La Via Campesina CNOP press release
(Sélingué, Mali, 19 November 2011)– More than 250 farmers, from 30 countries, launched an international alliance against land grabbing on November 19 in Sélingué, Mali. This alliance will be led by peasants, in collaboration with a wide range of social movements and organizations. The announcement was made at the close of the international conference “Stop the land grab”, organized by the national confederation of peasant organizations (CNOP) in Mali, and by La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement.
Land grabbing is a worldwide phenomenon of unprecedented size and speed. In Mali, over the last few years, the government has leased more than 800 000 hectares of arable land to investors, on 30-year, renewable contracts. It is estimated that in the whole of Africa, more than 30 million hectares have been sold or rented. The figure is 60 to 80 million hectares for the whole world, but, given the secret, sometimes illegal, nature of the contracts, this figure is only the visible tip of the iceberg. These lands have already been transferred to national elites, multinationals and financial funds, who try to make a profit or speculate using industrial agriculture projects, mining, agrofuel production, carbon markets, tourism, large dams, etc.
Some people describe these land grabs as “investments”, but in reality, they are nothing short of theft. It is also a violation of peasants’ rights. In these land grabs, small-scale producers, breeders, indigenous peoples – women and men- are robbed of their heritage and means of subsistence. Peasants and small farmers who defend themselves and their vital interests are beaten, imprisoned, and even killed.
Given the seriousness of the situation, the farmers organizations which met in Mali created an alliance today, to help reinforce and support peasant communities in their fight against this offensive. An action plan was adopted, including, in particular, an observatory to collect and exchange concrete data on land grabbing. The participants in this conference committed themselves to working together, as a matter of urgency, to put an end to land grabbing. In this way, genuine agrarian reforms and land policies can be implemented for the benefit of family farmers and agribusiness will be replaced by peasant agriculture, which is the only way to guarantee food sovereignty.
See also the declaration, article and pictures of the conference on www.viacampesina.org.