The drive to secure food and investments has led many cash-rich governments and private investors to turn into farmland, putting greater pressure on the use of land and forests for agriculture, mainly for food but also increasingly for energy crops. From less than 4 million hectares a year in 1998-2008, investments on land have risen to 45 million hectares in 2009. As of 2010, there were at least 50 countries targeted for their farmlands by well over 100 investors or governments for purchase or long-term rent. There is an estimated US$100 billion already mobilised to pay for these ventures, with around 40 million hectares involved across the globe. Many of these projects can be found in several countries in Asia.
The problem with these foreign farmland acquisitions is that they are very oriented towards industrial agriculture which is at the root of the food crisis. Also, the investments seem to have little to do with feeding people, as they are with increasing the values of land and agricultural commodities for speculation and futures commodity trading. Across the region, this trend has already caused displacement of local and indigenous population, disrupted local livelihoods, and undermined efforts at establishing more food secure forms of agriculture.
While efforts of various NGOs and other civil society actors to expose land grabbing through research and media campaigns have been successful, much of the actions have been confined to utilising legal processes, lobbying governments and exploring international instruments to regulate agricultural investments. Often, these are long and tedious processes that exhaust so many resources yet yield very little result in terms of stopping the land grabbing phenomenon. This is compounded by efforts of inter-governmental bodies like FAO and financial institutions like World Bank to use "code of conduct" for responsible agricultural investments, as if regulating land grabbing will lessen injustice. At the same time, there have been smaller campaigns and actions among grassroots organisations to resist land grabbing in the context of food sovereignty and promotion of food secure forms of agriculture. These efforts are often ignored and unsupported.
PAN AP takes on the initiative to promote community resistance against land grabbing in Asia. It partners with local organisations working on the issue in documenting and mapping the extent of the land acquisitions by foreign investors in the region. PAN AP is also facilitating national and regional strategy-building activities to bring together different sectors and come up with concrete and comprehensive approaches and strategies and contribute to the global call against land grabbing. Through broad awareness-raising, media campaign and advocacy, PAN AP aims to increase the consciousness of the public on the human rights abuses and environmental destruction associated with this phenomenon.
Save the Date!
PAN AP partners are currently documenting the scope and impact of large-scale foreign investments in agriculture that is displacing communities in rural areas in Mindanao (Philippines), Indonesia, Sarawak (Malaysia) and other places in Asia. The outcome of this documentation will be used by local partners in their campaigning and strategising at the national level. The national strategy building is important as land deals are brokered and land laws are amended or enacted at the national level. Thus, approaches and strategies on how to create pressure points for policy makers need to be developed. At the regional level, there will be a strategy-building process where the platform is opened to other organisations from other countries. Experiences from the three focus countries will be shared as well to other communities that are facing similar situation e.g., Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, India, etc. The regional strategy building is set to take place in Penang, Malaysia on July 19-20, 2012. Affected communities will be invited to the strategy building. It will also be opened to groups which are working on the issue and are willing to collaborate with PAN AP and its partners. Collective campaign plans at regional level are expected to emerge from this meeting, as well as exchanges of strategies on campaigning and raising awareness on land grabbing that have worked for other communities.