Protestors say London summit pushing global land grabs and hunger
28 June 2012
Campaigners demonstrate outside the Agricultural Investment summit which
starts today in London
'Do you realise what your pension funds?' they ask public
A coalition of environmental, development and farming groups today criticise
the Agricultural Investment summit opening in London for spearheading a
global land grab.
They say that City investors and pension funds are taking land from
countries and vulnerable communities who need it to grow food.
The coalition, including the anti-poverty charity War on Want, this
afternoon will demonstrate against the summit and have released a statement,
signed by over 60 European and international organisations, calling for
pension funds and other financial institutions to stop land grabbing.
Graciela Romero, international programmes director at War on Want, said:
"Hedge funds and private equity funds are misusing Britons' pension funds to
recklessly acquire land and water in developing countries, escalating
hunger, destitution and conflict. Despite these harmful practices, there is
no binding regulation in the UK or globally to enforce transparency.
International financial institutions, such as the World Bank, promote
voluntary codes of conduct to minimise the negative impact on communities.
But these codes appear more a front to avoid legal controls than any
effective means that can protect people's right to land."
According to the organisation Grain, "pension funds are said to be the
biggest institutional investors in both commodities in general and farmland
A briefing from Grain says: "Pension funds currently juggle US$23 trillion
in assets, of which some US$100 billion are believed to be invested in
commodities. Of this money in commodities, some US$5-15 billion are
reportedly going into farmland acquisitions. By 2015, these commodity and
farmland investments are expected to double."
"Africa, Asia and Latin America are seeing an acceleration of land grabbing
at a rate not seen since colonial times," says Nyikaw Ochalla, of the Anuak
people from Ethiopia, whose livelihoods are threatened by the land grabs of
foreign companies. "Land is the lifeline of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists,
fishing and farming communities in the Ethiopian lands targeted by land
grabbing policy. It is a myth that our lands are 'wastelands', only
suitable for commercial agricultural development."
The coalition points to millions of hectares grabbed by this kind of
investment in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, Kenya,
India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Brazil and many
British companies alone have acquired the rights to more than three million
hectares in poor countries.  - equivalent to almost two thirds of the
UK's total cropland.
 International Land Coalition <http://landportal.info/landmatrix
"The summit organisers cheerily call this devastating trend an 'emerging and
expanding asset class', and bill the summit as an opportunity to 'overcome
the perceived obstacles to investment'," adds Tim Rice, biofuels policy
advisor at ActionAid. "But they are glossing over the true impact on the
ground. They are displacing farmers, uprooting communities and food
production, and destroying ecosystems on a massive scale. They are
increasing hunger and poverty globally. In a world where one billion people
already go hungry, land must stay in the hands of local communities so that
they can feed themselves."
"It's about time the actions of pension fund investors in London's Square
Mile are put in the public spotlight - they must be held responsible for the
role they play in the land-grabbing scandal," said Kenneth Richter, of
Friends of the Earth. "The lack of transparency in the pension investment
world means anyone's pension fund could be used to wreck the livelihoods of
farming communities' around the world - without their knowledge. The
Government must take action by forcing pension funds to come clean about
their land-grabbing activities and making sure these companies are above
board about major land purchases abroad."
The groups' statement declares: "Land grabbing by pension funds and other
financial institutions must be stopped."
It says: "Pension funds are reported to be the largest institutional
'investors' in farmland worldwide. Millions of hectares have been leased or
bought up in recent years. As a result, peasants, herders, fishers and
other rural households are being dispossessed of their means to feed
themselves and their communities, sometimes through promises of jobs,
sometimes at gunpoint."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The Agriculture Investment Summit - Europe 2012 takes place from today
(Tuesday, 26 June) to Thursday (28 June) at the Park Plaza Hotel in London's
Victoria. Titles of talks at the summit include "Agriculture in Africa:
'land grab' or untapped opportunity?" and call farmland "one of the greatest
investments in the world". Information about the event can be found at:
2. The alliance of civil society groups includes War on Want, Friends of
the Earth, ActionAid, Biofuelwatch, Global Witness, The Land Is Ours, the
Gaia Foundation, Reclaim the Fields UK and Re:Common It will hold a
demonstration outside the hotel at 5.30pm BST today.
3. The joint civil society statement - "Land grabbing by pension funds and
other financial institutions must be stopped" - has been signed by over 60
European and international organisations and can be found online at
The statement gives notice to pension funds, private and public financial
institutions, and states that can regulate them, that speculation on land
must be stopped. Financial actors must be compelled to publicly disclose
complete information about any direct or indirect financing of land
acquisitions, and be subject to mandatory, prior and independent assessment
of the potential impacts of investments and products. Contact Rachel Tansey
<mailto:Rachel.tansey_at_foeeurope.org> Rachel.tansey_at_foeeurope.org for more
4. Case studies of land grabbing include:
2. "Land, Life and Justice: how land grabbing in Uganda is affecting the
environment, livelihoods and food sovereignty of communities" Friends of the
Earth International, April 2012.
3. "Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab" GRAIN
report, June 2012
6. 1,000 farmers in Karnataka, India, have done a Jail bharo (a peaceful
protest strategy, in which protestors volunteer to be arrested, and a
popular strategy used by Gandhi) to protest against the Agricultural
Investment summit in Bangalore.
eform&Itemid=36 N.B. Some protestors at the Agricultural Investment summit
in London will be wearing green scarves to express solidarity with the
Karnataka Farmers' Union (KRRS), the Rajya Ryota Sangha.
5. For an online public database of large-scale land deals please visit
the Land Matrix at <http://landportal.info/landmatrix
. The matrix shows that almost five per
cent of Africa's land has been bought up since 2000, roughly the size of
Kenya, with little evidence of job creation or benefits to local
communities. The data shows that poorer countries, with high rates of
hunger, have been targeted.
6. For more information on the ties between financial institutes and land
grabbing, please see:
1. "Pension Funds: key players in the global farmland grab" GRAIN, June
2. Table of pension funds involved in global largescale farmland
acquisitions as of June 2012 (GRAIN)
3. "Farming Money: how European banks and private finance profit from
food speculation and land grabs" Friends of the Earth report, January 2012
7. For more information and interviews, please contact: Paul Collins
<mailto:paul.collins93_at_yahoo.com> paul.collins93_at_yahoo.com (+44) (0)7983
550728. Kenneth Richter, kenneth.richter_at_foe.co.uk (+44) (0)20 7566 1671.
Tim Rice, tim.rice_at_actionaid.org (+44) (0)20 3122 0561. Josie Cohen
jcohen_at_globalwitness.org (+44) (0)7956 250 260.
Received on Thu Jun 28 2012 - 14:37:50 EDT