Turning African farmland over to big business

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“MCC African partner countries are open for business”
Ambassador John Danilovich, CEO of the MCC, June 2008

When the European powers invaded Africa they brought with them their systems of private property. Laws were established based on these systems, in order to justify, entrench and facilitate the takeover of lands from local communities. But such laws were hardly ever applied or respected beyond the boundaries of the European farms and plantations. With independence, although the Western laws often stayed on the books, the African states assumed ultimate and often sole ownership of all lands in their territories. But in practice they did not have the power to manage these lands. So the vast majority of land in the African countryside, through the colonial period and up until today, has been governed according to local communities’ customary land practices. 1

These customary practices are often complex and rarely static. They have evolved over time, shifting with local power politics and adapting to new pressures, such as urbanisation, migration, deforestation or the fragmentation of lands. They are based on varied and overlapping rights and responsibilities, and profoundly integrated with local farming, fishing and pastoral practices. In official circles, these systems of land management have been marginalised and condemned for years, but today they are under unprecedented attack.2

Africa has become the new frontier for global food (and agrofuel) production. Billions of dollars are being mobilised to create the infrastructure that will connect more of Africa’s farmland to global markets, and billions more are being mobilised by investors to take over that farmland to produce for those markets. To get a sense of the extent of what is transpiring, one need only look at the massive oil-palm plantation planned for Liberia by the world’s largest palm-oil companies, or the joint Japanese–Brazilian project to transform vast areas of Mozambique into Brazilian-style soya plantations.3 There is no place for Africa’s millions of small farmers in this new vision. And, like the colonial powers that came before, the new wave of invaders needs a legal and administrative structure to justify and facilitate the takeover of these lands. More

Confronting the FAO to stop GMOs

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Between 28 February and 3 March  2010, the Network for the Defence of Maize, the National Assembly of Environmentally Affected People and Vía Campesina–North America held an independent public hearing in Guadalajara, Mexico. The objective was to bring together the evidence and to elaborate the arguments for starting proceedings in international courts of justice against the Mexican government for deliberately permitting the introduction into the country of genetically modified maize. Mexico is where maize originated, thousands of years ago, and where today more than 1,500 native varieties grow, evolve, and are bred. The cultivation of these varieties is governed by a complex interaction of not only social relations, profound knowledge and trust, but also community resistance.

Ten years ago, Mexico’s government began to distribute large quantities of GM maize seeds in the countryside, in an illegal, undercover operation, and native maize in different regions began to be contaminated. In response, indigenous and peasant communities from many regions formed the Network for the Defence of Maize (Red en Defensa del Maíz). They exchanged local knowledge and experience, and decided to ban the introduction of GM maize in their regions. The network was a space where they could share views, and they became more convinced than ever that the best way of protecting maize was by growing it.

For these communities, agriculture is not a commercial activity but a way of caring for the planet through continuous work. Growing their own food is not only a way of understanding the complex relations between winds, water, forests, other crops, animals and soils but also of protecting human life and promoting justice. Only then can communities be sure that the diversity of maize will not be lost and that the natural and social fabric of relations that lie behind maize will not be weakened.

The decision to hold a first public hearing to make an international case against the Mexican government and the major corporations involved in GM agriculture and food stemmed from the perception that the Mexican judicial system is completely closed or corrupt, or both. Over the last decade the Mexican government has approved a set of reforms and laws to privatise, register, certify or ban what were once commons – water, forests, seeds, biodiversity. It has encouraged intellectual property rights through patents and other legal devices and supported the introduction of GM crops. These laws have created a huge new space for the big corporations to manoeuvre at large but restricted yet further the already limited legal space available to common people. The three most damaging measures have been: the land counter-reform that permits the privatisation of public or communal land; the approval of NAFTA, which provides the big corporations with a totally different set of rules with which to advance their interests; and the refusal to acknowledge indigenous rights in the Constitution. More

Social movements denounce World Bank strategy on land grabbing

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New from GRAIN | 22 April 2010


On 26 April 2010, the World Bank is opening a major two-day conference on land at its headquarters in Washington DC. Seated at the table will be governments, donor agencies, researchers, CEOs and non-government organisations. The main topic of discussion? How to harness the fresh wads of cash being put on the table to build agribusiness operations on huge areas of farmland in developing countries, especially in Africa. The Bank calls these farm acquisitions “agricultural investment”. Social movements call them “land grabbing”.

