Sunday, May 27, 2012

Land Grapping

Last week saw the release of guidelines for access to lands for food security, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This received very little attention, but I think this is significant. The issue of land grabbing is becoming alarmingly big news in the last five years or so. For example, see this article from the BBC. In many countries large overseas companies are buying land to grow food and other crops and then sending that food, etc. back to their home countries. The first issue is that in most cases the food (or more correctly the land on which it grows) is necessary for feeding the local population.

But what is the real issue addressed by the guidelines, is that the land that is bought by the large companies, is not available to local farmers and in many cases, the original farmers are forced off the land. Hence, the term "land grap". The guidelines are how to protect the rights of the tenants.
Generally, I do not like voluntary standards, but this case is somewhat different. First, it is that it is simply important that the UN agencies are looking at the issue. Secondly, it is an international guideline, and therefore, would be very difficult to enforce.

With the emphasis on economic growth, there has been a major attack on rights of worker's and tenure rights. Corporations should not have the ability to set up work (including corporate farms) simply anywhere they want.
The overall problem is where this land grabbing does increase overall economic growth, it also decreases the economic of local people. It is the economic rights of these people which is most important.

Update 1: Here Fred Pearce, the author of the book Land Grabbers discusses the problem of land grabbing.

Update 2: There is an interesting article at World Resources Institute called Why land rights should be on Rio+20 agenda

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