Land grabbing, the new colonialism

Land grabbing, the new colonialism

rt. With good reason, the Lenten season campaign “Geld gewonnen, Land zerronnen” (Money gained, land lost) started by the Churches (Brot für alle and Fastenopfer)is reminding us of the fatal global situation.1 In addition to the horrible wars, mostly started by the “First” world, which are devastating large parts of the world, driving their inhabitants into poverty or forcing them to flee, in many parts of the world the people’s farming land, their bread, is sold from under their plough. “Land grabbing” is the term for this new form of neo-colonialism.

Area the size of Western Europe bought away

In the past years an area the size of Western Europe was bought away by state trusts, consortiums or pension funds worldwide. Huge areas, mostly the best arable land, were sold at prices prohibitive for locals. Had the people in these areas so far been able to eke out a living from their soil, they now have to work – if they are lucky – for a pittance on the newly created huge monocultures as employees of a globally active trust. They are exposed to pesticides, can be fired any time and now they have to buy their food. The soil is emaciated and destroyed, the landscape devastated. It has to pay off.
Corrupted local politicians betray their citizens by selling the land underhand or by permitting it to be sold. A substantial role in this is played by the corresponding clauses of the international free trade agreements and the WTO treaties enabling the cross-border sale of farming land and products.2

Meaningful concepts are available

Comprehensive investigations have shown that a meaningful and sustainable agriculture needs to be small-scale, organic and regional if it is to feed the global population in the long-term. Over 500 experts have investigated and documented this in the IAASTD report of 2008 (Agriculture at a Crossroads , www.globalagriculture.org).

Justifications for injustice

It is easy to find explanations for land grabbing: low interest rates are driving capital into “lasting” values; pension funds are looking for long-term investments for their money; states with food shortages are trying to get a hold on land outside their territories. Many of these explanations are correct – but they do not justify the process. It cannot be that death from famine or the uprooting of peoples is excused with an interest problem. Problems need to be solved in a just way. It remains an injustice if the weakest fall victim to the greed and the moral decadence of the First world!
Not only the victims are wondering: Where are the international institutions which could end these activities? Has the UN become corrupted by the Global compact between institution and trusts? The land grabbing problem would be a wide area for the not yet established International Criminal Court against modern colonialism, exploitation and impoverishment of inhabitants and the destruction of the biosphere.

Reverse of the medal – working poor in the West

But also the fair side of the medal is not as fair as it may look. In most states of the “first” world an 80:20 society has developed in the past 30 years. Not 80% but only 20% of the population are living in a carefree manner. Many, also in our “wealthy” West, are among the working poor. They often have two jobs but are still struggling to feed their family. Is that really necessary?
And the 20% more prosperous? Many of them are daily in fear of losing their well-paid work and their social status. In case they are over 40 they have a poor chance to find a similar position. They are ready to do many things to keep their position – many things they wouldn’t normally do. Is that really necessary?

Time for reason

What is our limit before we start organising our world in a more humanely way? What more does it take before we come to our senses?
Meanwhile there are various practical proposals how the global population can be fed. But this will require the individual states to return to their core tasks and to start protecting their citizens from robbery and exploitation. And the citizens as subjects of these states should shape and lead their state equally in referenda and elections.    •
(Translation Current Concerns)

1    Ecumenical campaign 2017: “Geld gewonnen, Land zerronnen”. In the Ecumenical campaign 2017 Brot für alle, Fastenopfer and other partners  refer to the negative consequences of Land grabbing.
2    “Dossier. The world for sale. Key subject of the magazine Prospects”. No 1/2017 Ed. Brot für alle und Fastenopfer.

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