This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.
Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.
‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.
Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.
Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.
Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).
In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?
*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.
“You think I’m an ignorant savage
And you’ve been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don’t know
You don’t know
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”
Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/18/opinion/land-grabs-africa-mark-bowman/index.html>.
Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/opinion/water-grabs-africa/index.html>.
Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.
Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/Samburu-residents-protest-land-grabbing/-/1107872/3136504/-/8pmnagz/-/index.html>.
Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Reliefweb.com. Oct. 2012. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/landgrabbingprimer.pdf>.