Launch of international alliance against land grabbing

Pokret za slobodu (Freedom Fight) joined international initiative for struggle against land grabbing. In Serbia, large quantities of land in possession of a small number of people are on the rise too. During the privatization of collective farms and agricultural complexes tycoons have acquired a large area of arable land for small amount of money. Over 100.000 hectares are in possession of no more than four rich landowners. In the process of privatization they have usually payed just 500 euros per hectare. Four years after Stabilization and Association Agreement took effect, they’ll have opportunity to sell that very land to foreign companies for a price 10 or 100 times greater. Privatized agricultural plants and enterprises go to bankruptcy because owners are not interested in production – they rather resale their land or transform agricultural soil into construction fields. In that way, land is mainly used for making a small number of people richer – instead of being protected as a basis of socially most needed branch of economy. Half of Serbian people live in the country, and third of employed ones work in agriculture. Under circumstances of deindustrialization and low level of industrial production, land and agriculture should be prized as a drop of water in a desert.

(Sélingué, Mali, 19 November 2011)– More than 250 farmers, from 30 countries, launched an international alliance against land grabbing on November 19 in Sélingué, Mali. This alliance will be led by peasants, in collaboration with a wide range of social movements and organizations. The announcement was made at the close of the international conference “Stop the land grab”, organized by the national confederation of peasant organizations (CNOP) in Mali, and by La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement.

Land grabbing is a worldwide phenomenon of unprecedented size and speed. In Mali, over the last few years, the government has leased more than 800 000 hectares of arable land to investors, on 30-year, renewable contracts. It is estimated that in the whole of Africa, more than 30 million hectares have been sold or rented. The figure is 60 to 80 million hectares for the whole world, but, given the secret, sometimes illegal, nature of the contracts, this figure is only the visible tip of the iceberg. These lands have already been transferred to national elites, multinationals and financial funds, who try to make a profit or speculate using industrial agriculture projects, mining, agrofuel production, carbon markets, tourism, large dams, etc.

Some people describe these land grabs as “investments”, but in reality, they are nothing short of theft. It is also a violation of peasants’ rights. In these land grabs, small-scale producers, breeders, indigenous peoples - women and men- are robbed of their heritage and means of subsistence. Peasants and small farmers who defend themselves and their vital interests are beaten, imprisoned, and even killed.

Given the seriousness of the situation, the farmers organizations which met in Mali created an alliance today, to help reinforce and support peasant communities in their fight against this offensive. An action plan was adopted, including, in particular, an observatory to collect and exchange concrete data on land grabbing. The participants in this conference committed themselves to working together, as a matter of urgency, to put an end to land grabbing. In this way, genuine agrarian reforms and land policies can be implemented for the benefit of family farmers and agribusiness will be replaced by peasant agriculture, which is the only way to guarantee food sovereignty.

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