Munich, October 25, 2012. The business of land acquisition is flourishing. In the past decade, investors have bought or leased more than 48 million hectares of land worldwide, though more than one third of these transactions have taken place in African countries. Much of this frantic activity is best described as “Land Grabbing”, i.e. the land is acquired entirely for the exploitation of natural resources for exportation without benefitting the local population. Benevolent investments in land, agriculture and forestry that create new job opportunities and improve infrastructure are now urgently needed in developing countries. At the SusCon conference these topics, along with strategies for responsible investments in land, will be discussed by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Rising food prices, increasing demand for energy and a growing need for raw materials are the main driving forces behind the wild race to acquire vast land areas. Private investors and many developed countries are increasingly securing supply and access in developing countries through buying land or through the acquisition of rights of use. Non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam warn that the consequences of this land grab could be catastrophic. With the arable land being used to grow energy rich plants, rural farming is suppressed, and local peoples lose their access to land and water and thereby their livelihoods. In addition, the monoculture system of the energy crops is likely to be harmful to the delicate ecosystems. Under these circumstances the potential for conflict is very high.
“From time to time, the global sell out of farmland has characteristics of neo-colonialism”, says Udo Censkowsky, Director of Organic Services and co-organiser of the SusCon. “Financial investors, corporations, as well as governments of rich countries promise new jobs. However, many companies hire their own people and when local jobs do arise, they are mostly poorly paid. It is for this reason that entire villages must make way for soy plantations or cross-country highways. Local communities don’t even benefit from the harvest that is destined for exportation.”
To prohibit land grabbing and design investments in such a way that opportunities to combat poverty and ensure food security are made possible, the BMZ has compiled a list of criteria for responsible investments in land.
“Land grabbing means expulsion, it harms the environment and endangers food security. It violates fundamental human rights. We are against the impacts”, says the Federal Minister of Development Dirk Niebel. “But we needn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater: private investments are fundamentally good. Not only do they lead to the transfer of capital and technology, but also to the increase of agricultural productivity, facilitate access to the market and expand the infrastructure. In this way they contribute to improved food security.”
To discuss all these issues at the international SusCon sustainability conference, the BMZ is co-organising the thematic session “Investments in land and other scarce resources”, taking place on Tuesday, November 27th. Practical examples will be presented and financial investors, such as the Deutsche Bank and Aquila Capital, will be there to discuss how investments in land and other natural resources should be designed in order to promise a sustainable use for the export countries and the affected population.
SusCon 2012 is also delighted to announce that it will be supported by Prince Charles. He will give an exclusive pre-recorded presentation to be shown at the conference on his vision and commitment to sustainability. The Prince of Wales will also emphasise the particular role of organic farming to sustainable agriculture.
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Mildred Steidle, Organic Services: +49 89-82075908 and +49 151 46748807; email@example.com
Anna Gauto, forum CSR international: +49 89 746611-23; firstname.lastname@example.org
Udo Censkowsky, Organic Services: +49 (0)89-82075902; email@example.com
Bernward Geier, COLABORA: +49 (0)2245-618652; firstname.lastname@example.org
Fritz Lietsch, forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften: +49 (0)89-746611-41; email@example.com
SusCon 2012 – The “International Conference on Sustainable Business and Consumption” brings representatives of the economy together with important stakeholders from government and UN organisations, as well as NGOs. In 2012 the conference will take place for the first time in the UN city, Bonn, Germany. On November 27th and 28th businesses, NGOs and politicians will discuss the topic of the “Green Economy” and introduce solution approaches for sustainable supply chains. Topics that will be focussed on are technical innovations, CSR 2.0, resource efficiency, certification, as well as financial transition and lifestyles. Four hundred participants are expected. In 2010, the last SusCon conference attracted 300 delegates representing businesses and financial institutions, governments, NGOs and the media from 28 countries.