Posted 5 years ago on Dec. 10, 2011, 6:18 p.m. EST by GirlFriday
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Global banks, investment houses and pension funds are gobbling up farmland in poor countries for food and biofuels production. GRAIN, winners of the 2011 Right Livelihood Award, says this secretive and unjust practice needs to stop
Three weeks ago, on the 16th of November, Cristian Ferreyra was shot dead by two masked men in front of his house and his family. Cristian lived in San Antonio, a village north of Santiago del Estero in Argentina. He was part of an indigenous community, and member of the indigenous peasant organisation MOCASE Via Campesina. His 'crime'? To refuse to leave his homeland in order to make way for a massive soybean plantation, one of so many that have been encroaching on rural communities throughout Argentina in the last decade. So the plantation owners had him assassinated. Cristian was only 25 years old.
Six weeks ago, on 26 October, one farmer died and 21 others were injured, ten of them critically, in the village of Fanaye in northern Senegal. They, too, were trying to stop the takeover of their lands. Government officials had handed over 20,000 hectares surrounding their area to an Italian businessman who wanted to grow sweet potatoes and sunflowers to produce biofuels for European cars. The project would displace whole villages, destroy grazing areas for cattle and desecrate the local cemeteries and mosques.
Fanaye is not an isolated case. Over the past few years, nearly half a million hectares in Senegal have been signed away to foreign agribusiness companies. Gambela is a region in Ethiopia that borders South Sudan. It is home to one of the most extreme cases of landgrabbing in the world. Over half of all the arable land in the region has been signed away to Indian, Saudi and other investors who are now busy moving the tractors in and moving the people out. Ethiopia is in the midst of a severe food crisis and is heavily dependent on food aid to feed its people. Yet, the government has already signed away about 10 per cent of the country's entire agricultural area to foreign investors to produce commodities for the international market.
One could continue with many more examples of how people who just want to grow food and make a living from the land are being expelled, criminalised, and sometimes killed, to make room for the production of commodities and someone else's wealth. Today, we are witnessing nothing less than a frontal assault on the world's peasantry. This is not only happening in the global South. Here in the European Union, we have lost three million farms since 2003. This amounts to a loss of one fifth of all our farms in just eight years. Living from the land is becoming more difficult and, in many parts of the world, more dangerous by the day. Peasants who have been feeding the world for thousands of years - and still are - are now increasingly being cast as backwards, inefficient and obstacles to development. The not-so-subtle message is: they should cease to exist.