Right to land and agroecology: tools to contrast Land Grabbing

The FOCSIV annual report on Land Grabbing with updates, statistics, case studies has been published. It includes two important guidelines to contrast this phenomenon that causes the absolute poverty of the families and obliges them to abandon their lands.

Latifundism is assuming global dimensions: with this warning, Mons. Luigi Bressan introduces the FOCSIV - Coldiretti report, I padroni della Terra – Rapporto sull’accaparramento della Terra 2019 (The lords of the Land - Report on Land Grabbing 2019). Land grabbing surely is not a new phenomenon, but it is gradually acquiring more importance as the environmental challenges become more evident.

Who are the new Latifundists? The large firms, the multinational funds and some countries. It’s easy to define the top-ten: United States, China, Canada, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Spain, Brazil (with the peculiarity of being both victim and perpetrator), South Korea, India and Switzerland. The target-countries are still located in Latin America (Brazil and Peru), Africa (Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar) and Asia (Philippines, Papua New Guinea), with the interesting inclusion of a European country: Ukraine. Why do they grab the lands? To cultivate wood, food (especially oils) and for the industrial installations. What do they bring to the countries in which they act? Infrastructure, undoubtedly. But also pollution of groundwater sources, lands expropriation, deforestation, destruction of biodiversity.

The Focsiv report tells us that the phenomenon of land grabbing has come to a halt following the global economic slowdown, but it doesn’t mean that it is less dangerous. The report details the study of 4 cases in 4 countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali and Peru, with the construction of the Amazon Waterway (Hidrovía Amazoníca).

There are two important news at the level of international mobilisation. The adoption, after more than 17 year of negotiations, of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas.

The Declaration has been adopted on 28 September, 2018 and it has been ratified on 17 December, 2018 with 121 affirmative votes, 54 abstentions, one of them from Italy (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Honduras, Italy, Romania, Russia, Spain...), and 8 negative votes (USA, Australia, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Switzerland)23. It is the result of a process that has lasted more than 17 years, born from the farmers of the movement “La Via Campesina”, with the support of organisations such as FIAN International (Food First Information and Action Network) and CETIM (Centre Europe-Tiers Monde). In a context of increasing attention towards environment, climate change and food safety, the aim has been to group in one individual document the rights of the farmers, in order to grant their effective protection: many articles, in fact, refer to already existing rights, but that are mentioned in different declarations which are not always directly dedicated to the farmers.

Nevertheless, this tool doesn’t seem able to adequately protect the rural families. During the last year a negotiation on a Binding Treaty on companies and human rights has started. In 2018 a discussion has started on a Zero Draft, that is, a first draft of the Treaty. In this Treaty, important and delicate issues are discussed such as the rights of the victims of abuse, the immediate and effective access to a fair trial, the duty of the state to ensure in its internal legislation the obligation for the companies to conduct with due care its operations. The discussion on the responsibility of the parent undertakings for the violations committed by its subsidiary businesses and branches has a special relevance.

Lastly, the report proposes a reflection on the approach of the Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ for the care of land and of its food producers on a small scale, in order to contrast the phenomena of land grabbing, to later reach a proposal of principles of agroecology, which somehow seek to translate into practical guidelines the application of the encyclical letter and of food sovereignty.

Read the Full Report HERE