Category Archives: Food Sovereignty

Obama/Bloomburg Africa Business Summit Promotes False Solutions

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid "Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid “Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique”

U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the US/Africa (Business) Summit earlier this week which included “Signature Events” such as “Civil Society Forum,” and Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate.

The Summit was co-hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Touted as the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Summit, focus areas included Finance and Capital, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology.

Visit the Bloomberg webpage on the event here.

In an op-ed in Forbes Magazine on August 5 by Michael Bloomberg and Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, two of the keynote speakers at the Forum declared that “Africa is open for business.” The article said that the forum will catalyze $14 billion in business deals.

According to the article:

For decades, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship has too often taken a back seat to other pressing issues and priorities. Yet right now, our commercial partnership—between governments, among businesses, in markets on both sides of the Atlantic—is as important as ever. Strengthening and deepening that pillar of our alliance will prove a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa. The continent’s economic potential is enormous. Africa is home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Its GDP is expected to rise six percent annually over the next decade. Real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, and many African governments are making investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that are improving millions of lives. Yet investment by U.S. companies in Africa remains too low.

In a Bloomberg News article with the headline “GE Doubling Jobs in Africa as Ford Plans Eventual Surge,”  Jim Benintende, Ford’s head of operations in the Middle East and Africa who was interviewed during the forum, said:

Everything is pointing toward a surge in the African economy. We’re really focused on this region like never before.

It was also announced at the forum that there will be a doubling of private investment for the New Alliance for Good Security and Nutrition.

Responding to the forum’s announcement to double private sector funding for food security, ActionAid International Africa issued the following comments:

Response to Private-Sector Funding Announcement for African Agriculture

President Obama has missed the mark when it comes to agriculture in Africa. The ‘New Alliance’ is fundamentally flawed. Handing over the future of farming in Africa to big agribusinesses will only hurt people living with poverty and hunger. Poor farmers need investment from US and African governments to help their farms flourish. Companies should be part of Africa’s agricultural future but profit must not be prioritised over people’s rights.”

Western companies are already taking land that’s being used to produce food from African farmers, pushing them further into poverty. Under the New Alliance, this will only get worse. The US and African governments must invest in the farmers producing food for the continent, not big businesses growing crops for export. The New Alliance will put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen who are clearly not concerned with the food security of Africa’s most vulnerable people.

 

Obama’s Agricultural Vision for Africa Will Push Poor Farmers off Their Land and Further into Poverty

The administration’s current agricultural vision for Africa is misguided. It will only benefit the American agricultural industry with no real benefit to the poorest in Africa, who will be left without land to grow food.

Land is already being grabbed at an alarming rate in many African countries to meet the world’s demand for food and biofuels. Policies like the US biofuels targets are already increasing demand for land. Obama’s vision for Africa will only put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen. Programs like the ‘New Alliance’ are driving a system that robs the poor to pay the rich and will only result in more land being grabbed.

List of US Companies attending Summit

List of African Companies attending Summit

Climate Connections thinks that the commodification of African markets, land, and people is a false solution for climate change and human rights. We want to know what you think. Please comment!

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Pollution

Unprecedented global land grab mania for development characterizes first decade of 21st Century

 

Photo by Jay Burney

Photo by Jay Burney

The Inter Press Service News Agency  published an analysis of the global land rush by Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, this week.

The first years of the twenty-first century will be remembered for a global land rush of nearly unprecedented scale.An estimated 500 million acres, an area eight times the size of Britain, was reported bought or leased across the developing world between 2000 and 2011, often at the expense of local food security and land rights.When the price of food spiked in 2008, pushing the number of hungry people in the world to over one billion, it spiked the interest of investors as well, and within a year foreign land deals in the developing world rose by a staggering 200 percent. Today, enthusiasm for agriculture borders on speculative mania. Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before.

Mittal points out that while the land rush is certainly global,  the U.S. has a rising interest inside investor groups as they expand their holdings based on speculation surrounding food security and biomass markets.

Although media coverage tends to focus on land grabs in low-income countries, the opposite side of the same coin is a new rush for U.S. farmland, manifesting itself in rising interest from investors and surging land prices, as giants like the pension fund TIAA-CREF commit billions to buy agricultural land.

One industry leader estimates that 10 billion dollars in institutional capital is looking for access to U.S. farmland, but that figure could easily rise as investors seek to ride out uncertain financial times by placing their money in the perceived safety of agriculture.

