Heidelberg 10/12/2009 - For the first time in decades, the estimate of undernourished people is on the rise again, and has passed the historic margin of one billion. Unsecured, unequal and discriminatory access to land and other natural resources remains one of the key structural causes of hunger. The recent phenomenon of large-scale land grabbing brings a new dimension into the struggle for the scarce resource.
"The sellout of African, Asian and Latin American agricultural lands to foreign states and companies will further aggravate the food crisis," warns Sofia Monsalve, agrarian policies expert at FIAN International. "On the occasion of today's Human Rights Day, we demand that States fulfill their obligation to respect and protect the right to food of their citizens and abroad by preventing large scale land grabbing" Monsalve points out.
The new land grabbing wave is triggered off by a number of countries which, in order to combat their dependency on food imports, start outsourcing their domestic food production by gaining control of large tracts of farm land in foreign countries. At the same time, private investors have discovered foreign farmland as a new source of profit.
"Large-scale foreign land acquisition for export purposes drastically reduces land availability for agrarian reform and equitable land access", says Rolf Künnemann, Human Rights director at FIAN International Secretariat. "This is particularly detrimental as peasants and pastoralists depend on access to land and other productive resources to be able to feed themselves. In a context of population growth in these countries their increasing resource needs have to be respected", Künnemann goes on.
80 percent of the people that suffer hunger and undernutrition live in rural areas, but become increasingly deprived of access to land, due to violent dispossessions and displacements in the context of armed conflicts, extractive and agribusiness industries, tourism, industrial and infrastructure projects, accelerated urbanisation and the massive promotion of plants used for agrofuel production.
Künnemann is particularly concerned about Ethiopia, where almost half the population is food insecure, famines are recurrent, but at the same time, the government gives away vast stretches of prime agricultural land to business interests from India, the EU, the USA, Israel and Saudia Arabia - mainly for sugar, meat, agrofuels and flowers. "By failing to outrule such scandalous deals these countries are complicit in Ethiopia's violations of the right to food", Künnemann explains.
"Since its inception, FIAN has been consistently working on access to land and agrarian reform as central elements of the right to adequate food. Given the dramatic scale of land grabbing we are witnessing today, and given the fact that land is essential for the fulfilment of several human rights such as the right to food, housing, water, work, culture and Indigenous Peoples' rights, time has come to increase the protection of access to land by fully recognising it as a human right", says Flavio Valente, FIAN's Secretary General.