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