Thursday, September 13, 2012

Land Grab: A Growing Concern

Fellow Caretakers of Earth,

"Together for Justice 2012 International Gathering", sponsored by the Presbyterian Hunger Program was an event worth a lot of attention.  Sue Smith (PEC Treasurer) and I attended this event in August (as she noted in the previous e-blast). 

One presentation which I feel deserves a lot of attention is related to current problems in both social and land justice. The program was presented by the director of the Oakland Institute, "an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social economic and environmental issues of our time". In their website, they state, "We have a reputation for meticulous research and analysis . Our work is referenced by policymakers, academics, and the media.  Many of our campaigns have resulted in international policy changes."

I was amazed by the program shared by Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute.  She is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, human rights and agricultural issues.  Under her amazing leadership, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in Africa and other areas which reveal an extremely disturbing pattern of what is termed "land grabs".  In these exploits, large corporations and other institutions greedily take over fertile land in which people are living productively.  The company states that they will be growing agricultural products which will benefit the local economy.  In actuality,  in small print, they add a caveat in which they can use the land and its produce to the company's own benefit, with essentially complete disregard for the land and the people.
Anuradha Mittal at the "Together for Justice International Gathering" August 12-14, 2012

I was equally, if not more, aghast to find out that my neighbor state, Iowa, was also implicated, specifically Iowa State University regarding a potential land-grab in Tanzania.  The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted to dismiss Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement's "conflict of interest complaint against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter, but his disclosure, recusal, and amended financial form were extracted from him because of public pressure".  (There was a Presbyterian attending the conference from Iowa who is active in working against this land-grab effort.) 

Other areas they engage in are sustainable food systems, trade agreements, poverty and climate change.  Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (a Senior Scientist and Coordinator of the Sustainable Agricultural Program at Pesticide Action Network North America) is a Fellow there.  Several of you may remember her as a member of our speaker's panel at the PEC Conference at Highlands in 2012.  

Please take some time to look up the Oakland Institute website :

Caring for Creation together,

Diane Waddell
Presbyterians for Earth Care

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