When the European colonizers invaded Central and West Africa during the nineteenth century, they came to understand (in a very narrow way) the possible wealth that could be generated from oil palm cultivation. They began taking over the local people’s large oil palm groves and tearing down forests to set up plantations. One of the pioneers of this effort was Britain’s Lord Leverhulme, who, through a campaign of terror against the local people, took over community palm groves and turned vast swathes of the Congo’s forests into slave plantations. His company’s oil palm plantations would eventually expand throughout West and Central Africa and then to Southeast Asia, and provide the foundation for the multinational corporation Unilever, one of the world’s largest food companies.

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Eight years after releasing its first report on land grabbing, which put the issue on the international agenda, GRAIN publishes a new dataset documenting nearly 500 cases of land grabbing around the world. Over the past several years, GRAIN staff and allies in different regions have been tracking media and other information sources on a daily basis and posting reports on land grab developments to the open-publishing platform farmlandgrab.org. We used this website as the basis for constructing this dataset, which holds 491 land deals covering over 30 million hectares spanning 78 countries. This new research shows that, while some deals have fallen by the wayside, the global farmland grab is far from over. Rather, it is in many ways deepening, expanding to new frontiers and intensifying conflict around the world. We hope this updated dataset will be useful tool for movements, communities, researchers and activists fighting against land grabbing and defending community-based food systems.

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The Panama Papers leak has focused global attention on tax havens. While most of the initial stories have been about politicians, attention is slowly turning to corporations, by far the biggest users of tax havens. The top 50 US corporations alone are said to have hidden about US$1.4 trillion in tax havens. Food companies like Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM) and Wilmar are heavy users of offshore company structures.

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On Friday 3 June, African citizens, organisations and unions will disrupt the shareholder meeting of the Bolloré group at its headquarters in Puteaux, just outside of Paris, France. The protestors represent a movement composed of thousands of farmers who have been displaced from their lands by industrial oil palm and rubber plantations. Since Wednesday, this movement has also been occupying factories and plantations in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  

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“SOCFIN shareholders: stop land grabbing!” Citizens demand that SOCFIN respect the rights of local communities

Meng Landwirtschaft, CNCD-11.11.11, ReAct, GRAIN, FIAN Belgium, SOS Faim, AEFJN, Entraide & Fraternité, MAP, Quinoa, CADTM, ADG, Oxfam-Solidarité | 01 June 2016 | Media releases

On Wednesday 1 June at 10:00 CET, citizens and representatives of Belgian, French and Luxembourgish organisations are calling out to the shareholders of SOCFIN, a Belgian-Luxembourgish group, during their annual meeting. They have carried out a protest action in solidarity with communities in Africa and Asia affected by the agroindustrial company’s land grabs. After several attempts to reach out to the company’s management, the groups and citizens are now calling on the company’s shareholders to respect the fundamental rights, including land rights, of the local communities. Similar actions have also been held  by the communities in several of the group’s plantations.

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Ever since the ink dried on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), people have become aware of another mega-trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors in the Asia-Pacific region. Like the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) threatens to increase corporate power in member countries, leaving ordinary people with little recourse to assert their rights to things like land, safe food, life-saving medicines and seeds.

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A new video provides a window onto the reality of women-led artisanal palm oil production, a reality often rendered invisible in narratives of global industrial palm oil. This model is under threat by the rapid advance of industrial plantations, free trade agreements and corporate-controlled value chains at the expense of community-based food systems.

 

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2015 was a prolific year for GRAIN. We produced a large number of high impact research reports and databases that became reference points for many groups and individuals working on land, food, seed and climate-related issues—including many who don't necessarily agree with us. At the same time, we worked with partners on the ground, supporting their capacity and strategy building efforts and helping to mobilise international solidarity for their causes. We look forward to another great year of work helping to build stronger movements for diverse, community-based food systems around the world. 

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We are 40 participants who have united in Mundemba, Cameroon, for an international workshop on the tactics and strategies of oil palm companies, from 28 to 31 January 2016. We have gathered to share our experiences from Cameroon, West and Central Africa, Asia and South America, and to understand the realities of the local communities in Ndian Division, Southwest Region of Cameroon. We share the concerns of local communities regarding the growing interest in community land for corporate oil palm plantations. 

 

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One year after their arrest on 15 March 2015, three food, land, and human rights defenders continue to languish in an Ethiopian jail. After several court hearings, the prosecution has yet to present any evidence to support the spurious charge of “terrorism” under Ethiopia’s controversial counterterrorism law. A 1 March hearing was once again adjourned and rescheduled for 15 March, due to the failure of witnesses to appear in court. 

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