The weather in Brussels was miserable yesterday, but the Cinquantenaire Park was nevertheless taken over by huge picnic made entirely with local products. In Tete, Mozambique, a large public demonstration is taking place right now, while in Washington, Professor Eric Holt-Gimenez, director of the Food First organization, is about to open a discussion on the book Food Movements Unite and on the current food crisis. Meanwhile in Ecuador, the wonderful aromas of typical local dishes – such as fish cazuela and corn pies –filled the Plaza Civica in San Vincente, where the Festival de Sabores y Saberes was celebrated on Sunday.
These are just a few examples of the many events taking place around the world to celebrate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle organized by the international farmers’ movement, Via Campesina.
Every year hundreds of initiatives are organized to assert the importance of small-scale farming to meet the growing food needs of the planet. The date was chosen to commemorate a dramatic event: on April 17, 1996, 19 farmers of the Sin Tierra movement were killed by the Brazilian police while participating in a peaceful demonstration.
This year the day focuses on the growing phenomenon of land grabbing: the buying or leasing of agricultural property that tramples the rights of rural populations and steals their most precious asset, land. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2007/2008, more than 50,000 hectares of fertile land have been given away at ludicrous prices by local governments, mainly in Africa, but also in Latin America, Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe – equaling a total surface area the size of Spain.
Plots are undersold or more often leased to public (governments or sovereign funds) or private investors (corporate companies, banks and pension funds) that hope to obtain quick profits. “Land grabbing has resulted in the concentration of the ownership of land and natural resources in the hands of large-scale investors,” says Via Campesina. “This has led to the eviction and displacement of the local populations – usually farmers -, the violation of human rights and women’s rights, increased poverty, social fracture and environmental pollution.”
Read Via Campesina’s call to action.
Slow Food is promoting a campaign against land grabbing. Click here to find out more.