That’s right we are top of the league, defending champions for the past 10 years running in………….Land and water grabbing across the world! We even managed to push the two superpowers in to second and third place. Haven’t we already been here and done this?
Mother Jones reported on Wednesday on a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper which puts the UK at the top of the table for land purchases in some of the world’s poorest regions. These land purchases are framed as “land grabs”. A land grab is defined in this paper as a,
transfer of the right to use or own the land from local communities to foreign commercial production, and induced a change from extensive to intensive land use
In other words this represents the breaking down of a developing nation’s ability to feed its own people. With these land grabs come the water grabbing part as 86 percent of the world’s water resources flow into agricultural production. Compare this to the stated aims on agricultural development from the Department for International Development (DFID),
UK aid is supporting farmers with seeds, tools and technical training to improve their production, income and nutrition.
UK aid is also supporting the very poorest through cash transfer programmes that aim to protect household assets (such as oxen for ploughing or seeds for planting) that might otherwise be sold in a crisis, as well as help farmers buy these things in good times.
This isn’t an attack on DFID, who do some good work around the world, but what this highlights is the complete contradiction between the stated intentions of the British state and the actual practice of British business abroad. As the Little Man reported last year on UK business investments in the nuclear weapons industry it would appear that many of these purchases are being made by state sector pension funds, in the US at least. The Guardian reported on a conference held in London last June, where many of these business “leaders” gathered to discuss the opportunities to be hand in this sector. Actionaid investigated the British company Sun Biofules, who they found to have impoverished thousands of Tanzanians after purchasing land from these people for the growing of biofuel crops with the promise of the benefit it would bring to them, which never came.
EuroparlTV ran an investigative report on the same company, Sun Biofuels, and on their land purchasing in Mozambique and the resulting benefits and problems it has caused the locals. The report highlights how none of these purchases could be made with out compliant local land-owners and government officials and how some workers and unions stand in opposition.
There are reports published that highlight the benefits of private investment through land acquisition in these developing countries, however they are few and far between in comparison to the criticisms laid at the practice. The UN has also issued warnings over the effects on the indigenous people as a result of these large-scale land grabs. The Oakland Institute reported back in 2011 over the volatility that these hedge-fund purchases of land in Africa were creating in the global food supply.
The fact that hedge funds and other powerful financial entities are even allowed to operate in such life-dependent fields is tantamount to the complete lack of national and global regulation on these financial institutions. This appears to be a form of violence being used by multi-nationals from their position of complete power upon the poor people of these countries, sending them further in to poverty.
Poverty is the worst form of violence.
By Jonathan Woodrow Martin