In the next 20 years, as the U.S. experiences an unprecedented crisis of retiring farmers, there will be ample opportunity for these actors to expand their holdings as an estimated 400 million acres changes generational hands. And yet, the domestic face of this still unfolding land rush remains largely unseen.

The Oakland Institute has released a new report, Down on the Farm, which is designed to increase awareness of issues enabling the new American land rush. The report also identifies motives and practices of some of the most powerful players involved including: UBS Agrivest, a subsidiary of the biggest bank in Switzerland; the Hancock Agricultural Investment Group (HAIG), a subsidiary of the biggest insurance company in Canada; and the Teacher Annuity Insurance Association College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), one of the largest pension funds in the world.

Only by studying the motives and practices of these actors today does it become possible to begin building policies and institutions that help ensure farmers, and not absentee investors, are the future of our food system.

Mittal concludes:

“Nothing is more crucial than beginning this discussion today. The issue may seem small for a variety of reasons – because institutional investors only own an apparently tiny one percent of all U.S. farmland, or because farmers are still the biggest buyers of farmland across the country. But to take either of these views is to become dangerously blind to the long-term trends threatening our agricultural heritage. Consider the fact that investors believe that there is roughly 1.8 trillion dollars’ worth of farmland across the United States. Of this, between 300 and 500 billion dollars is considered to be of “institutional quality,” a combination of factors relating to size, water access, soil quality, and location that determine the investment appeal of a property. This makes domestic farmland a huge and largely untapped asset class. Some of the biggest actors in the financial sector have already sought to exploit this opportunity by making equity investments in farmland. Frequently, these buyers enter the market with so much capital that their funds are practically limitless compared with the resources of most farmers.

Although they have made an impressive foothold, this is the beginning, not the end, of a land rush that could literally change who owns the country and our food and agricultural systems. Not only is there space in the market for institutional investors to expand, but there are also major financial incentives for them to do so.

How is this land rush affecting your community. Climate Connections wants to know. Please post your comments.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Uncategorized

Court Says No to GMO: Monsanto defeated in Mexican court by Maya campesinos

soybeans

Mexican indigenous groups won a lawsuit revoking Monsanto’s permit to plant GMO soy in the Yucatán and six other states. The campesinos argued that “the license endangered the traditional production of organic honey in a region including the Yucatán communities of Ticul, Santa Elena, Oxkutzcab, Tzucacab, Tekax, Peto and Tizimin,” according to an article in the World War 4 Report. The ruling is one of several recent court cases moving toward restoring Indigenous Peoples authority in proposed uses for their territories and lands.

This was the third defeat for GM soy in eastern Mexico this year. In March and April a court in Campeche ruled in favor of two suits brought by Maya beekeepers from the Hopelchén and Pac-Chen communities in Campeche’s Cancabchen municipality. The decisions on GM soy follow a ruling in October 2013 by a federal judge that restrained Sagarpa and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) from granting further licenses for planting GM corn in Mexico. But Ximena Ramos, an adviser for the Litiga OLE legal assistance group, said the July ruling in Yucatán was especially important because the judge ordered a public consultation with the affected indigenous communities before any resolution could be made about the sowing of GM soy. This enforces “the multicultural principle in the Constitution, along with the human rights implied in the right to prior consultation with the Maya,” she said. (Terra Mexico, July 22; El Ciudadano, Chile, July 30.

 

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Filed under Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture

Busted! Research on food waste shows no need for GM crops

foodwaste-(1)An increasing population needs an increasing food supply, right? At least, that’s the excuse politicians and corporations have been force-feeding the public, justifying their pursuit of genetically modified foods. They tell us that organic processes and farming techniques in tune with nature just aren’t up to the task of feeding the nearly 7 billion people on the planet.

That myth is now busted, and the proof is in the nearly 222 million tons of food wasted by industrialized nations every year. “If we eliminated this unnecessary food waste, we could potentially provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world’s growing population,” writes Andrew Gunter in his Huffington Post article, “Big Ag Profits From Food Waste.”

