The International Movement of Catholic Agricultural Rural Youth (MIJARC) organised an international symposium on “landgrabbing and threats to biodiversity” in conjunction with its member movement, Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM)
Around 100 people from the diocese of Iranjalakuda gathered together on Saturday, 24th July in Aroormuzhy to take part in this symposium. Since MIJARC has launched its World Food Day campaign on land grabbing in the afternoon, the organizers took the occasion to discuss with people and members of KCYM from the diocese of Iranjalakuda.
Mr.P. P. James, deputy editor of the “Kerala Koumudi Daily” and former Asian coordinator of MIJARC Asia, moderated the symposium, whose panel was composed of Dr. C.R. Neelakandan, the famous Indian environmentalist, Mr. P.C. Cyriac IAS, the former chairman of the Indian Rubber Board and the Secretary General of MIJARC, Carolin Grieshop.
The panellists gave a statement on their view about land grabbing and its impact on biodiversity and the participants of the symposium started afterwards a good and miscellaneous discussion on this topic.
MIJARC motivation to launch the symposium was to collect different points of views and experiences about land grabbing. While Dr. C.R. Neelakandan and Carolin Grieshop gave a clear statement against land grabbing, Mr. P.C. Cyriac highlighted the need of land in India, for example to produce rubber. Participants reacted in different manners.
MIJARC against land grabbing
Land grabbing leads to a contraction of small holders farming, with negative impacts on farm jobs and a risk of depletion of rural areas. There is an increased competition over land (land becomes less affordable and direct farming regresses), discouraging the settlement of young farmers; a degradation of food security for the host country; and has a negative impact on environment (deforestation, destruction of ecosystems, overexploitation of water resources, spread of phyto-sanitary products, monoculture). Thus social and political trouble at the local and sometimes national level are foreseeable and are already happening, e.g. in Uganda. Members of CARYM Uganda, a member movement of MIJARC, reported about displacement and violations of farmers’ rights in Uganda. These kinds of violations have to be stopped.
The panellists in the symposium mentioned the complex and hugely diverse picture of global land grabbing. They explained that new landowners appear to be corporations which have never been in agriculture before, such as banks or equity investments funds. While hosting governments have limited capacities and legal expertise, experienced investors make a profit of these negotiations. Panellists stated that effective national land policies and land tenure systems for a sustainable land management are needed, as well as a consultation and participation of local small-scale farmers and vulnerable groups from an early stage. The Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure, elaborated by FAO, and the Code of conduct for responsible agro-investment (Worldbank) at international level are not sufficient.
After the symposium participants went jointly in busses to Chalakudy to attend the launching of the World Food Day campaign, under the theme “Stop land grabbing- this soil is our future
What is Food Sovereignty?
Food sovereignty is the peoples´, countries´ or groups of countries´ right to define their agricultural and food policy, without any dumping vis-à-vis third countries. Food sovereignty includes:
- prioritising local agricultural production in order to feed the people, access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds and credit. Hence the need for land reform, for fighting against GMOs (genetically modified organisms), for free access to seeds, and for safeguarding water as a public good to be sustainably distributed.
- the right of farmers, peasants to produce food and the right of consumers to be able to decide what they consume, and how and by whom it is produced.
- the right of countries to protect themselves from too low priced agricultural and food imports.
- agricultural prices linked to production costs: they can be achieved if the countries or unions of states are entitled to impose taxes on excessively cheap imports, if they commit themselves in favour of a sustainable farm production, and if they control production on the inner market so as to avoid structural surpluses.
- the population taking part in the agricultural policy choices.
- the recognition of women farmers´ rights, who play a major role in agricultural production and in food.
Where does the concept come from?
The concept was brought to the public debate during the World Food Summit in 1996 by Via Campesina and represents an alternative to neoliberal policies. Since then, that concept has become a major issue of the international agricultural debate, even within the United Nations bodies. A lot of farmer-, fisher- and rural organisations have made food sovereignty to their main objective, so MIJARC in 2003 during the World Coordination in Brasil.