‘Do you realise what your pension funds?’ they ask public
JOINT NEWS RELEASE from Friends of the Earth,ActionAid, War on Want, Gaia Foundation, Global Witness, The Land is Ours, Biofuelwatch, Re:Common, Reclaim the Fields UK
WHAT? Campaigners demonstrate outside the Agricultural Investment summit which starts today in London
WHEN? 5.30-6.30 pm BST, Tuesday 26 June 2012
WHERE? Park Plaza hotel, Wilton Road, Victoria, SW1V 1EQ
A coalition of environmental, development and farming groups have criticised the Agricultural Investment summit in London for spearheading a global land grab.
The protestors say that City investors and pension funds are taking land from countries and vulnerable communities who need it to grow food.
The protestors will be demonstrating against the summit and have released a statement, signed by over 60 European and international organisations, calling for pension funds and other financial institutions to stop land grabbing.
“Africa, Asia and Latin America are seeing an acceleration of land grabbing at a rate not seen since colonial times,” says Nyikaw Ochalla, of the Anuak people from Ethiopia, whose livelihoods are threatened by the land grabs of foreign companies. “Land is the lifeline of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, fishing and farming communities in the Ethiopian lands targeted by land grabbing policy. It is a myth that our lands are ‘wastelands’, only suitable for commercial agricultural development.”
Millions of hectares have been grabbed by this kind of investment in countries such as Ethiopia,Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, Kenya, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Braziland many more.
British companies alone have acquired the rights to more than three million hectares in poor countries.  – equivalent to almost two thirds of the UK’s total cropland.
 International Land Coalition http://landportal.info/landmatrix
“The summit organisers cheerily call this devastating trend an ‘emerging and expanding asset class’, and bill the summit as an opportunity to ‘overcome the perceived obstacles to investment’,” adds Tim Rice, biofuels policy advisor at ActionAid. “But they are glossing over the true impact on the ground. They are displacing farmers, uprooting communities and food production, and destroying ecosystems on a massive scale. They are increasing hunger and poverty globally. In a world where one billion people already go hungry, land must stay in the hands of local communities so that they can feed themselves.”
“Pension fund investors in London’s square mile are key players in this global industry,” points out Kenneth Richter, of Friends of the Earth. “Many people do not realise that the lack of transparency and accountability means that anyone with a pension fund might be implicated in violations of farming communities’ human rights around the world. We are here to tell the pension investment industry that their shady actions are now in the public spotlight.” Friends of the Earth is calling on pension funds to stop speculation on land grabbing.
The groups’ statement declares: “Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped.”
It says: “Pension funds are reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors’ in farmland worldwide. Millions of hectares have been leased or bought up in recent years. As a result, peasants, herders, fishers and other rural households are being dispossessed of their means to feed themselves and their communities, sometimes through promises of jobs, sometimes at gunpoint.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1) The Agriculture Investment Summit – Europe 2012 takes place from today (Tuesday, 26 June) to Thursday (28 June) at the Park Plaza Hotel in London’s Victoria. Titles of talks at the summit include “Agriculture in Africa: ‘land grab’ or untapped opportunity?” and call farmland “one of the greatest investments in the world”. Information about the event can be found at: http://www.terrapinn.com/2012/agri/
2) The alliance of civil society groups includes Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, War on Want, Biofuelwatch, Global Witness, The Land Is Ours, the Gaia Foundation, Reclaim the Fields UK and Re:Common It will hold a demonstration outside the hotel at 5.30pm BST today.
3) The joint civil society statement – “Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped” – has been signed by over 60 European and international organisations and can be found online athttp://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/press_releases/joint_statement_on_the_finance_of_land_grabs_june_2012_en.pdf .
The statement gives notice to pension funds, private and public financial institutions, and states that can regulate them, that speculation on land must be stopped. Financial actors must be compelled to publicly disclose complete information about any direct or indirect financing of land acquisitions, and be subject to mandatory, prior and independent assessment of the potential impacts of investments and products. Contact Rachel TanseyRachel.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
4) Case studies of land grabbing include:
“A Hidden Crisis: Increase in killings as tensions rise over land and forests”, Global Witness, June 2012
“Land, Life and Justice: how land grabbing in Uganda is affecting the environment, livelihoods and food sovereignty of communities” Friends of the Earth International, April 2012. http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/land-grabbing/life-land-and-justice-in-uganda
“Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab” GRAIN report, June 2012http://www.grain.org/es/article/entries/4516-squeezing-africa-dry-behind-every-land-grab-is-a-water-grab
“Land grabs threaten Anuak” GRAIN interview with Nyikaw Ochalla, April 2010 http://www.grain.org/es/article/entries/4064-land-grabs-threaten-anuak
ActionAid video case studies on impacts of UK company, Sun Biofuels, taking land in Kisarawe,Tanzania, the size of 11,000 football pitches. http://www.actionaid.org.uk/103062/video_stories_the_biofuels_land_grab.html
1,000 farmers in Karnataka, India, have done a Jail bharo (a peaceful protest strategy, in which protestors volunteer to be arrested, and a popular strategy used by Gandhi) to protest against theAgricultural Investment summit in Bangalore. http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1281:india-more-than-1000-krrs-farmers-arrested-in-bangalore&catid=23:agrarian-reform&Itemid=36 N.B. Some protestors at the Agricultural Investment summit inLondon will be wearing green scarves to express solidarity with the Karnataka Farmers’ Union (KRRS), the Rajya Ryota Sangha.
5) For an online public database of large-scale land deals please visit the Land Matrix athttp://landportal.info/landmatrix . The matrix shows that almost five per cent of Africa’s land has been bought up since 2000, roughly the size of Kenya, with little evidence of job creation or benefits to local communities. The data shows that poorer countries, with high rates of hunger, have been targeted.
6) For more information on the ties between financial institutes and land grabbing, please see:
“Pension Funds: key players in the global farmland grab” GRAIN, June 2011http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4287-pension-funds-key-players-in-the-global-farmland-grab
Table of pension funds involved in global largescale farmland acquisitions as of June 2012 (GRAIN) http://www.grain.org/attachments/2520/download
“Farming Money: how European banks and private finance profit from food speculation and land grabs” Friends of the Earth report, January 2012 http://www.foeeurope.org/node/46
“The Vultures of Land Grabbing: the involvement of European financial companies in large-scale land acquisition abroad.” CBRM & Merian Research report, November 2010 http://farmlandgrab.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/VULTURES-completo.pdf
7) For more information and interviews, please contact: Kenneth Richter,email@example.com (+44) (0)20 7566 1671. Tim Rice, firstname.lastname@example.org (+44) (0)20 3122 0561. Josie Cohen email@example.com (+44) (0)7956 250 260.
8) To be sent photos of the action, please contact Rod Harbinson firstname.lastname@example.org(+44) (0)7986 004 046.