Category Archives: Land Grabs

Myanmar: A political anatomy of land grabs

By Kevin Woods, March 3, 2014. Source: Myanmar Times

A farmer spreads fertiliser in a paddy field in Demoso township in Kayah State in 2013. Photo: Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times

A farmer spreads fertiliser in a paddy field in Demoso township in Kayah State in 2013. Photo: Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times

The phrase “land grab” has become common in Myanmar, often making front page news. This reflects the more open political space available to talk about injustices, as well as the escalating severity and degree of land dispossession under the new government.

But this seemingly simple two-word phrase is in fact very complex and opaque. It thus deserves greater clarity in order to better understand the deep layers of meaning to farmers in the historical political context of Myanmar.

Understanding the deeper significance and meaning that farmers attach to the words “land grab” entails frank discussions of formerly taboo subjects related to the country’s history of armed conflict, illicit drugs, cronyism and racism.

Various state and non-state armed actors have been responsible for land grabs in Myanmar during the past several decades, mirroring recent historical periods.

Through the Great Depression under British colonial rule, the Japanese occupation during WWII and eventual freedom from foreign domination, rice production in the Ayeyarwady Delta, propped up by British colonial capitalism, collapsed under heavy debt burdens, with farmers losing their land and livelihoods. Continue reading

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Special report: Asia’s great land grab

Source: Radio Free Asia

Residents look on as Uyghur homes in the Yamalik area of Xinjiang's capital Urumqi are demolished in mid-2013.  Photo: Radio Free Asia

Residents look on as Uyghur homes in the Yamalik area of Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi are demolished in mid-2013. Photo: Radio Free Asia

Rising tension over land seizures is emerging as a critical issue in Asia. Well-connected business, military and government interests often prey on the poor and uneducated to reap big profits in Asia’s booming real estate markets.

But, increasingly, emboldened citizens across the continent are fighting back. This special RFA report examines the changing dynamic of Asia’s Great Land Grab.

Click here for videos and stories from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Tibet, and Vietnam

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Indigenous humanitarian commission attacked in Colombia

By Robin Llewellyn, February 26, 2014. Source: Intercontinental Cry

Members of the Indigenous Guard during the 43rd anniversary of the CRIC (Photo: Robin Llewellyn)

Members of the Indigenous Guard during the 43rd anniversary of the CRIC (Photo: Robin Llewellyn)

Guerrillas targeted the car of the Humanitarian Commission of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) on 20 February, injuring Yoiner Medina Talaga, an Indigenous Guard and Manager of ACIN’s human rights monitoring system; Germán Valencia Medina, ACIN Human Rights Coordinator; and Nelson Pilcué, Legal Advisor to ACIN’s Women’s Program.

The Commission had been attending to over 50 families displaced by an upsurge in fighting prior to their being attacked in Jambaló, Cauca, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yoiner Medina Talaga, who was shot in the chest, remains in intensive care. Germán Valencia was shot in the arm while Nelson Pilcué was injured by shattering glass and metal.

The Nasa people of northern Cauca have consistently demanded that all armed groups leave their territory, which continues to be fought over by the FARC, theArmy, and paramilitary groups including the Aguilas NegrasUrabeños, andRastrojos. Nasa communities have developed the Indigenous Guard as an unarmed force that counters illegal activities in their territory, and also confronts all armed actors and asks them to leave. Continue reading

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Two lawsuits to stop Peru’s biggest gas project in indigenous reserve

By David Hill, February 25, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A Matsigenka woman in south-east Peru where the Camisea gas project is taking place. Photograph: Glenn Shepard

A Matsigenka woman in south-east Peru where the Camisea gas project is taking place. Photograph: Glenn Shepard

Three Peruvian judges are scheduled to meet on 1 April following a lawsuit filed to stop a gas consortium from operating in a reserve in the Amazon created for indigenous peoples living in “initial contact” and “voluntary isolation.”

There are already wells in the west of the reserve where gas has been produced for years, and last month the Energy Ministry approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the expansion of operationsinvolving more wells, a pipeline extension and seismic tests further to the north, east and south.

