February 28, 2011

Representatives of Catholic organizations at the recently concluded World Social Forum said that massive investment in large tracts of land across Africa involving foreign capital — a practice detractors call "land-grabbing" — is pushing small farmers off their land and threatens to lead to another worldwide food crisis.

"Recent massive land grabs targeting tens of millions of acres for the benefit of private interests or third states . . . violate human rights by depriving peasants, pastoralists and fishermen of their means of production, by restricting their access to natural resources or by removing their freedom to produce as they wish," said a draft statement prepared by delegates at the conference in Dakar, Senegal.

Martin Brockelman-Simon, executive director of Misereor, the German bishops' development agency, said it was estimated that up to 48 million arable acres have been bought by interests outside of Africa since 2006.

"These deals are causing loss of food supply, social conflicts, depletion of water supplies, loss of jobs and ecological damage," he said.