Farm Radio Weekly
The issue of land generates much debate, passion and opinion because it is so important to farmers. Put simply, for farmers, land means life. It means your history, your heritage, but also your future. For small-scale farmers in Africa, whose lives are so intertwined with the land they live and work on, land is key to survival and progress.
Recent large-scale acquisitions of farmland by foreign investors have attracted much attention in the global media. According to the Oakland Institute (see below), in 2009, 16 million hectares of land were leased or purchased in developing countries, 75% in Africa. Some observers see this as much-needed investment in the agricultural sector. But for many, these deals simply remove farmers from land that is rightfully theirs – hence the often-used term “land grabbing.” Farmers have little legal comeback. Traditional land inheritance laws and customs may be at odds with government policy or law, and many farmers do not have paperwork to prove land ownership. Even when they do, they face powerful opponents in large foreign investors. Women farmers are often at a further disadvantage – in many countries it is still rare for women to own land, or inherit their husband’s land.
When access or title to land is threatened, farmers’ livelihoods are at stake. One option for broadcasters and development staff is to try to make farmer’s voices and experiences heard. This issue, dedicated to marking the International Day of Peasant Struggle, contributes in a small way to bringing farmers’ concerns about land to a wider audience. We hope you will add to this effort by broadcasting some of these stories, or similar stories from your country.
Here are some key websites you can refer to find out more about current issues and news related to land:
-http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/land-rights-issue − The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, researching and promoting debate on key environmental, social and economic issues. It has done extensive research on the purchase and lease of land from developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors. The Institute aims to increase transparency about land deals. They document impacts on farmers, and the long-term impact on development in several African countries.
- http://farmlandgrab.org − This website gathers news reports in various languages about “land grabs,” which they define as “the global rush to buy up or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy to secure basic food supplies or simply for profit.” It is a comprehensive resource for social activists, non-government organizations and journalists. It is updated daily. You can subscribe by weekly email or through an RSS feed.
-http://www.landcoalition.org/ − The international Land Coalition is an alliance of organizations who work together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men. On this site, you can find news from Africa, background documents on land, and links to many related websites.
-http://landportal.info/ − This is an online community for people interested in land governance issues. You can join, access information, and interact with other users.
Listen to a recent BBC World Service debate entitled: “Is land grabbing good for Africa?” In the debate, speakers and farmers discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of large-scale land lease by international companies in Africa, including a recent case in Sierra Leone:
Many international NGOs also campaign on the issue of land. In September 2011, Oxfam released a report examining some key cases of land investments, with case studies from Uganda and Sudan: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/land-and-power-the-growing-scandal-surrounding-the-new-wave-of-investments-in-l-142858
Since the Oxfam report was released, the United Nations has finalized and proposed a set of voluntary guidelines on land governance. See this report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/mar/14/negotiators-consensus-global-land-governance-guidelines
The UN guidelines will be presented to the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (http://www.fao.org/cfs/cfs-home/cfs-about/en/) in May 2012. The guidelines can be viewed here (40 page pdf document): http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/nr/land_tenure/pdf/VG_en_Final_March_2012.pdf
Farm Radio International has produced a variety of resources on land. Here are some highlights:
-In November 2010, Farm Radio Weekly ran a series of stories, reporting on an IDRC research program on women and access to land (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/09/20/farm-radio-weekly-freelancers-cover-idrc-symposium-on-women%E2%80%99s-land-rights-in-nairobi-kenya/). Browse the stories here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/11/
Access a specially commissioned script on women’s land rights here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/12/20/women%E2%80%99s-right-to-land-is-necessary-for-community-development/
See our script of the week section for another script on land rights.
These resources, stories and scripts may inspire you to research a story on land in your local area. Land is a broad topic, and it will help your research and planning if you choose a focus. For example, you could examine land ownership issues: Are there any by-laws which govern land ownership or inheritance? Do these contradict or are they different from traditional rules? How do the two systems interact? How do both systems affect women?
Is it common for farmers in your area to own land, or are they more often tenants? How does this affect their daily lives and the decisions they make?
Try to get a variety of views and quotes from men and women farmers, government officials and any local advocacy organizations.