Dramatic changes around food, climate, energy, and finance in recent years have pushed questions of land use and land control back onto the centre stage of development discourse, at the very moment when the same conditions are spurring an unprecedented rush for land and water across the globe. A fusion of the industrial agro-food and energy complexes has made land and water key resources in the global capitalist system again, fuelling in turn a huge renewed process of enclosure known as the ‘global land grab’. There is a need to come to grips with land issues in a changing global context and to rethink what may be needed to mobilise effectively in such a setting. Neither land reform nor land tenure security alone are well-equipped to be frameworks for analysis or action in the current conjuncture. If, as our analysis suggests, there is a need to transition the people’s demand for land from ‘land reform’ and ‘land tenure security’ to something else, then ‘land sovereignty’ as a framework is worth considering.
The term ‘ocean grabbing’ aims to cast new light on important processes and dynamics that are negatively affecting the people and communities whose way of life, cultural identity and livelihoods depend on their involvement in small-scale fishing and closely related activities. We are witnessing a major process of enclosure of the world’s oceans and fisheries resources, including marine, coastal and inland fisheries. Ocean grabbing is occurring mainly through policies, laws, and practices that are (re) defining and (re)allocating access, use and control of fisheries resources away from small-scale fishers and their communities, and often with little concern for the adverse environmental consequences. Ocean grabbing thus means the capturing of control by powerful economic actors of crucial decision-making around fisheries, including the power to decide how and for what purposes marine resources are used, conserved and managed now and in the future. As a result, these powerful actors, whose main concern is making profit, are steadily gaining control of both the fisheries’ resources and the benefits of their use.
The 'Bottom-up Accountability Initiatives to Claim Tenure Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa' project was a multi-year many-partner endeavour: FIAN, ISS, PLAAS (the institute for Poverty, Land, and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa), and TNI collaborated with local partners in Nigeria (ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria), Mali (CNOP- Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes), Uganda (Katosi Women Development Trust), and SouthAfrica (Masifundise Development Trust). The project focused on Action Research, carried out by the country partners, working with communities of peasants and fishers whose access to land or resources (including fisheries) were being threatened by land, water, and resource grabbing. The project sought to find ways that these communities could use the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of the Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests (VGGTs or TGs), an international soft law instrument endorsed by the UN Committee on Food Security in 2012, to strengthen their rights and push for bottom-up accountability.
In recent years, various actors, from big foreign and domestic corporate business and finance to governments, have initiated a large-scale worldwide enclosure of agricultural lands, mostly in the Global South but also elsewhere. This is done for large-scale industrial and industrial agriculture ventures and often packaged as large-scale investment for rural development. But rather than being investment to benefit the majority of rural people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, this process constitutes a new wave of land and water ‘grabbing’. It is a global phenomenon whereby the access, use and right to land and other closely associated natural resources is being taken over - on a large-scale and/or by large-scale capital – resulting in a cascade of negative impacts on rural livelihoods and ecologies, human rights, and local food security.
Climate change mitigation/adaptation and land grabbing are not necessarily isolated or separate phenomena. In many parts of the world such initiatives are hitting the ground in the same spaces and at the same time, often alongside environmental conservation programs as well. When they overlap and intersect, the results can be socially and politically explosive. In the transitional settings of Cambodia and Myanmar, old conflicts are being enflamed and new conflicts are being ignited, while customary ways of life and production systems are being branded as destructive or inefficient (or both) and ordinary villagers are being squeezed out.
Using collaborative action research the MOSAIC project is working to strengthen understanding of these dynamics and build capacity for more effective state policies and grassroots action and interaction, for socially and environmentally just outcomes in the case study areas and beyond.
Carbon trading, or the trading of permits to pollute, is a market-based approach for reducing carbon emissions which is deeply flawed, ineffective and unjust. Seeking to turn carbon in the atmosphere into a privatised commodity has created markets susceptible to corporate pressure, distracted from the systemic changes needed to convert our economies, and inflicted injustices on marginalised communities in North that become trapped in pollution hotspots and peasant communities in the South who have been dispossessed of land and livelihoods in the name of climate action.
The UN has held almost annual climate talks since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992, however these have failed to deliver the radical and justly-distributed emission cuts that are required largely due to the failure of industrialised nations to accept their historic responsibility, the corporate capture of the talks by fossil-fuel interests, and the false market-based solutions pursued by many nations.
