More than 60 environmental, development and farming groups are calling on governments and financial institutions to put a stop to land grabbing financed by European pension funds, banks and insurance companies.
Driven by high food prices, increasing demand for agrofuels, raw materials and livestock, and low returns from beleaguered financial markets, large-scale acquisitions of land – particularly in Africa and South America – are soaring. This global land grab by European financial institutions threatens the livelihoods and food supply of countless local communities, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.
Rachel Tansey, economic justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “European pension funds are driving land grabs across the globe, with serious social and environmental impacts. Anyone with a pension could be implicated in human rights violations and ecological destruction. In a world where 1 billion people already go hungry, land must stay in the hands of local communities so that they can feed themselves.”
The call coincides with the industry dominated Agricultural Investment Summit in London, criticised for spearheading the global land grab with financial investors and pension funds. Pension funds are the largest institutional investors in farmland worldwide. Millions of hectares have been leased or purchased up in recent years. As a result, small-holder farmers, peasants, herders, fisher-folk and other rural households are being dispossessed of the means to feed themselves and their communities.
Nyikaw Ochalla, representative of the Ethiopian Anuak people, whose livelihoods are threatened by land grabs said: “Africa, Asia and Latin America are seeing an acceleration of land grabbing at a rate not seen since colonial times. 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 environmental, development and farming groups are calling on financial actors to end speculation on land and other damaging investments in the global food chain. Financial actors must 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.