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Two New Films Expose Danger Of World Bank Backing For Land Investments

  • Films illustrate devastating effect' that large scale expansions of palm oil - funded by the World Bank - are having to people in Uganda and Mali
  • Up to 227 million hectares of land leased or bought up in recent years to produce food or fuel for International Market, largely in developing countries
  • Friends Of The Earth International and La Via Campesina call on Governments to take strong action to stop land grabbing ahead of the World Bank conference in Washington

Released on the eve of the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC, April 23-26, 2012, two new films reveal widespread violations of people's rights and environmental destruction from land grabbing in Africa.[1]

The films, released by La Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International, are first-hand accounts of how privatisation of land, and corporate-friendly policies promoted by the World Bank lead to violent displacements of farmers from their land, and is threatening their very survival.

In Mali, Libyan multinational corporation MALIBYA has been awarded 100,000 hectares of prime agricultural land to grow export crops and livestock. The 25 Billion dollar project includes building one of the largest irrigation canals in Africa allowing Mali's precious water supply to be used by MALIBYA. The project is intended to develop agricultural industry through foreign direct investment - a strategy aggressively promoted by the World Bank. In reality it has already violently displaced hundreds of families and demolished entire villages. Farmers are deprived of their livelihood and the capacity of the local people to feed themselves is hampered.

In Uganda, the World Bank has provided millions in funding and technical support to large scale expansion of palm oil at the expense of local food crops and forest. Communities are losing access to land for farming and water supplies. Despite promises of employment, local people have lost their means of livelihood and are now struggling to make ends meet. Nearly 10,000 hectares are already planted in islands off Lake Victoria with 30,000 more planned.[2]

The World Bank conference brings together investors, governments, International Financial Institutions and civil society to discuss land governance. Yet previous policies of the World Bank such as turning communal land rights into private land titles, encouraging private finance to invest in land and providing technical and policy support for foreign land investments has set the stage for a global land grab on a massive scale. Voluntary 'Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment' (RAI), being promoted by the World Bank currently are toothless and unlikely to halt land grabbing.[3]

80 to 227 million hectares of land have already been leased or bought up in recent years, mainly in developing countries, to produce food or fuel for the international market. Thousands of people have been dispossessed and had their Human Rights violated.[4]

Civil society groups will voice their opposition to the RAI at the World Bank Conference in Washington DC.

La Via Campesina is the international movement which represents 200 million farmers across the world. They comprise 150 local and national organisations in 70 countries countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americans.

Friends of the Earth International are the world's largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 76 national member groups and 5,000 local activist groups on every continent they have over 2 million members and supporters worldwide.

In these two short films: John Muyiisha and his community in Kalangala, Uganda, have lost their land. One day, BIDCO, a Kenyan company, arrived and told him that the land was now theirs. Bulldozers came that flattened the ancient forest and John's coffee plants. The company planted oil palms instead. With just 2 acres left to make a living, John and his community are now fighting for the right to their land.

Communities living on the land leased to Malibya - a Libyan sovereign fund which owns a 5 year lease for 100,000 hectares of land in the Segou region of Mali - report not being informed, have not been compensated for their land, and are being brutally attacked, or jailed when they dared to protest. Whilst filming we were repeatedly asked to stop, and were forced to do so on several occasions as the risk to the farmers we interviewed was too great.
This is their story…

[1] Films available from ITN Productions.
[2] For more information click here
[3] The agenda of the Annual World Bank Conference on land and poverty is focussed on how communities can benefit from land acquisitions rather than on how they can retain access to land. For more information on World Bank policies on land and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment see "Defending the Commons, Territories and the Right to Food and Water", in Land Struggles LRAN Briefing Paper Series 2 August 2011 and 'It's time to outlaw land grabbing, not to make it "responsible"! Civil Society Statement
[4] Evidence presented in April 2011 at an international conference convened by the Land Deal Politics Initiative, estimated the area of land deals at over 80 million ha. See Borras, Jun; Ian Scoones; David Hughes (15 April 2011). "Small-scale farmers increasingly at risk from 'global land grabbing'". The Guardian.co.uk: Poverty Matters Blog.

Oxfam has estimated about 227 Million hectares of land has been grabbed.

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