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G20-Agriculture: Hundreds of organizations say STOP farm land grabbing

June 2011

Grassroots International joined nearly 500 other organizations around the world in signing the “Dakar Appeal Against Land Grabbing.” The appeal, originally drafted at the World Social Forum in Dakar in February 2011, calls upon governments to immediately cease all massive land grabs and return the plundered land to communities.

The Dakar Appeal is central to actions currently taking place at the G20 meeting on Agriculture in Paris today and tomorrow. The petition states that national governments and international institutions should guarantee peoples’ rights to land instead of signing leases with big private investors. Sustainable family farming, agroecological production models and strong local markets are recognized by many as the best way to feed people and to protect the planet. Below is a press release from Grassroots International’s partner the Via Campesina outlining the issues at hand. For more information on the G20 meeting, and the Dakar Appeal Against Land Grabbing, visit   G20 Agriculture: No to “food grabbing” by the richest nations of the world!  Food and agriculture will be on the menu of the G20 agriculture ministers meeting to be held in Paris on June 22 and 23, in preparation for the G20 conference in Cannes, France, in November. The international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina condemns the ongoing attempts by the governments of the world’s richest nations to grab and control food policies that affect not only farmers but every single human being. The G20 does not have the authority to dictate its policies to the rest of the world. It only includes the 20 richest economies, excluding the poorest. For example, from Africa, one of the continents most affected by hunger, only South Africa is admitted to the club.  The G20 is not only illegitimate, but also incompetent. Since its creation in 1999 it has intended to build a new world economic order, by controlling speculation and tax havens, dismantling “excessively large” banks and taxing financial transactions, amongst other plans. But these attempts have failed because the leaders of G20 nations continue to promote the same neoliberal policies that have created the current food and financial crises. Now the French presidency of the G20 has put the volatility of agricultural prices as well as rural development on the agenda.  Food prices are peaking again, reaching the levels of 2008 when high prices pushed the number of hungry people in the world to over one billion, particularly affecting rural areas. The instability of food prices is a consequence of several factors including trade liberalization, the deregulation of markets, speculation and the promotion of agrofuels. Export-oriented agrobusiness and dependence on external markets create price volatility. When the main production is sold to the markets and there is no stock available either at community or country level, then price instability can have a deadly impact. Farmers lose any bargaining position to determine prices, since it is the exporters, large brokers and retailers who control the market and benefit from fluctuations. Moreover, unlike agro-ecology, industrial farming is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for the production of pesticides and transportation. This also increases volatility on the world market. Even if they produce food, small farmers, both women and men, are among the first victims of high prices. As they do not have sufficient access to land and other productive resources, they have to buy a large part of the food needed to feed their families. The production costs also increase due to high fuel prices. Prices paid to producers often remain below the cost of production, and far below the prices paid by consumers. The increasing gap between producer and consumer prices is pocketed by the middlemen, supermarket chains and large traders.  The massive acquisition of agricultural land by transnational companies that has been taking place over the past years has multiplied farmer evictions and reduced the capacity of many African, Asian and Latin American countries and communities to feed themselves. In that respect, the World Bank initiative to make land grabbing more socially acceptable is no solution at all. The Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) are set up to legitimize land grabbing from small holders. Both foreign and domestic investors should be banned from bringing large areas of land under their control.  There should be food on everybody’s plate, and not only on the plates of the richest. Therefore, decisions related to food and agriculture should not be discussed by the G20, let alone the G8, but at a more global level, by all the countries of the world. The G20 is considering setting up an “annual multi-stakeholder meeting on food security” to involve the civil society. La Via Campesina views this initiative as a step backwards and reaffirminsists that the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) should be respected as the central space where global food policies are negotiated with the participation of Civil Society, and decided among all governments.  Together with La Confédération paysanne, a member of La Via Campesina in France, we reaffirm that the solution to the current crisis lies in national, regional and international public policies that regulate the markets in order to guarantee prices that are fair for the consumers as well as for small farmers, especially women and youth.  The policies based on Food Sovereignty should include:

  • The defense and promotion of peasant-based, small-scale sustainable agriculture sold at local level. This includes among others the revival of local food communities, the protection of farmers’ seeds, access to land and water, and access to education. For example, agricultural land conversion into other purposes such as housing, tourism or industry should not be allowed. When farmers have better control over the processing and marketing of their produce, they are less vulnerable to market volatility.
  • The (re)establishment of physical and diversified food reserves (from local to national levels) to stabilize prices and manage risks in case of natural disasters and emergencies.
  • Strong measures to ban speculation on food, such as an ban on speculative futures markets. Instead of stabilizing prices, they create speculative bubbles with fictive prices.
  • An end to the dismantling of agricultural policies such as the CAP, imposed by the WTO and others. Countries should have the right to protect their own markets against dumping and defend their local production. Countries with agricultural potential in term of numbers of family farmers and availability of arable land need to revive their food production for domestic needs.
  • An end to the promotion of agrofuels which are putting pressure on food markets and expelling peasants from their land.
  • An end to land grabbing and the implementation of the commitments made at the FAO International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD). We demand that the elaboration process of the FAO Guidelines on the Governance of Land and Natural Resources be strengthened, and that they provide a clear framework for the protection of peasants, small holders and communities that live and work on the land, the protection of land rights, and protection against land grabbing.

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