The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Ministry and the company leading the consortium, Pluspetrol, in August 2013 by the Lima-basedInstitute for the Legal Defence of the Environment and Sustainable Development (IDLADS). It asks the judge to order, among other things, the Energy Ministry to rescind its approval of the expansion and to ban all oil and gas operations in the reserve:

We request that [the judge] orders the Ministry of Energy and Mines to exclude the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti and Others’ Reserve from any kind of promotion, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons. Continue reading

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Panama: Groups appeal to UN to halt imminent forced evictions of Indigenous Ngöbe community

February 20, 2014. Source: Center for International Environmental Law

Demonstrators demand the nullification of the Barro Blanco environmental impact study. Photo: Arnoldo Zeballos | El Siglo

Demonstrators demand the nullification of a Barro Blanco environmental impact study. Photo: Arnoldo Zeballos | El Siglo

Environmental and human rights organizations submitted an urgent appeal to United Nations Special Rapporteurs on behalf of members of the indigenous Ngöbe community – the community faces imminent forced eviction from their land for the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam project in western Panama. The eviction would force Ngöbe communities from their land, which provides their primary sources of food and water, means of subsistence, and culture.

The urgent appeal, submitted by the Ngöbe organization Movimiento 10 de Abril para la Defensa del Rio Tabasará (M10) and three international NGOs, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and Earthjustice, asks the Special Rapporteurs to call upon the State of Panama to suspend the eviction process and dam construction until it complies with its obligations under international law. Given that the project is financed by the German and Dutch development banks (DEG and FMO, respectively) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the groups also urge the Special Rapporteurs to call on Germany, the Netherlands, and the member States of CABEI to suspend financing until each country has taken measures to remedy and prevent further violations of the Ngöbe’s human rights. Continue reading

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Pressure to construct Xalalá hydroelectric dam; Local opposition remains strong

February 18, 2014. Source: NISGUA
Cultivated fields that would be flooded by the Xalalá dam.  Photo: NISGUA

Cultivated fields that would be flooded by the Xalalá dam. Photo: NISGUA

Nearly two years after the Guatemalan government announced its renewed interest in constructing the Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam, communities maintain strong opposition to the project in the three affected municipalities: Ixcán, Uspantán, and Cobán.

The Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam was first proposed in the 1970s. Declared of “national interest,” it figured prominently in the Master Plan for National Electrification and the Northern Transversal Strip (FTN), a political-economic vision for land use, industrialization, and natural resource exploitation. If constructed, the Xalalá Dam would be the second largest hydroelectric dam in the country, producing an estimated 181 megavolts and flooding the lands of some 58 communities in three municipalities.
Community opposition consolidated after the 2007 community consultation held in the municipality of Ixcán, in which more than 90% of the population rejected the construction of hydroelectric dams such as Xalalá. In 2009, the municipality of Uspantán followed suit, holding a community consultation in which 90% of their population also rejected the construction of hydroelectric dams. Continue reading

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Brazil land disputes spread as indigenous warriors take on wildcat miners

By Lunae Parracho and Caroline Stauffer, February 17, 2014. Source: Reuters

Munduruku Indian warriors stand guard over an illegal gold miner who was detained by a group of warriors searching out illegal gold mines and miners in their territory near the Caburua river, a tributary of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers in western Para state January 20, 2014.  Photo: CREDIT: REUTERS/LUNAE PARRACHO

Munduruku Indian warriors stand guard over an illegal gold miner who was detained by a group of warriors searching out illegal gold mines and miners in their territory near the Caburua river, a tributary of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers in western Para state January 20, 2014. Photo: CREDIT: REUTERS/LUNAE PARRACHO

As Brazil struggles to solve land disputes between Indians and farmers on the expanding frontier of its agricultural heartland, more tensions over forest and mineral resources are brewing in the remote Amazon.

The government of President Dilma Rousseff gave eviction notices to hundreds of non-Indian families in the Awá-Guajá reserve in Maranhão state in January and plans to relocate them by April, with the help of the army if necessary, Indian affairs agency Funai says.

