The Great Land Rush: Land Grabs & Food Security

Crosslinked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization

The Great Land Rush and Food Security

What is land?

Many of us don’t think about what land really means. An economist might define land as the totality  of natural resources in a given area, while a lawyer might focus on  land, water and mineral rights. But a farmer’s answer might be simpler: land is the farmer’s capital. Land is the soil and  water utilized in the production of crops for the local or global market. In the context of an increasingly globalized world, land rights are paramount, particularly in the Global South (Asia, South America, Africa and Australia). As governments and multinational corporations buy up land, small farmers and indigenous groups are edged out.

A Global Phenomenon

A 2010 World Bank study showed that 110 million acres (44,515,420.7 hectares) of farmland worldwide were sold or leased in the first eleven months of 2009 alone;  70 percent of these land deals were concentrated in Mali, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Before 2008, land was sold or leased at an average annual rate of  10 million acres (4,046,856.42 hectares). However, in the last four years alone, nearly 148 million acres (about 60 million hectares) of land on the continent of Africa has been acquired by international investors and government bodies. This surge in land grabbing and speculation deserves attention because it poses a grave threat to regional food security, indigenous land and water rights.

These land deals are not just confined to the continent of Africa (which holds nearly two-thirds of the world’s remaining arable land). In the Middle East,  Bahrain has seen political upheaval and protest in the wake of a major land deal within its borders. White South African farmers are buying up land in Georgia while in the Ukraine, the state is planning to buy up 30 percent of the nation’s land to bolster the country’s food security. In Australia, in a similar move a Chinese company has offered to buy 80,000 hectares of farmland.

In one of Asia‘s poorest nations, 15 percent of Cambodian land has been signed over to private companies (made easier by the Khmer Rouge’s  prohibition of private property and subsequent burning of all land titles). In South America, the Brazilian government has shown its openness to greater foreign investment in rural land. In today’s globalized world economy, these land deals have far-reaching effects.

Why the rush for land?

Factors driving the land grab include population pressure, the burgeoning middle class in the Global South and its heightened demand for foodstuffs, in concert with individual countries’ concerns over food security. As ready access to food is essential to a politically stable nation, food security can have major political effects.

This was seen in 2009 in Madagascar when a land deal with a South Korean conglomerate that would have handed over half of Madagascar‘s arable land was met with mass protests and led to the overthrow of then-President Ravalomanana. Continue reading

Human Trafficking (Slavery) News Roundup: November 16, 2010

The Examiner: Global Human Trafficking Roundup (November 16, 2010)

EUROPE

Finland: A Somali born Swedish national was sentenced 60 days in jail for attempting to smuggle foreign women. He attempted to bring young Somali women from Stockholm to Turku. While woman testified that she paid smuggling fee to the man to come to Finland and traveled without identification,  the man claimed that he met her by chance at the airport.

Romania: Increasing number of Romanian women are working as prostitutes in Finland. Romania is one of the biggest hub of human trafficking in Europe, according to the report. One advocate in Finland says that as the number of women who are in sex slavery is increasing, the average of their age is becoming younger.

ASIA

Philippines: Immigration officers caught six Indian nationals who were heading to Malaysia. During the interrogation, they admitted that the human trafficking ring based in India facilitated their trip to Malaysia. The Immigration authority said that none of the Indians possessed proper documents. The Indians also will be deported immediately.

Cambodia: A journalist investigates Cambodia’s child prostitution with a British police.  When they walked into the bar and asked for younger girls, the madam brought three or four girls in the age between 12 and 13. And when they asked for children that are even younger, the madam said that she could arranged something with 6 or 7 year old off the premise. Continue reading

Human Trafficking News Roundup (08/19/2010)

Kansas City Star: Work Visa Program is Rife With Problems

The ease with which the system can be defrauded allows criminals to use U.S. law to turn foreign workers into something very close to slaves, said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy,” Bauer said.

Project Exodus: Nail Salons Front for Human Trafficking in Ohio

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects “indictments and arrests” statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

CNN: On The Trail of Forced Labor in Bangladesh

Srimongol, Bangladesh — My (Harvard human trafficking fellow Siddharth Kara) research trip to Bangladesh ended near the town of Srimongol, where I investigated the country’s tea industry. Much like their shrimp processing kinsmen to the south, the tea factories were locked down like prisons.

Institute of Southern Studies: In Florida, Slavery Still Haunts the Fields

Our guide, Romeo Ramirez, tells us straight away that the trailer, which already feels uncomfortably small, is a replica of one in southwest Florida where 12 farmworkers were forcibly kept between 2005 and 2007. Locked in at night, they had no place to relieve themselves and were forced to foul a corner of their cramped quarters. When someone fought back, he was beaten and chained to a pole. The chain and padlock, still twisted from when workers finally forced it off, rest on the trailer’s wall.

After two workers pounded a hole in the trailer’s ventilator hatch large enough to squeeze out, they found a ladder and extricated the rest. Their escape began the seventh of eight prosecutions for involuntary servitude among U.S. farmworkers since 1997. (The eighth indictments, involving dozens of Haitian nationals victimized by trafficking, were announced last month, two days after Independence Day.)

Change.org: Why Tourists Shouldn’t Give Money to Children

The Mirror Foundation, an anti-trafficking NGO, claims that tourists giving money to children on the streets fuels child trafficking across the Thai-Cambodian border. Around80% of child beggars in Thailand come from Cambodia, and at least a third of them are being controlled and exploited by an adult. Children trafficked for begging are often forced to work up to twelve hours a day in hot and dangerous conditions. Most children are under 12, with the youngest identified being a 10-day-old infant. Furthermore, children used as beggars when they are very young are sometimes forced into prostitution or manual labor once they reach puberty.

Child beggars can earn a decent amount of money in a day, but they turn over all their earnings to an adult at the end of it. That’s one of the reasons trafficking children for begging is so lucrative. Plus, it can be much more difficult to identify a trafficking victim among a swarm of street children than in a brothel or a factory.

The Guardian: How Domestic Workers Become Slaves

“Migrant domestic workers are in a uniquely vulnerable position. Thousands of miles from home, “they are dependent on one employer for their accommodation, work and immigration status,” says Moss, “and because they are isolated in a private house they don’t meet anyone.” They often come from impoverished backgrounds with little education, and are encouraged to fear the police. “Many can’t leave because they are told the police will put them in jail or rape them.”

NYTimes: Immigrant Maids Flee Lives of Abuse in Kuwait →

With nowhere else to go, dozens of Nepalese maids who fled from their employers now sleep on the floor in the lobby of their embassy here, next to the visitors’ chairs… Continue reading