Who are landless farmers


As governments greet investors, local smallholders and indigenous communities are being evicted without compensation and deprived of their livelihoods. The International Food Policy Research Institute offers a deeper insight into the discussion on the subject of land grabbing.

Landless on the move

Resistance to displacement and the demand for land redistribution give rise to more and more popular movements. The Indian movement Ekta Parishad (Solidarity Association) has been resisting expulsions for about 20 years, especially in central and southern India. In 2007 around 250,000 landless farmers marched on foot from Gwalior to Delhi to persuade the Indian government to clarify the land rights issue.

In Brazil, the Landless Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra / Movimento dos Sem Terra, MST) fights for the right to land. The movement is considered to be one of the most important social organizations in the country. In 1991 it received the Alternative Nobel Prize and was recently described by Noam Chomsky at the World Social Forum as “the most important and exciting popular movement in the world”. But not only in Brazil, but also in other Latin American countries (e.g. Bolivia, Peru or Paraguay), there has been an increasing number of protest movements for about fifteen years. Representatives of indigenous associations are increasingly resisting concessions to transnational companies in the exploitation of the natural resources in their living spaces.

On the initiative of the organization "La Via Campesina", April 17th was called the day of protest for small farmers and landless people around the world.

In the struggle for a fair distribution of land

Who does the land belong to? What is an equitable distribution of land? And what do we have to do with it?

"Access to land and Agrarian reform must form a key part of the right to food", noted Jan Ziegler - UN special rapporteur on the right to food from 2000 to 2008 - in a report to the General Assembly in 2002.

Land reforms are on the to-do list of many developing countries, but they are making little progress. Above all, they contain political explosives where the expropriation of large white landowners is at stake, such as in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, but also in Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland. Whites in Namibia make up just six percent of the 1.6 million Namibians today, but they own more than half of the commercial farmland. For this reason, the clarification of the land rights issue appears to be particularly politically explosive, especially in Africa.

It is undisputed that the redistribution of land is an instrument for fulfilling the human right to food and that the recognition of indigenous land rights enables the protection and preservation of indigenous peoples and thus also endangered natural resources. There is also no doubt that the Federal Republic of Germany, with its foreign, economic and development policy, directly influences the living conditions of indigenous peoples and small farmers. German firms and banks are involved in the construction of dams, oil pipelines and mining projects. And we all consume oil and natural gas.

While the world community is concerned about rising food prices and impending famine, the clarification of land rights issues as a solution component receives too little international attention.

Current urgent actions on the subject of land rights, with which we can also express our protest here, can be found, for example, at the human rights organization FIAN.

Sources and Links

  • Brandt, Hartmut / Otzen, Uwe, land reform - a prerequisite for all development
  • Braun von, Joachim / Meinzen-Dick, Ruth (2009), “Land Grabbing” by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries Risks and Opportunities, Washington Institute for Food Policy (IFPRI)
  • The Agency for International Cooperation in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (SDC), Rural Development
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Land and rural poverty
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), interview on the subject of land grabbing in developing countries
  • Dogra, Bharat (2007), Land grabbing and displacement threaten millions of people. The downside of the economic boom
  • FIAN, Agrarian Reform: Access to Land and Other Productive Resources
  • Greenpeace, The “State of Conflict” report to download as PDF
  • Latin America News, The Barriers of the Landless Brazil
  • Oxfam provides various materials on land grabbing: Oxfam Land grabbing
  • FriEnt homepage provides information on land conflicts
  • Heinrich Böll Foundation: Grabbing - The great land greed

Rima Hanano, RESET editorial team / 2009 (last update 2014)