The court order to clear the Awá territory follows the forced removal of some 7,000 soy farmers and cattle ranchers from the Marãiwatsédé Xavante reservation last year, a process profiled by Reuters that resulted in violent clashes.

Anthropologists say evictions from Awá territory could be even more complicated. It is thought to be a base for criminal logging operations and is also home to some indigenous families who have never had contact with outsiders, a combination that worries human rights groups lobbying for the evictions. Continue reading

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Wall Street banks eye American farmland, threaten future of US agriculture

February 18, 2014. Source: The Oakland Institute

Photo: Oakland Institute

Photo: Oakland Institute

The wolves of Wall Street are eyeing millions of acres of U.S. farmland that will soon come up for sale, much of which has been in the hands of family farmers for generations, according to Down on the Farm, a new study from the Oakland Institute.

“Institutional investors”–including hedge funds, private equity, pension funds, and university endowments–have trained their sights on America’s agricultural infrastructure,” said Lukas Ross, an Oakland Institute Fellow and author of the report. “If they succeed in consolidating control over our land and infrastructure, this new class of land barons could imperil our nation’s food supply.”

Investors are increasingly interested in capitalizing on the run-up in the value of private-equity assets. So they’re lining up to purchase some 400 million acres that will become available over the next two decades. That’s half of all U.S. farmland.

These would-be owners see $1.8 trillion in land that could be exploited for industrial farming as well as fracking and fossil-fuel production. But their pursuit of a quick buck is driving land prices up, imperils farmers’ economic future, the viability of the farm and rural economy, and jeopardizes the long-term health of the land. Continue reading

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Ecuador pursued China oil deal while pledging to protect Yasuni, papers show

By David Hill, February 19, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Spanish 'Ecuador doesn't love life' during a protest outside the government palace in Ecuador, August 2013 at plans to adandon the initiative where rich countries would pay Ecuador not to drill for oil in the pristine Yasuni rainforest. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Spanish ‘Ecuador doesn’t love life’ during a protest outside the government palace in Ecuador, August 2013 at plans to adandon the initiative where rich countries would pay Ecuador not to drill for oil in the pristine Yasuni rainforest. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.

The proposed behind-the-scenes deal, which traded drilling access in exchange for Chinese lending for Ecuadorian government projects, will dismay green and human rights groups who had praised Ecuador for its pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative to protect the forest. Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to indigenous peoples – some of whom are living in what Ecuador’s constitution calls “voluntary isolation”.

The initiative – which was abandoned by Ecuador’s government last year – is seen as a way to protect the Amazon, biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ territories, as well as combat climate change, break Ecuador’s dependency on oil and avoid causing the kind of social and environmental problems already caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Continue reading

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REDD myth no.1: Deforestation accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions

Note: Yes, deforestation needs to be addresssed–and NOT through the development of massive-scale industrial monoculture tree plantations, but by addressing deforestation at its very source–namely agro-industrial expansion, especially of GMO crops, livestock production and overconsumption of paper and timber products.

As far as climate change is concerned, the tunnel vision of the UN, World Bank and other bodies on deforestation as a driver of climate change has been a deliberate misdirection to keep the focus away from where it needs to be–reducing fossil fuel consumption, and preventing its replacement with plant-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which also put out huge emissions.

-The GJEP Team

By Chris Lang, February 15, 2014. Source: REDD-Monitor

Photo: Arnoldo Garcia

Photo: Arnoldo Garcia

Myth: “Deforestation accounts for 25 percent of all man-made emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.”

That statement comes from a 2005 press release from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. A year later, FAO had decided that the figure was too low:

in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year … is caused by deforestation.

In its 2007 report, the IPCC estimated that deforestation accounted for 17% of emissions.

Two years later, in a paper published in Nature Geoscience, Guido van der Werf and colleagues, argued that the figure was actually closer to 12%. While estimates of the rate of deforestation globally are fairly steady, emissions from burning fossil fuels are increasing rapidly. As such, the percentage of emissions from deforestation is falling. Continue reading

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