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Press Briefing: 13.30 Wednesday 6 April

The hidden impact of land deals in developing countries to be revealed

As reports of vast amounts of rural farmland in developing countries being scooped up by foreign governments and corporations continue to make international headlines, new research revealing the extent of the issue will be released at an international conference next week. The “Global Land Grabbing” conference takes place at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on 6-8 April at the University of Sussex, UK.

A landmark event, the conference will be attended by leading researchers and key policymakers, with over 120 papers documenting land grab cases from across the world being presented. Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will be the keynote speaker.

Ian Scoones, joint convenor of the IDS hosted Future Agricultures Consortium said:

‘The rush for global farmland by foreign governments and corporations has become headline news. These deals are often criticised as forms of “neo-colonialism” and, as was the land-grabbing case in Madagascar in 2009, are often accompanied by protests. Despite some of these deals being well-publicised, their impacts remain little understood. Central to the issue of equitable land deals are questions of who wins, who loses and why, and what are the social, political and ecological consequences.’

He continued: ‘Countries rich in oil but poor in land and water, as well as international corporations, banks, financiers and sovereign funds appear to be driving this interest looking to stem domestic uncertainty over food supply and prices. Despite promises of economic prosperity and employment, the impact on people farming their land for generations is uncertain at best.’

New research that will be presented at the Conference will reveal issues of real concern. Displacement, unrealised promises of employment, deals without real investment, deforestation for biofuels driven by subsidies and incentives in Europe and the United States to switch to non-fossil fuel sources, are amongst the issues hidden within many reports.

Future Agricultures Consortium researcher, Ruth Hall, from the South African Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) said:

 

“The vacant land discourse, promoted by some land deals, is fundamentally flawed...cases of deals made for land that is unclaimed, unused or unoccupied by local people is simply untrue”.

 

Ends

For media inquiries, to register attendance at the Media Briefing, or for further information on the conference and research, please contact Carol Smithyes: email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: 01273 915638.

Notes for Editors

  1. The conference is being organised by the Land Deals Politics Initiative which is hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium at IDS. See: www.iss.nl/ldpi, www.future-agricultures.org and www.ids.ac.uk
  2. Panels include discussants from International Food Policy Research Institute, International Institute of Social Sciences, Cornell, ISSER (Ghana), International Institute for Environment and Development, University of the Western Cape, China Agricultural University, World Bank, UK Department of International Development, Institute of Development Studies, and many more plus plenary discussions that will debate livelihoods, the environment, political economy and governance around land deals. Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food will open the conference with a keynote address. See: http://www.srfood.org/index.php/en/special-rapporteur-/olivier-de-schutter
  3. The conference programme, presentations and background resources is available at http://www.future-agricultures.org/land-grab.html
  4. The Future Agricultures Consortium is five-year research programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. Since 2005, it has built a dynamic partnership between leading African and UK institutions, developed a strong evidence base for policy influencing around a set of themes and engaged with agricultural policy processes at global, national and local levels. For more information go to: www.future-agricultures.org
  5. IDS is a leading global charity for research, teaching and information on international development. Our vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing. We believe that research knowledge can drive the change that must happen in order for this vision to be realised. For more information go to: www.ids.ac.uk

Media registration at the event

  1. All media are welcome to attend the event during the first morning only (9am-2pm, including lunch). Please register your attendance by contacting Carol Smithyes: email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: 01273 915638. Details of the venue can be found at
    http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/about-ids/getting-to-ids
  2. If you would like to organise interviews with participants, please indicate this as part of your registration.
  3. A press briefing for questions and answers will be organised at 13.30 on Wednesday 6 April, involving a panel chaired by Jun Borras and including (tbc) Ruth Hall, Klaus Deininger, Ibrahima Coulibaly and Olivier de Schutter.
  4. Specific questions may be directed to Carol Smithyes, IDS Communications Officer at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

IPC

Landmark conference on land grabbing: large-scale agricultural investments do undermine food security

Participants at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing overwhelmingly found that land grabbing is occurring at a scale and speed as never before, and resulting in widespread displacement and dispossession of rural and urban communities, especially smallhold agricultural producers. Held on 6-8 April at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, the Conference was organised by the Land Deals Politics Initiative (LDPI) in collaboration with the Journal of Peasant Studies and hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium at the IDS.

Over 100 papers presented in 32 panels during the conference showed how land, water and natural resources are appropriated by national and transnational corporations, elites and governments through agricultural investments, special economic zones, tourism, conservation programmes, climate change mitigation projects and financial speculation. Not a single case of positive outcomes for local communities, food security, employment and environmental sustainability was found. Instead, participants, who were mostly academics and students, but also from the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, civil society and peasant movements heard that finance and agribusiness corporations were worried about the impacts of bad press on their reputations.

“Land grabs, which aim at 20% profits for investors, are all about financial speculation,” said Andrea Ferrante of la Via Campesina. “This is why land grabbing is completely incompatible with food security: food production – or any other legitimate economic activity - can only bring profits of 3-5%. So land grabbing simply enhances the commodification of agriculture whose sole purpose is the over-remuneration of speculation capital”.

Sofia Monsalve of the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN International) reiterated the CSO's critique to the Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment to discipline land grabbing in an attempt to legitimize something which is absolutely unacceptable. “The concluding remarks of the conference were very clear: there is overwhelming evidence of the destructive force of land grabbing, for peasant livelihoods and for the environment. As one participant put it, the burden of proof is now on the supporters of large-scale land investments”, she added.

Yulian Junaidi Jasuan from the Federation of Indonesian Peasants (SPI) said that, “Land grabbing is a global crime” and exhorted conference participants to build a global moratorium on land grabbing. The International Planning Committee for Food Security and the Land Research Action Network support this view.

According to Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, trying to make large-scale investments more “responsible” is not enough."The real concern behind the development of large-scale investments in farmland is rather that giving land away to investors will result in a type of industrial farming that will have much less powerful poverty-reducing impacts than if access to land and water were improved for the local farming communities. Accelerating the shift towards large-scale, highly mechanized forms of agriculture will not solve the problem of hunger: it will make it worse."

It is time for Food Sovereignty!

 

Land working group of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (http://wgart.foodsovereignty.org/)

Land Research Action Network (http://www.landaction.org)

Conference papers can be downloaded at www.future-agricultures.org

Sign the Dakkar Appeal against the land grab at http://www.petitiononline.com/dakar/petition.html
Press Conference Video

Future Aquicultures Consortium Land Deal Politics Initiative Journal of Peasant Studies Institute of Development Studies