Seeds of freedom film

Our friends at the Gaia Foundation have just released a great new film, with a similar title to ours, that offers a compelling insight into the ways in which African farming communities and organisations are reviving traditional seed diversity across the continent, and resisting mounting corporate pressure to use industrialised seed and farming methods.

For more information and to see the full film, go to www.seedsoffreedom.info

Las semillas de la discordia: commentario

Comentario de Philip Seufert, de FIAN International

En la provincia de Niassa, en el norte de Mozambique, una compañía, Chikweti, establecida con inversiones de iglesias suecas y noruegas y del fondo de pensiones holandés ABP, está creando grandes plantaciones de árboles. Chikweti no solo prometía a sus inversores una gran rentabilidad financiera, sino que también afirmaba que generaría empleo y que fomentaría la protección del medio ambiente y el desarrollo comunitario en la región. Parecía un proyecto con el que todas las partes salían ganando. read more

Seeds of discontent now in Spanish and Portuguese

Seeds of discontent is now available with subtitles in Spanish and Portuguese. Thank you to Vinicius Ritter and Beatriz Martinez for the translations! read more

Seeds of discontent shows reality of land grabs worldwide

The strength of Seeds of Discontent is that it shows what land grabbing means to the affected communities, and how difficult it is for them to resist. Cases like this one are happening every day, all over the globe. Communities are confronted with investors who arrive and promise a lot to them: jobs, “development”, money, a bright future.

And the investors have a lot of money and are usually supported by the authorities. What should communities do in this situation? Give away their lands to investors? Or at least some land? Can they refuse anyway? What happens if they don’t agree? And what happens if the investors then take more and the promises turn out to be empty?

The people of Licole were confronted with all these questions. Some community members at first thought that this was a good opportunity and that they should give away some of their land. Others refused. Then it turned out that the company had also taken lands that had not been ceded. The schools, roads, churches and hospitals that had been promised were never built. Some people got a job, but the pay was bad and they were fired after a while.

The company claimed that it had consulted everybody, but people said that they had only discussed with the chiefs; and there were no records from the consultations.

Then people started to complain and resist. But some community members now actually had a job and didn’t want to lose it, even if it was not well paid. There were new conflicts inside the community and people had to decide what to do, while the company planted ever more trees.

The film shows all this. And it therefore shows very well how complex land conflicts are. In some cases, land conflicts are straightforward theft of land, with people being evicted by force. But very often things are more complicated. And it is more difficult for people to get heard and listened to by investors.

These conflicts are a dynamic process: in the beginning, people might be lured by the promises of investors, or simply be overwhelmed by the situation – we shouldn’t forget that the power relation is not balanced. But then they see what is really happening and they start to complain and resist.

Looking at one community helps us to understand what land grabbing really is about. Listening to the people of Licole takes us away from the academic discussions of whether this kind of investment projects brings “development” or not. It reminds us of the fact that what is really at stake is the right of people to decide how to use their resources and how to live a life in dignity.

And finally – and most importantly –  Seeds of Discontent shows that people are organizing in order to resist to the land grabbers and to fight for their rights.

——-

Philip Seufert works at FIAN and is author of The Human Rights Impacts of Tree Plantations in Niassa Province, Mozambique, September 2012.

Director’s Notes

Geoff Arbourne, Director

On the banks of the Ruvuma River, surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Northern Mozambique, lies the picturesque province of Niassa.

Two thousand kilometers from the country’s capital is a region that attracts honeymooners, adventure tourists, and conservation specialists from all over the world. Expedition guides come to work here every day, marveling at the nature, while nearby the locals go about their daily lives.

In the midst of a province exploding with biodiversity, I was intrigued to be spending the next two weeks filming in a small village 20km from the provincial capital, Lichinga.

After a week of talks with the regional peasant movement (UPCN), the cameraman and I set off to meet members of a small village, who were resisting a company operating in the region.

After only a few days I met Amado, a local farmer who had changed paths and come to work for Chikweti. His wife and kids were still living on their small farm while Amado moved to town seeking work on the plantation.

One afternoon he offered the cameraman and I an opportunity to travel with him back to his farm just “20 minutes away”. Four hours, two broken down vehicles, and one puncture later, we arrived where Amado and five families were living. Needless to say Amado thought nothing of the journey, as it’s a regular weekly trip for him.

