Seeds of discontent documentary unveils how foreign investors fuel land grabs

01 October 2013
Press release

A powerful new documentary film “Seeds of discontent” was launched today that draws attention to the role of a Swedish investment firm, Dutch pension fund and Norwegian church endowment firm in land grabbing in Mozambique.

Amsterdam, Heidelberg, 2 October 2013-

Seeds of discontent”, released less than a week before the UN Committee for World Food Security meets in Rome, gives a compelling visual portrait of how investment by private financial players can undermine food security and human rights in developing countries.

The documentary film by director Geoff Arbourne looks at the community of Licole, based in the region where the company Chikweti Forests of Niassa has set up large tree plantations. Chikweti Forests of Niassa is a subsidiary of Global Solidarity Forest Fund (GSFF), a Sweden-based investment fund, co-owned by Dutch pension fund ABP, the Diocese of Västerås (Sweden), and the Norwegian church endowment, OVF.

Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP, based in the Netherlands, is the world’s second largest pension fund with a total asset value of Eur 264 billion. Its interest in investing in land and agriculture is clear with its slogan “The world is our farm”.

The documentary film was launched just five days before the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) meets for its 40th round of talks. CFS is an international and intergovernmental platform that seeks to ensure food security and nutrition for all. Transnational Institute and FIAN as part of the “Hands off the Land Alliance” are campaigning for effective measures to stop land and resource grabbing, such as the implementation of the Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, which were adopted by the CFS in 2012. The film is a case study of how investors in agriculture that claim to be well-meaning and to apply “responsible” practices, can end up fuelling land grabs and sowing deep divisions in rural communities such as Licole.

“Cases like this one are happening every day, all over the globe” argues Philip Seufert of FIAN International, member of the Hands off the Land Alliance. “Communities are confronted with investors who arrive and promise a lot to them: jobs, 'development', money, a bright future. But what really happens then is that communities find their valuable land no longer available for farming, people have to work under bad conditions for the investors, communities get divided against each other and all the nice promises turn out to be empty.

"The people of Niassa have to be able to realize their right to adequate food and to live a life in dignity. While the Mozambican state has the main responsibility to ensure this, the European home states of foreign investors carry responsibilities as well.”

“The beautiful and uncommon intimacy of the footage provided a powerful palette for the film”, Geoff Arbourne says. “In just a few weeks we witnessed the dangers and disappointments of these kind of investment deals and saw how their experience of one forestry company affected their attitudes, their hopes and dreams”.

The film and more background on the case of Licole can be found here: