Land: Not For Sale!
By Sofia Monsalve Suárez
The lack of adequate and secure access to land and natural resources for the rural and urban poor is one of the key causes of hunger and poverty in the world. According to the Hunger Task Force of the Millennium Project, about half of the people suffering from hunger in the world live in smallholder farming households, while roughly two-tenths are landless. Smaller groups, perhaps one-tenth, are pastoralists, fisherfolks, and forest users. The remainder, around two-tenths, live in urban areas.
The highly unequal distribution of land ownership in many countries remains an issue of concern, from Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa via South East Asia. In rural areas, the trend towards the reconcentration of land ownership and the reversal of redistributive agrarian reform processes can be observed even in countries with traditionally more egalitarian patterns of access to land, such as China, some states in India and in West Africa. The former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Miloon Kothari, estimated that an average of 71.6 percent of rural households in Africa, Latin America and Western and Eastern Asia (excluding China) are 3 landless or near landless. In urban areas in the South, a similarly unequal distribution of land is emerging with almost no pressure for any form of land reform – in some African cities, 65 percent of the opulation live on 5 percent of the city’s total area.
The precise extent of land grabbing, violent dispossession and displacement from armed conflicts, extractive and agribusiness industries, tourism, industrial and infrastructure projects, accelerated urbanization and last, but not least, the promotion of agrofuel remains unknown. Indigenous peoples, fisherfolks and other traditional rural communities are further threatened by deforestation, monoculture plantations, wildlife and environmental conservation projects, water pollution and depletion of the oceans. More recently rich countries which depend on food imports are seeking to outsource their domestic food production by gaining control of farm land in other countries as a long-term measure to ensure their food security. At the same time, private investors have discovered foreign farmland as a new source of profit.
A global process is underway whereby powerful foreign private and public investors conclude agreements with States to take possession of or control large surfaces of land (many involving more than 10,000 hectares and several more than 500,000 hectares), which is relevant for current and future food sovereignty in the host countries. The FAO estimates that in the last three years twenty million hectares have been acquired by foreign interests in Africa alone. These agreements most commonly known as “land grabbing” will have a severe impact on the enjoyment of the human rights of the local population, particularly on their right to adequate food.
Widespread forced evictions of rural and urban communities have been documented by human rights organizations. Thus, ensuring land and natural resources tenure security remains an urgent issue to be tackled…
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