About Agrarian & Environmental Justice

TNI’s Agrarian Justice project brings together research and analysis on the collective struggles of rural working people to democratise access, ownership, and control of land, water and other natural resources. It works closely in alliance with local, national and global alliances of small-scale farmers, fisherfolk and marginalised rural working people.

In recent years, transnational corporations and some national governments have initiated a large-scale worldwide enclosure of agricultural lands, mostly in the Global South, causing livelihood disruption, displacement and dispossession. In this context TNI has identified and forged alliances with transnational agrarian movements and groups that struggle against this injustice.

The ‘agrarian justice’ cluster brings together research and analysis on political struggles in rural areas around access, control and ownership of resources and land, as well as on international agrarian movements struggling against dispossession and working to construct alternatives. They carry out evidence-based policy studies, field research, and advocacy campaigns; coordinate local-national initiatives across regions; and collaborate with various other networks working on common themes. They publish relevant materials that can be used by social movement and NGO advocates in their campaigns and lobby work on these issues.

Global burning issues are 

  1. The political economy of agrofuels;
  2. Overseas development aid and land policies;
  3. Social movements and rural democratisation;
  4. Global land grabbing;
  5. Food sovereignty.

Read about Activities in 2016 in the projects section of our annual report.


Agrarian justice work in TNI has a long history, although it hasn't been labelled as such or been pulled together systematically before. Agrarian justice-related work has been carried out in other existing programs such as Drugs and Democracy programme. In the early 1990s, TNI also worked closely with peasant organisations in the context of its overseas development aid work.

The current ‘agrarian justice’ cluster can be traced to a series of discussions between TNI fellows and staff within the Public Services and Democracy Programme as well as with other agrarian justice scholar-activists. It was decided to explore the possibility of trying to bring in a rural dimension to the New Politics program. This led to the ‘Social movements and Rural democratisation’ research project that ran from 2005 onwards.

In 2006, TNI decided to coordinate a global research-advocacy initiative to take a critical look at overseas development aid agencies and their land policies. This was, and is, in the midst of the global mainstream advocacy to promote massive privatisation of the remaining commons. This initiative has been in collaboration withthe Belgian North-South Coalition of Movement or 11.11.11, Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) and with the Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

The discussion and subsequent work on agrofuels started in 2007 when colleagues from the Open University of the UK (Les Levidow) invited TNI to become part of a large EU-wide consortium of academics and civil society groups (called Cooperative Research on Environmental Problems in Europe – CREPE) to carry out a major environmental policy study, with TNI coordinating the agrofuels component. TNI continues to host the website at http://crepeweb.net/.

In 2009, TNI decided to consolidate and expand its ongoing initiatives related to global land grabbing, which is a natural extension of its work on agrofuels, as well as advocate for alternatives of food and land sovereignty.