On 18 November 2008, The Financial Times exposed a massive deal being negotiated between Daewoo Logistics and the government of Madagascar. Through this deal, the South Korean company was seeking access to no less than 1.3 million hectares to grow maize for export back home while the local communities were uninformed. The breaking of this story helped lead to the overthrow of the Malagasy government a few months later, and woke the world up to an outrageous new trend of global land grabbing for agricultural production driven by the food and financial crises. Ten years later, what are we seeing?
Money from pension funds has fuelled the financial sector's massive move into farmland investing over the past decade. The number of pension funds involved in farmland investment and the amount of money they are deploying into it is increasing, under the radar. This unprecedented take-over of farmland by financial companies has major implications for rural communities and food systems, and must be challenged. Leaving it to the companies to police themselves with their own voluntary guidelines is a recipe for disaster.
Africa's food systems are a final frontier for multinational food companies and retailers. Most Africans still consume a healthy diet of traditional foods, supplied by millions of small vendors and small farmers across the continent. But this is slowly changing as global food companies and retailers adopt new strategies to expand their presence on the continent, led by the aggressive actions of some multinational supermarket chains. The livelihoods of millions of small vendors and local farmers are at risk, as are people's health and the continent's diverse traditional food cultures. While African governments do little but facilitate this expansion of foreign supermarkets, small vendors, farmers and urban consumers are coming together to defend their local food systems.
DRC communities file complaint with German development bank to resolve century-old land conflict with palm oil company
RIAO-RDC, GRAIN, FIAN Germany, urgewald, WRM, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, CNCD-11.11.11, FIAN Belgium, SOS Faim, Oxfam Solidarité/teit, Entraide et Fraternité, AEFJN (Belgium), The Corner House (UK), Global Legal Action Network | 07 November 2018 | Media releases, Land
Nine communities from the DR Congo took a historic step this week by filing a complaint with the complaints mechanism of the German development bank (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft – DEG). The communities of the DR Congo want a resolution to a land conflict that dates back to the Belgian colonial period with a palm oil company that is currently being financed by a consortium of European development banks led by DEG.
The picture often painted for us is that we need corporate seeds to feed the world: they are alleged to be more efficient, productive and predictable. Locally developed farmer varieties are painted as backwards, less-productive and disease-ridden. But those of us with our feet on the ground know that this is not the reality in Africa. Just to start with a sobering fact: the vast bulk of food produced on the continent comes from homegrown farmers’ seeds (some studies put the figure at 80%). If these seeds are so “backward,” what moves farmers to keep preserving and planting them? What benefits do they derive from them? What challenges do they encounter in this effort? How must they be supported so that they can do their work more effectively?
AFSA and GRAIN decided to find out. We work with numerous partner organisations across the continent, many of them involved in local seed diversity activities. AFSA along with many other civil society organisations (CSO) on the continent have adopted the term farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS) to acknowledge certain practices that have been dismissed as “informal” by some.
The growth of the supermarket sector has been very rapid. Today, 30 global supermarket chains already control a third of the global retail food market, taking a huge share of the market of the food that the people around the world eat. This is not just a modern trend, an evolution of the way things are sold. Their vast expansion has been supported and promoted by Free Trade Agreements, investment liberalisation, government policies to promote foreign direct investment, and laws and regulations that make it more difficult for small-scale food systems to continue to operate. Supermarket distribution systems - just like the industrial farming system that produces the bulk raw materials that go into the cheap processed foods lining their shelves - are being tremendously subsidised by governments, using tax payers money.
Land grabbing is now considered a crime against humanity, but few land grabbers end up in jail. Instead, if you search the specialised website farmlandgrab.org for news about law suits, court proceedings, convictions or imprisonment related to land deals, what you will largely find are reports of local communities being accused of wrongdoing for defending their own territories against powerful companies! Yet the links between crime, corruption and those engaging in agricultural land deals are real.
One of the world's major buyers of farmland is under fire for their involvement in land conflicts, environmental destruction and risky investments. A new report by GRAIN and Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos presents, for the first time, a comprehensive analysis of Harvard University's controversial investments in global farmland.
In Thailand, the development of modern retail puts consumers and farmers at a loss. According to BioThai, 75 percent of the price of a banana sold in a modern retail outlet goes to the retailer and its suppliers, while only 25 percent goes to the farmer. Moreover, the price of a banana in Thailand is almost the same as the price of one sold in Europe, where 80 percent of the price goes to the retailers and towards import taxes.
The world's biggest meat and dairy companies could surpass Exxon, Shell and BP as the world's biggest climate polluters within the next few decades. At a time when the planet must dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, these global animal protein giants are driving consumption by ramping up production and exports. GRAIN and IATP examined the world’s largest 35 companies and found that most are not reporting their GHG emissions data and few have set targets that could reduce their overall emissions. We need to urgently build food systems that meet the needs of farmers, consumers and the planet. But to do so, we must break the power of the big meat and dairy conglomerates and hold them to account for their supersized climate footprint.