Farmers' Networks Urge Government Action
Against Land Grabbing
The article below was published in South-North
Development Monitor (SUNS) SUNS #7239 dated 14 October 2011. We
thank SUNS and IPS for permission to re-distribute this article.
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
Farmers' Networks Urge Government Action Against Land Grabbing
Rome, 12 Oct (IPS/Sabina Zaccaro) -- Civil society organisations and
global farmers' networks are gathered in Rome this week to ask governments
to stop the "disastrous practice of land grabbing", ahead
of next week's Committee on World Food Security.
From October 11 to 14, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO) is running inter-governmental negotiations on land governance.
After six years of negotiations involving governments, international
organisations and civil society groups, this session is expected to
adopt voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of land and other
These guidelines would protect and strengthen access to land, fisheries
and forests for indigenous peoples and small-scale producers, especially
According to farmers' organisations, the guidelines currently under
negotiation could become an instrument "to keep financial speculation
out of peoples' lands, water and forests and to overcome a system of
governance that facilitates the takeover of peoples' natural resources
by corporate investors and other powerful actors".
Delegates from the global farmers' network La Via Campesina, the International
Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty and the Italian Committee for
Food Sovereignty are taking part in the negotiations.
The issue seems most crucial now that the global food and financial
crises have made maintaining livelihoods impossible for farmers, their
communities and small-scale producers unless their land is preserved.
A recent report by Oxfam identified 227 million hectares of land, an
area the size of northwest Europe, as having been reportedly sold or
licensed - largely in Africa and mostly
to international investors - through thousands of secret deals since
Earlier this year, the World Bank identified 56 million hectares of
"grabbed" land, again predominantly in Africa.
The issue implicates Europe and the US equally. According to a recent
report on land grabbing, released earlier this month by Friends of the
Earth, more than 60 percent of land consumed in Europe
is imported, while US demand for imported land increased by 100 million
hectares between 1997 and 2004.
The report stated, "Europe uses
the equivalent of 1.5 times its own area in land. Germany
and the UK
are among the top land import dependent countries, each importing more
than 80 million hectares a year. Average land consumption in the EU
is 1.3 hectares per capita, while countries such as China
use less than 0.4 hectares per capita. The US
consumes more than three hectares per capita, four times as much as
In many cases, land is being used to grow crops for biofuel markets.
"We want to make sure that governments understand our position
on the disastrous (impacts) of land grabbing on international investments
in agriculture," Kalissa Regier, youth vice president of Canada's
National Farmers Union (NFU) and member of La Via Campesina, told IPS.
"The situation is particularly disastrous for young farmers. Every
time farmland is (taken) from the rural community, it can never be regained
by families or the younger generation who once had a chance to be part
of their land, part of their families' heritage."
Areas where farmers have secure land tenure and access to arable land
have decreased incidence of food insecurity, she added. But once land
is lost "through land grabbing, corporate investments in agriculture
or government investments in farmland", it cannot be regained,
Regier, an organic grain producer in Canada, said the
impacts of this issue would last for hundreds of years and stressed
that land grabbing is not limited to the global South, but that people
around her were experiencing it as well.
Land grabbing is "manifesting itself differently depending on the
social and economic structures" in different regions, she said.
" In Africa, Asia and South America, you see the disastrous impacts
of poverty, hunger and displacement of communities," while North
America has seen many of its youth shift from rural areas
into cities alongside huge amounts of foreign investment in farmland.
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food,
recently urged the adoption of common guidelines on land governance.
He stressed that "governments should be wary of speculation and
concentration of ownership when land rights are transferred to private
investors to develop farmland". He added, "Harmful investments
to the detriment of local populations - or land grabbing - can only
be warded off if we first secure the underlying rights of farmers, herders
On Tuesday, farmers' delegates in Rome
submitted the Dakar Appeal, a document prepared during the 2011 World
Social Forum in Senegal, to the
president of the UN Committee on Food Security (CFS).
The appeal, endorsed by over 700 organisations worldwide, calls on governments
to put an end to land grabbing and urges the CFS to reject the World
Bank principles for responsible agricultural investment.
Farmers are also extremely concerned about the implementation of guidelines.
"We are participating (in high-level discussions) here... but finally
we want this paper to be reflected in the life of the woman who depends
on fish from the lake, whose children go to sleep hungry because the
fish in the lake have been taken by a big company from another country,"
Rehema Bavuma, a Ugandan delegate from the World Forum of Fish Harvesters
and Fish Workers, told IPS.
Bavuma lives on the bank of Lake Victoria, Uganda.
"Traditionally, women and men near the lake have depended (exclusively)
on fish. The men fished and the women cooked or smoked the fish, for
eating or selling to their neighbours."
However, Bavuma said, this is not happening anymore. "They still
live near the lake but they are not allowed to fish because the government
has given rights to big companies to take fish from the lake and sell
it, but local people cannot afford to buy it, as it is very expensive."
"These people have no food, no jobs, no water and no income. If
our governments negotiate (guidelines) on behalf of their peoples, we
want to see (those rules) adopted and implemented." She added that
land grabbing affects water supplies and other resources as well.
Farmers' networks are expecting governments to take a strong position
in the negotiations on land tenure by openly opposing land grabs and
ensuring communities' rights and human rights are protected.
"We expect governments negotiating land tenure to approve strict
guidelines that can rescue farmers from the hands of private speculators
and safeguard small producers' and local communities' access to and
control over natural resources, including land, water and forests,"
said Mamadou Ba, of the Conseil National de Concertation et de Cooperation
des Ruraux, Senegal.
The outcomes of the FAO negotiations are expected by Friday.
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