Understanding the contemporary moment and building alternatives: An invitation to a new initiative New exclusionary politics are generating deepening inequalities, jobless ‘growth’, climate chaos, and social division. The Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) is focused on the social and political processes in rural spaces that are generating alternatives to regressive, authoritarian politics.We aim to provoke debate and action among scholars, activists, practitioners and policymakers from across the world who are concerned about the current situation, and hopeful about alternatives.
A 'Green Economy' is defined as an economy that reduces impact on the environment. Many advocates promote pricing mechanisms for valuing nature as a key way to factor in environmental costs into the economy that are otherwise externalised and ignored. While this may sound a good idea in theory, in practice this ends up extending corporate control into new areas from forestry to biodiversity and even the air (carbon trading), often denying access and undermining the control of marginalised communities.
Research and analysis from activists and scholars working to understand and halt the alarming trend in “land grabbing” and to support rural and urban communities in their efforts to protect their lands as the basis for self-determination, food justice and food sovereignty. The series is a project of the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas (LSA) activist-researcher collective, coordinated by Food First.
Increasing renewable energy is critical to ending fossil-fuel dependency and providing energy for all, but it is critical it is not done in a way that dispossesses communities, benefits only corporations and a rich elite, and causes further environmental damage.
A fundamentally contested concept, food sovereignty has — as a political project and campaign, an alternative, a social movement, and an analytical framework — barged into global agrarian discourse over the last two decades. Since then, it has inspired and mobilized diverse publics: workers, scholars and public intellectuals, farmers and peasant movements, NGOs and human rights activists in the North and global South. The term has become a challenging subject for social science research, and has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a variety of ways by various groups and individuals. Indeed, it is a concept that is broadly defined as the right of peoples to democratically control or determine the shape of their food system, and to produce sufficient and healthy food in culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable ways in and near their territory. As such it spans issues such as food politics, agroecology, land reform, bio-fuels, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), urban gardening, the patenting of life forms, labor migration, the feeding of volatile cities, ecological sustainability, and subsistence rights.
For years, TNI’s work in Colombia has largely focussed on how public policies and political processes have affected (rural) communities and their collective efforts to democratise access to land, water, and other natural resources. In doing so, TNI has collaborated with local organisations and researchers, while simultaneously building bridges between grassroots movements and policymakers at the national and international level.
The BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS) is a collective of largely BRICS-based or connected academic researchers concerned with understanding the BRICS countries and their implications for global agrarian transformations. Critical theoretical and empirical questions about the origins, character and significance of complex changes underway need to be investigated more systematically.
Climate impacts are increasingly being viewed through the lens of security, with the expectation that climate change will result in instability and conflict. In practice, this turns the victims of climate change into 'threats', to be controlled by military force, police repression and policies that entrench corporate control at a cost to human rights and civil liberties. TNI started exploring this work in 2011, developing a book published in November 2015, The Secure and the Dispossessed - How the Military and Corporations are shaping a climate-changed world
Not all types of investment are equal in terms of their impact on poverty reduction and development. Through an alarming global tendency, which has governments shaping investment and development policy around the needs of transnational capital, large-scale land deals capturing land and its associated resources are packaged as ‘investments for rural development’. The shift underway in development frameworks is from public sector responsibility for food security towards the private sector as the remedy to hunger and malnutrition, at the expense of the livelihoods, dignity and lifestyle of rural working people, especially poor and marginalised groups. There is a need to ‘reboot’ the debate on agricultural investment, away from the narrow corporate centric perspective, towards investments which best addresses rural poverty and hunger and democratic control of resources – such as public investments and the investments made by small-scale food producers.
Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty is a collective coalition by 16 partners, including peasants and social movements, development and environmental NGOs, human rights organisations and research activists aiming to conduct activities in Europe to raise awareness on issues related to the use and governance of land, water and other natural resources and its effects on the realization of the right to food and food sovereignty. In the context of food insecurity and climate change, the governance of natural resources requires addressing the core questions of who ought to have what rights to which resources, for what purposes and who ought to decide from a social justice-based rather than profit making-led perspective. This requires putting the visions and aspirations of those at the frontline of struggles for food sovereignty, whether they be small-scale fishing communities, peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, young and prospective farmers, as well as the most vulnerable and marginalised, at the heart of policies which affect them.
Rural communities in Myanmar have deep social, economic and cultural ties with their land and related resources. However, the ever-growing corporate interests in extractive industries and mega infrastructure projects has led to the adoption of measures, such as land confiscations, that result in the displacement of villagers whose lives are further threatened by conflict in many regions of the country. TNI works closely in this field with local movements to promote policies that prioritise the human rights of rural communities to access land, water, forests, and fisheries.