The beautiful and uncommon intimacy of the footage provided a powerful palette for the film, but at the same time it imparted a clear responsibility on behalf of the crew. Every evening I would sit down with the chief and dozens of community members to watch the footage shot that day. Often in the pitch black, this sometimes went into the early hours. Yet ultimately, the immediacy of the footage insisted that I always sought out the truth beyond mere observation.

We filmed the residents in their homes, with their families, and out in the fields to see what happens; how they were organising, who they respected, what opportunities presented themselves or not. In just a few weeks we witnessed the dangers and disappointments, recorded the role of authority (both traditional and state) and saw how their experience of one forestry company affected their attitudes, their hopes and dreams.

Via Campesina dénonce l’accaparement et la concentration des terres en Europe (rapport)

La Coordination européenne Via Campesina (ECVC) dénonce à nouveau la concentration et l’accaparement des terres agricoles, dans un rapport paru le 17 avril 2013. Mais cette fois-ci leur intervention cible l’Europe.

« L’accaparement des terres est largement supposé se produire seulement dans les pays du Sud, mais une analyse approfondie par une équipe de chercheurs montre que l’accaparement des terres est également en expansion en Europe », annonce Via Campesina, qui copublie cette étude avec l’Institut transnational Hands-Off The Land (HOTL).

Le rapport, impliquant 25 auteurs de 11 pays, révèle la façon dont « quelques grandes entités commerciales privées ont pris le contrôle de plus en plus grandes superficies de terres européennes […] activement soutenues par une énorme injection de fonds publics ».

La concentration et l’accaparement des terres agricoles par des groupes d’intérêts financiers dont les acteurs se mettent à spéculer sur les matières premières et le prix des terres n’est pas un phénomène nouveau, en convient le rapport. Mais en Europe « ils ont accéléré au cours des dernières décennies, en particulier à l’Est », assure-t-il.

Les petits agriculteurs locaux sont exclus du commerce des terres agricoles à la faveur d’une augmentation, ces dix dernières années, des acquisitions par « des sociétés chinoises, des fonds souverains et des fonds de pension du Moyen-Orient, aussi bien que par des oligarques russes et les géants de l’agroalimentaire », tous attirés par les subventions élevées offertes par l’UE. Les auteurs du rapport ciblent bien évidemment les aides qui leur sont attribuées via la politique agricole commune.

Le rapport constate que la moitié des terres agricoles de l’UE est désormais concentrée dans les 3 % des grandes exploitations de plus de 100 hectares. En outre, dans certains pays membres, la propriété agricole est aussi inégalement répartie qu’au Brésil, en Colombie ou aux Philippines, déplore le rapport.

Selon lui, les entreprises chinoises se sont implantées à grande échelle en Bulgarie et les sociétés moyen-orientales sont des producteurs majeurs en Roumanie.

En Allemagne, on est passé de 1,2 million d’exploitations en 1966-67 à 299.100 en 2010. En Andalousie, ce chiffre a chuté des deux tiers à moins de 1 million en 2007. Et en 2010, 2 % des propriétaires possédaient la moitié de leur terre.

La terre est saisie à travers l’Europe pour de multiples raisons, énumère le rapport : « la production de matières premières pour l’industrie alimentaire dominée par les sociétés transnationales, les industries extractives, les bioénergies », ou encore l’installation de fermes solaires, l’étalement urbain, etc.

En France, « chaque année, plus de 60.000 hectares de terres agricoles sont perdues pour faire place à des routes, des supermarchés, à l’étalement urbain ou aux parcs de loisirs ». Souvent des cas isolés et de petite envergure, selon les auteurs du rapport, « mais ils s’additionnent » pour « empiéter sur les terres agricoles les plus fertiles et productives ».

Et ce sont les jeunes qui souhaitent s’installer qui en pâtissent le plus, regrettent Via Campesina et l’institut transnational. « La structure des programmes de subventions de la Pac et les politiques nationales d’accompagnement ne contribuent pas vraiment à [leur] entrée dans l’agriculture », constatent ces organisations.

