Modern day 'clearances' highlighted by Holyrood event. Motion laid down in the Scottish Parliament – MSPs urged to show their support

Posted by Adrian Doherty Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

22nd Sep 2011

Oxfam Scotland today [Thu 22nd] highlighted the scandal of the modern day 'clearances' being carried out in the developing world by creating a crop of Scotland silhouettes outside the Scottish Parliament.

The event marked the publication of the major new report 'Land and Power', which reveals 227 million hectares of land has changed hands - an area equivalent to twenty nine times the land mass of Scotland. (1) Publication of the paper is part of Oxfam's GROW campaign, which aims to create a world in which everyone has enough to eat.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP (Dundee West) laid down a motion in support of the Oxfam paper, echoing the charity's call for investors, governments and international organisations to prioritise putting a stop to land grabbing by fixing the current policies and regulations, so that local people are consulted and treated fairly, and that all relevant international standards are respected. Oxfam urges all MSPs to back the motion. The charity is also calling on Scots to support the Grow campaign by signing up at www.oxfam.org/grow

Oxfam Scotland Head Judith Robertson said:

"Many of the world's poorest people are being left worse off by the unprecedented pace of land deals and the frenetic competition for land. Tens of thousands of people have been evicted from their homes. We've held this event outside the parliament today so that the people of Scotland can see the huge scale of the issue. The blinkered scramble for land by investors is ignoring the people who live on the land and rely on it to survive. The story is especially poignant here in Scotland as it evokes grave echoes of the Highland Clearances, when thousands of people left homes in which their families had lived for generations."

Oxfam's report profiles the devastating effect of these land deals on communities in Uganda, South Sudan, Indonesia, Honduras and Guatemala. For example, one deal in Uganda alone has seen more than 20,000 people being evicted from their homes, some of them violently. Deals such as this have been labelled 'Land Grabs' by international groups.

The report warns that many land deals are often not carried out to grow food for indigenous communities - which are sometimes facing severe food shortages - but to produce food for overseas markets, meet damaging targets to grow crops to make 'biofuels' for western fuel tanks, or to make an easy profit by speculating on land.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP said:

"With land grabs the equivalent of 29 times the land mass of Scotland - it is having a devastating effect. Many MSPs will be acutely aware of the impact of the Highland Clearances. I'm urging MSPs to support this motion. We need to do our bit, along with the international community, to stop this from happening."

Christine [not her real name], a farmer in her mid 40s, who lost her land in Uganda as the result of a land deal, said:

"All our plantations were cut down - we lost the banana and cassava. We lost everything we had. The company's casual labourers would attack us - they beat and threatened people. Even now they won't let us back in to look for the things we left behind. I was threatened - they told me there were going to beat me if we didn't leave."

Oxfam is calling for investors, governments and international organisations to prioritise putting a stop to land grabbing. Current policies and regulations, such as the World Bank's International Finance Corporation Performance Standards and the Forest Stewardship Council's standards, too often fail. They don't always ensure that, when investors negotiate deals, local people are consulted, treated fairly, and that all relevant international standards are respected.

1) This data is compiled by the Land Matrix Partnership, a coalition of academic, research and non-governmental organisations. The 227 million figure is based on information on land deals over 200 hectares from a whole range of different sources including government reports, academic research, company websites, media reports and the few contracts that are available. The coalition is currently cross checking the records of land deals it has identified. It is calling for increased transparency among companies and governments so that the true scale of the problem can be accurately understood. The total land mass of Scotland is 7.8 million hectares (Source: Scottish Government).

The Land Matrix Partnership includes the International Land Coalition, the universities of Bern and Hamburg, the French research institute CIRAD, the German agency for technical cooperation, GIZ and Oxfam.

There's an additional photo over on our Twitter.

Video now on our YouTube channel.

Blog post written by Adrian Doherty

Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

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