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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Getting to grips with landgrabbing

The food, financial and energy crises of the last couple of years are leading to massive land speculation and fears that the world will not be able to meet its food needs in the future. As a result, land grabbing, a phenomenon which is putting in peril the food security of millions of small farmers, is quickly becoming one of the most alarming issues of our time. In this, the 10th World Social Forum, the issue of land grabbing has undoubtedly emerged as one of the most discussed among the hundreds of civil society organisations which have come to Dakar to mobilise and share experiences on their respective struggles. Official data on land grabbing and its magnitude remains illusive and the actual numbers of hectares involved is contested. The FAO estimates that of the land grabs taking place today about 70%, is occurring in Africa, the same continent facing the greatest food security challenges. […] There are various forces driving the scramble for land. Mining and appropriation of forest resources are not particularly new occurrences.  Neither is the acquisition of land by international corporations for plantations, such actions were common in Latin America in the 70s and 80s. What is different now is the rate in which it is happening and the fact that land grabbing is being sanctioned in the name of supporting a green economy. Evidence suggests that one third of the land grabs today are going for the production of agro-fuels, most notably jatropha, maize and sugar for ethanol. These will be supplied to meet the EU’s commitment of blending at least 10% agro-fuels to reduce the use of non-renewable energy sources. According to Ruth Hall of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies in South Africa, some 5 million hectares have already been grabbed in Africa, to satiate Europe’s thirst for ‘green’ energy. Whilst reduced dependence on non-renewable energy sources is a worthy cause, the commitment has created a business for agro-fuels. This business is having disastrous consequences for small farmers who are being pushed off their land and loosing access to their resources, livelihoods and capacity to feed themselves. It is estimated that the amount of corn used to fill a 4x4 could feed an adult for a year.

Source: CIDSE