Une dernière partie du rapport revient sur les mouvements de contestation citoyens qui apparaissent en Europe, contre l’artificialisation des terres agricoles et l’accaparement au détriment des petits paysans. Le cas de Notre-Dame-des-Landes, qui oppose les défenseurs du projet d’aéroport à proximité de l’agglomération nantaise, soutenu par le Premier ministre français Jean-Marc Ayrault, et des mouvements citoyens ou des syndicats agricoles comme la Confédération paysanne (qui adhère à Via Campesina), y est évoqué.

http://www.lafranceagricole.fr/actualite-agricole/foncier-agricole-via-campesina-denonce-l-accaparement-et-la-concentration-des-terres-en-europe-rapport-71260.html

Land ‘grabs’ expand to Europe as big business blocks entry to farming

Land rights not just issue for developing world as report shows public subsidies help a few firms ‘grab’ vast tracts of EU land

By  at The Guardian

Vast tracts of land in Europe are being “grabbed” by large companies, speculators, wealthy foreign buyers and pension funds in a similar way to in developing countries, according to a major new report.

Chinese corporations, Middle Eastern sovereign wealth and hedge funds, as well as Russian oligarchs and giant agribusiness have all stepped up land acquisitions in the past decade in a process that the report says is preventing ordinary people farming, and concentrating agriculture and land wealth in few hands.

According to research by the Transnational InstituteVia Campesina and others, half of all farmland in the EU is now concentrated in the 3% of large farms that are more than 100 hectares (247 acres) in size. In some EU countries, land ownership is as unequal as it is in Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines.

Although peasant farmers and smallholders have been moving off the land for decades, speculators and commodity crop farmers are taking over vast tracts of land, says the 200-page report.

This is seen widely in former Soviet states, say the 25 authors in 11 countries. In Ukraine, 10 giant agro-holdings now control about 2.8m hectares. One oligarch alone controls more than 500,000 hectares. Chinese companies have moved into Bulgaria on a large scale and Middle Eastern companies are now major producers in Romania.

The concentration of land ownership is speeding up. In Germany, 1.2m land holdings in 1966-67 shrank to just 299,100 farms by 2010. Of these, the land area covered by farms of less than two hectares shrank from 123,670 hectares in 1990 to just 20,110 in 2007.

In Italy, 33,000 farms now cover 11m hectares, and in France more than 60,000 hectares of agricultural land are lost each year to make space for roads, supermarkets and urban growth. In Andalusia, Spain, the number of farms has dropped by more than two-thirds to under 1m in 2007. In 2010, 2% of landowners owned half of the land.

None of the new research was done in Britain, which has some of the highest concentrations of land ownership anywhere in the world, with70% of land reportedly owned by less than 1% of the population.

“This is an unprecedented dynamic of land concentration and creeping land grabbing. It has worsened the existing situation where many young people want to stay in or take up farming but cannot maintain or gain access to land,” said Professor Dr Jan Douwe van der Ploeg of Wageningen University, a member of the research team.

The authors argue that the “land grab” has been fuelled by the common agricultural policy (CAP), which distributes one-third of all EU subsidies to farmers each year, but the funds have been captured by large-scale farmers.

“In Italy in 2011, 0.29% of farms accessed 18% of total CAP incentives, and 0.0001 of these, or 150 farms, cornered 6% of all subsidies. In Spain, 75% of all the subsidies were taken by just 16% of the largest farmers. In Hungary in 2009, 8.6% of farms cornered 72% of all agricultural subsidies,” said Van der Ploeg.

“The three most pressing land issues in Europe today are land concentration, land grabbing and inability of young people to maintain or gain access to land to enter sustainable farming – interlinked, triangular land issues quite similar to the ones we see in Africa, Latin America and Asia today.”

The report suggests that, as in many developing countries, there is strong opposition to land “grabbing” in Europe. There have been reports of communities occupying land. In Andalusia, landless farmers are occupying land collectively and cultivating it. In Vienna, young people are squatting on fertile urban land.

“Land needs to be seen again as a public good. We must reduce the commodification of land and instead promote public management of this common resource on which we all depend,” said Jeanne Verlinden of the European Co-ordination Via Campesina. “Priority should be given to the use of land for smallholder and peasant agriculture and food production, rather than handing over land to those private property commercial interests.”

Screening in Festival delle Terre, Rome, May 2013

The documentary “Seeds of Discontent” has been selected for the 10th edition of Festival delle Terre – International Audiovisual Award of Biodiversity that will take place in Rome from 7th to 10th May 2013. Find out more about the festival and exact time of screening here: http://www.festivaldelleterre.it/