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Press Release 17/04/2012
The colonized are now the colonizers – Irish companies involved in large scale land acquisitions overseas
***Groups across Ireland organize activities to mark 17th April, International Day of Peasant Struggle of Via Campesina
***Irish company involved in landgrabbing
***30,000 hectares of publicly owned land now privatized in Serbia by Irish investors
Over the last ten years foreign governments and private firms have been increasingly investing and acquiring large surfaces of fertile land in other countries – especially in Africa and Asia – but also in Latin America and in Eastern Europe, for the purpose of agricultural production and export.
This process of landgrabbing is integrated into an agro-industrial food complex which bases food production on unsustainable petro-chemical inputs, erodes biodiversity and the natural environment, and produces low quality food for the world’s population.
Instead of being dedicated to the production of food which is healthy, affordable and benefits people, it focuses increasingly on the production of raw materials such as agrofuels, animal feeds or commodity plantations.
This system has caused the enormous loss of small scale agricultural holdings and the people who make their living from those holdings, while concentrating power over the world’s food system in the hands of a few transnational corporations.
A recent report by the international agricultural research organisation GRAIN has highlighted the role of an Irish company – “Agricultural Capital Partners” in landgrabbing including one land acquisition of 30,000 hectares in Serbia, as well as other projects in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
Agricultural Capital Partners includes the former Fine Fail minister Michael Smith who served in the cabinet of Bertie Ahern, as well as other Irish business people involved in International Financial services.
The Serbian government signed a European Union Association Agreement which entered into force this year. This agreement prohibits large scale acquisition of lands in Serbia until 2016 – meaning that the land acquired by Agricultural Capital Partners was done through a proxy company based in Serbia.
Over 100,000 hectares of land in Serbia are in the hands of just four landowners – and according to local sources many of the members of the Milosevic government are still involved in these deals as they involve the privatization of previously publicly owned land.
As much as 25% of the Serbian population works in agriculture – with 53% of small scale family farmers living on less than the minimum wage.
Ireland has a colonial experience unique in Europe which is not reflected in the Irish government’s position in International or European discussions on landgrabbing.
It is time for the Irish government to denounce landgrabbing in the strongest and most explicit way, and assert the right of people’s to protect their territories and lands from large scale privatizations which serve only to enrich the few and disenfranchise the majority.
There is a growing movement in Ireland calling for Food Sovereignty in Europe and internationally which is organizing events around the 17th of April to mark the International Day of Peasant Struggle organized by Via Campesina (www.viacampesina.org), and to call for Food Sovereignty.
A European declaration for Food Sovereignty was endorsed by hundreds of organisations last year in the first European Food Sovereignty Forum in Austria. The declaration is available online on the Nyéléni Europe website (www.nyelenieurope.net)
Some of the activities organized by Irish groups and organizations include:
Tuesday 17th April: Open day in community orchard, with planting of wildflowers, putting up of bat boxes and food sharing
Tuesday 17th April, 6AM Sunrise Walk for Food Sovereignty, Dublin South Wall of Dublin Bay
Wednesday, 18th of April Film screening “Via Campesina”
Venue: Irish Aid Volunteering Centre 9pm
Thursday, 19th April Film screening “Via Campesina” & Talk on Food Sovereignty
Venue: John Huston School of film NUIG, Galway
Sunday, 21st April Conference Latin America Week 2012
Venue: Galway Rowing Club, The Waterside, Woodquay
Press Release – Irish Delegation at first European Food Sovereignty Forum (21/08/11)
Nyeleni Europe 2011, European Forum for Food Sovereignty, Krems, 16th – 21st August 2011
Irish Delegation attend first European Food Sovereignty Forum – Building a food and agricultural system for the people by the people
Over 400 delegates from 34 Countries met in Krems, Austria, including 7 Irish delegates, to shape a new sustainable and just food system for Europe and the world. They participated in the first European Forum for Food Sovereignty named after the legendary Malian woman “Nyéléni”, whose spirit inspired the international food sovereignty forum held in Mali in 2007.
The 7 Irish delegates represented a wide variety of groups: LASC (Latin American Solicarity Centre), Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, Leitrim Organic Farmers, Dublin Community Growers and Food Action Dublin. These different groups and organisations are working on food sovereignty issues in Ireland directly and indirectly.
The Forum opened on Tuesday 16th August with Ibrahim Coulibaly, Malian farmer leader and organiser of the 2007 Nyéléni forum handing over the symbols of Nyéléni’s fertility and productivity – soil, seeds and water – to a European farmer leader Geneviéve Savigny.
From August 16-21st, the forum provided a democratic and participatory space for debating, sharing experiences, building alliances and making collective proposals about what needs to be done to protect and promote healthy local food systems in Europe and other regions and how to reduce the damaging industrial food system. “I am more convinced than ever that Ireland urgently needs to review its food system to become more sustainable and socially just, not only for farmers in the global south, but for Irish farmers at home to get a fairer deal in the long run. Building food sovereignty awareness in Ireland will be a priority for us in the coming years. “ said John Brennan , an organic farmer delegate from Leitrim.
The forum was held in the midst of multiple social and financial crises, caused by an elite-driven, but much resisted, social and economic agenda, that is harming people and destabilising the region. Yet, more than 400 European delegates from 120 organisations participated.
Participants came from 34 countries across Europe – from Albania to the UK, from Azerbaijan to Norway, from Portugal to Russia. They were assisted by 80 Austrian volunteers and 55 volunteer professional interpreters from COATI. International observers from India, Mozambique, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada and the United States were also present to offer experience and political views and to get inspiration for their own struggles. “I have been truely inspired by the incredible people participating in this forum. I have learnt so much about the issues that surround food sovereignty such as agricultural worker’s issues and women’s issues. We shared many positive practices and solutions. Young people in Ireland need to become aware how important food sovereignty is not only for the survival of people in the global south but our own survival at home in the near future.” said Donna Bloss from Gluiseacht.
The Forum used a rigorous methodology that allowed a high level of participation by all the delegates, especially women and youth, in developing consensus policy documents. These addressed key themes including: Models of food production; Market/food chains; Social aspects and conditions of work; Access to land and other resources; and Public policies. The discussions were organised by theme, European sub-region and sector (food providers, consumers, environmental and development NGOs, workers). They provided a rich diversity of views that enhanced the Forum’s outputs: a declaration and a plan of action.
Food and agriculture are the cornerstones of society and the Forum comes at a timely moment for offering radically alternative and concrete solutions from the people themselves.
Declaration: Nyeleni Europe 2011: European Forum for Food Sovereignty
We work towards the decentralization of food chains, promoting diversified markets based on solidarity and fair prices, and short supply chains and intensified relations between producers and consumers in local food webs to counter the expansion and power of supermarkets. We want to provide the building blocks for people to develop their own food distribution systems and allow farmers to produce and process food for their communities. This requires supportive food safety rules and local food infrastructure for smallholder farmers. We also work to ensure that the food we produce reaches all people in society, including people with little or no income.