The United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) to highlight the importance of family and smallholder farmers. Food Tank is partnering with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to commemorate IYFF, and will feature weekly posts and other media highlighting the innovations that family farmers are using to alleviate hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation along with the campaigns and policies that support them.
Land-grabbing, the practice of buying or leasing large portions of farmland in developing countries, creates many difficulties for small-scale farmers: displacement, food insecurity, unemployment, and decreased access to water are just some of its associated problems. “Grabbed” land is regularly used for the production of biofuels or to produce cash crops for export. Oxfam recently found that the land sold in land grab deals during the past ten years could have been used to feed one billion people. A new campaign from Oxfam and a new initiative from the International Land Coalition (ILC), however, are working to fight land grabs and achieve justice for smallholder farmers.
Sugar producers are common culprits of land grabs, taking smallholder farmers’ land to create large-scale sugarcane plantations. The common sweetener is a highly valuable commodity, with global annual sales estimated at $47 billion, according to a new Oxfam report. Oxfam’s new campaign, Stop Land Grabs, calls for Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Associated British Foods (ABF), powerful corporations in the sugar market, to strengthen their respective company policies to ensure that their sugar suppliers do not forcibly take small-scale farmers’ land.
The International Land Coalition (ILC) has recently announced a new initiative called the Facility in Support of Innovative and High Impact Targeted Interventions on the ground (FTI). FTI is a co-funding organization that supports projects protecting the land rights of poor people in rural areas, both to prevent land-grabbing and to improve rural poor communities’ access to land. The International Land Coalition Facility will fund up to 80 percent of the proposed projects. FTI will prioritize national and local civil society organizations from the Global South. Some of the high-impact interventions that FTI will fund may include organizing groups into cooperatives, or creating contracts with investors and suppliers. FTI expects to fund as many as 15 to 25 initiatives between 2013 and 2015.
Oxfam and FTI attack this threat to smallholder farmers all over the world from both sides: FTI may help give smallholding farmers more power to negotiate improved tenure of the land that feeds them, and Oxfam may be able to persuade large corporations to put a stop to their suppliers’ harmful practices.