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Filed under Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Solutions, Waste

GM agriculture does not deliver higher yields than organic processes

bananas-925216“Failure to Yield,” a study produced by the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, shows that the bio-fortification of bananas in Uganda and genetic engineering of bovines in the “1000 bull genome project” does not actually combat hunger, malnutrition or result in higher yields. A recent article in the Inter Press Services by Julio Godoy explains how these two projects fall short when compared to traditional, organic methods.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

From Mexico to Brazil, climate change threatens coffee growers in Latin America

By Diego Cupolo, June 3, 2014. Source: Upside Down World

Photo by Diego Cupolo

Photo by Diego Cupolo

Coffee, like gold, sugar and oil, has long been one of Latin America’s major exports, sustaining everyone from independent farmers in mountain regions to corporate bankers in capital cities, all while keeping weary minds alert throughout the world.

Yet over the last decade, changing climate patterns have intensified droughts and plagues in the region, creating conditions less suitable for coffee production and wreaking havoc on the industry that came to define, even shape, many hillsides in rural Central and South America. Today, as coffee growers struggle to recover from a string of weather-related events, some industry analysts have already foreseen a major shift in coffee production towards Asia and away from Latin America. Continue reading

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Filed under Food Sovereignty

U.S. investors, government policies leading global land-grabs

By Carey Biron, May 28, 2014. Source: MintPress News

In this June 5, 2013 photo, farmers prepare the soil for planting rice in a field which was confiscated in 1992 by the Myanmar security forces in Dala, southeast of Yangon Myanmar. About three hundred farmers led by social-justice activists entered the 500-acres (2-square kilometer) land on June 5, 2013, and started preparing the soil for paddy cultivation defying the government’s ban as navy officers watched armed with guns. Despite new freedoms in Myanmar, new laws are still used to punish protesters and small-scale farmers for protesting land grabs. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this June 5, 2013 photo, farmers prepare the soil for planting rice in a field which was confiscated in 1992 by the Myanmar security forces in Dala, southeast of Yangon Myanmar. About three hundred farmers led by social-justice activists entered the 500-acres (2-square kilometer) land on June 5, 2013, and started preparing the soil for paddy cultivation defying the government’s ban as navy officers watched armed with guns. Despite new freedoms in Myanmar, new laws are still used to punish protesters and small-scale farmers for protesting land grabs. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. public and private sectors are among the leading drivers of a global drive to snap up usable – and often in-use – agricultural land, in what critics say remains a steadily increasing epidemic of “land-grabbing.”

Africa and Southeast Asia are together seeing some three-quarters of problematic large-scale land acquisitions, according to new research from the global development group ActionAid. Africa remains a particular focus of this investment drive, constituting six of the top 10 countries experiencing significant land-grabbing. The continent has seen at least 40 million hectares switch hands in recent years as part of large-scale sales or leases.

However, land speculation is currently affecting almost all continents. The report warns of particularly negative effects for the estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide that rely on small-scale agriculture to meet their families’ needs. And this impact is felt far more broadly, as those smallholders, a majority of whom are women, provide the food that feeds some four-fifths of the developing world, according to the United Nations. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Land Grabs

Latin America: Protests target Monsanto, Chevron

May 26, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo: Alalam

Photo: Alalam

Latin American activists joined thousands of environmentalists and farmers around the world in an international protest May 24 against genetically modified (GM) crops and Monsanto, the Missouri-based multinational that dominates the transgenic seed industry. This was the thirdMarch Against Monsanto since May 25 last year, and organizers expected the day of action to include protests in some 351 cities in 52 countries.

In Chile, where a farmer won more than $65,000 in December 2013 by challenging the contracting methods of Monsanto’s local affiliate, organizations including Chile Without Transgenics and I Don’t Want Transgenics (YNQT) sponsored protests in eight cities.

Mexicans held a total of 13 different protests. In the southeastern state of Chiapas, Without Corn There Is No Country and other groups organized an informational event in front of the cathedral in San Cristóbal de las Casas to raise awareness about the consequences of GM crops, while about 60 protesters marched in Santiago de Querétaro, the capital of the central state of Querétaro. Rubén Albarrán, of the band Café Tacvba, joined the painter and environmentalist Francisco Toledo to protest in the southern state of Oaxaca, and hundreds marched in Mexico City chanting: “We want beans; we want corn; we want Monsanto out of the country!” GM planting is limited in Mexico, but researchers say that even the current level of sowing has contaminated some of the many varieties of native corn; the plant was first cultivated in Mexico. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Latin America-Caribbean