Protestors say London summit pushing global land grabs and hunger |
War on Want | June 27, 2012
A coalition of environmental, development and farming groups yesterday criticised the Agricultural Investment summit opening in London for spearheading a global land grab.
They say that City investors and pension funds are taking land from countries and vulnerable communities who need it to grow food.
Graciela Romero, international programmes director at War on Want, said: “Hedge funds and private equity funds are misusing Britons’ pension funds to recklessly acquire land and water in developing countries, escalating hunger, destitution and conflict. Despite these harmful practices, there is no binding regulation in the UK or globally to enforce transparency. International financial institutions, such as the World Bank, promote voluntary codes of conduct to minimise the negative impact on communities. But these codes appear more a front to avoid legal controls than any effective means that can protect people’s right to land.”
According to the organisation Grain, “pension funds are said to be the biggest institutional investors in both commodities in general and farmland in particular.”
A briefing from Grain says: “Pension funds currently juggle US$23 trillion in assets, of which some US$100 billion are believed to be invested in commodities. Of this money in commodities, some US$5–15 billion are reportedly going into farmland acquisitions. By 2015, these commodity and farmland investments are expected to double.”
“Africa, Asia and Latin America are seeing an acceleration of land grabbing at a rate not seen since colonial times,” says Nyikaw Ochalla, of the Anuak people from Ethiopia, whose livelihoods are threatened by the land grabs of foreign companies. “Land is the lifeline of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, fishing and farming communities in the Ethiopian lands targeted by land grabbing policy. It is a myth that our lands are ‘wastelands’, only suitable for commercial agricultural development.”
The coalition points to millions of hectares grabbed by this kind of investment in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, Kenya, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Brazil and many more.
British companies alone have acquired the rights to more than three million hectares in poor countries.  - equivalent to almost two thirds of the UK’s total cropland.
 International Land Coalition http://landportal.info/landmatrix
“The summit organisers cheerily call this devastating trend an ‘emerging and expanding asset class’, and bill the summit as an opportunity to ‘overcome the perceived obstacles to investment’,” adds Tim Rice, biofuels policy advisor at ActionAid. “But they are glossing over the true impact on the ground. They are displacing farmers, uprooting communities and food production, and destroying ecosystems on a massive scale. They are increasing hunger and poverty globally. In a world where one billion people already go hungry, land must stay in the hands of local communities so that they can feed themselves.”
“It’s about time the actions of pension fund investors in London’s Square Mile are put in the public spotlight – they must be held responsible for the role they play in the land-grabbing scandal,” said Kenneth Richter, of Friends of the Earth. “The lack of transparency in the pension investment world means anyone’s pension fund could be used to wreck the livelihoods of farming communities’ around the world – without their knowledge. The Government must take action by forcing pension funds to come clean about their land-grabbing activities and making sure these companies are above board about major land purchases abroad.”
The groups’ statement declares: “Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped.”
It says: “Pension funds are reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors’ in farmland worldwide. Millions of hectares have been leased or bought up in recent years. As a result, peasants, herders, fishers and other rural households are being dispossessed of their means to feed themselves and their communities, sometimes through promises of jobs, sometimes at gunpoint.”
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