country should realize that unless you’re a Native American, you’re an immigrant – and [they should] identify with the new immigrants.

So much of La Via Campesina’s work is about mobilizing people. What agricultural or economic policies do you think could be implemented to address the needs of small-scale farmers and agricultural producers in order to help create the change you envision?

Certainly a decent farm bill with a farmer-owned reserve, and a farm bill that actually gives farmers a price so that they can live and support their communities. Because it isn’t just about farmers –I mean, the money they make supports a whole entire community, our states. And I think people need to understand the importance of agriculture to this country, and what happens to countries that let their agriculture go, and depend on importing all their food from somewhere else. There are plenty of examples in the world of countries that can no longer feed themselves because somebody decided it was cheaper or more intelligent to buy all their food from somebody else, and concentrate on economies that don’t feed people, and concentrate the wealth into the hands of just a very few.

Final thoughts:

Everybody has to become an activist, even if it’s just educating themselves. Even if it’s just making a phone call or planting a garden, or looking around and seeing if your neighbors are one of the one-in-eight people who are hungry. Be aware of what’s going on around you!

To read more about workers in our global food system, see: Giving Farm Workers a Voice, Depending on A Global Workforce, and Giving Farmworkers a Seat at the Negotiating Table.

Ronit Ridberg is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.