At the meeting, the Bank will release a long-awaited study on this new land grabbing trend. Apart from assessing how many hectares are being bought and sold where, why and through whom, the Bank will present its solution to the risks and concerns raised by foreign investors — from George Soros to Libya’s sovereign wealth fund to China’s telecoms giant ZTE — taking control of overseas farmland to produce food for export: a set of “principles” for all players to follow. The FAO, UNCTAD and IFAD have agreed to support the Bank in advocating these “principles”. More

Feeding the corporate coffers: why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia’s small farmers

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April 2010

For decades now, hybrid rice has been promoted across Asia as a silver bullet for hunger. But a new collaborative briefing published by GRAIN and several other organisations in Asia and the Pacific* examines how hybrid rice has consistently failed Asia’s small farmers over the past decade. From Bangladesh to China, from the Philippines to Indonesia, the promised increased yield has been elusive in farmers’ fields, and the expansion of hybrid rice is now being linked to a recent upsurge of outbreaks of planthoppers across Asia. Hybrid rice is not being promoted for agricultural development but for the control over farming that it offers and the profits that it generates for the seed and agro-chemical companies.

This briefing looks at the main players behind the hybrid rice push, from the big transnational corporations like Bayer and DuPont and their partnerships with public research centres, such as IRRI, to the Chinese seed companies working with their government to develop hybrid rice overseas in countries such as Liberia, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea, and Timor Leste. It unpacks the hidden agenda behind hybrid rice and lays out the devastating consequences for small farmers if the push is not stopped.

The briefing is available for download here: here: http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=730. More

Land grabbing in Latin America

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March 2010

Communities in Latin America and around the world are faced with a new kind of invasion of their territories. Today foreign investors, whether agribusiness companies from Asia and the Gulf or US and European fund managers, are rushing to take over farmland in Latin America.

While media attention has focused on land deals in Africa, at least as much money and more projects are in operation in Latin America, where investors claim that their farmland investments are more secure and less controversial — ignoring the struggles over access to land being waged in practically every country on the continent. These land grabbers operate from a distance and wear a halo of neutrality. They are more difficult to identify and the legal mechanisms that communities can utilise to defend against dispossession, devastation or pollution are not clear.

This latest wave of invasions creates new challenges for communities and social movements in Latin America.


We oppose HB 414 due to no detailed documented representation for cattle producers.

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“Government employees are not considered valid committee representatives when they have no involvement in handling or raising cattle in Ohio, and expand their livelihood by services and fees charged to “farmers.”

Feb. 2, 2010


We oppose HB 414 due to no detailed documented representation for cattle producers.

The generic terms of HR 414 use the word “Farmers” as the total agriculture representatives. There are  at least three distinct segments of what you refer to as one name “farming.”

1) Dairying is the production of a milk product. It doesn’t produce grains or raise cattle for meat product.  Dairies compete with ranchers for grain and hay products.

2) Ranching is the raising beef cattle for meat purposes. A rancher does not sell milk, nor fibers. He normally will buy grain or hay from a farmer.

3) Farming is the process of plowing, planting and growing grain and fiber from the soil that can be sold to ranchers or dairies, or for other uses.

All of the three above compete with each other as distinct different businesses.

There is no verbiage in HB 414 that assures the largest livestock segment in Ohio (cattle) will have a single representative on your board of 13.

Government employees are not considered valid committee representatives when they have no involvement in handling or raising cattle in Ohio, and expand their livelihood by services and fees charged to “farmers.”

Therefore we consider HB 414 written grossly unfair to all cattle producers in the great state of Ohio.   Depending on the appointments, possibly also unfair to dairys and grain farmers.

Enforcement tired,

Darol Dickinson, Belmont County, 740 758 5050

Remembering La Gloria: New television documentary traces origins of the H1N1 pandemic back to pig farms in Mexico

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This past November people from all over Mexico gathered in the Valley of Perote, where the village of La Gloria is located, for the fifth Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales [National Assembly of Environmentally Affected].

It is a large, periodical gathering of a network of communities and organisations struggling against environmental devastation in Mexico. The location for this most recent gathering was chosen in recognition of the importance of the local struggles against the large pig farms in the area, which had gained national and worldwide attention when the first human cases of pandemic H1N1 swine flu were traced back to La Gloria in April 2009.

This was the second Asamblea for the people of La Gloria and the first for an alliance of communities in the Valley of Perote who have now joined La Gloria in resisting factory farming. Out of the swine flu crisis, the struggle against factory farming has grown stronger, moving from isolated local resistance to a major component of a national movement.

A new documentary on the H1N1 pandemic and factory farming, based on the experiences of La Gloria and the neighbouring communities, now brings this struggle to an international audience and puts factory farming back on centre stage in the story of the H1N1 pandemic. READ MORE (Includes Video)

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