We are witnessing the increasing financialisation of land and territories as land and natural resources are sold off to financial actors such as banks, pension funds, and insurance companies. These actors often make use of complex investment webs involving any number of intermediaries, brokers, tax avoidance loopholes and off-shore schemes. All of these are attempts to distance themselves from public scrutiny, regulation, taxation and accountability. This is hugely disempowering for communities as it means that decisions are taken about land that are distant, undemocratic and hidden.
And agricultural land is by no means protected. And whether the new owners have purely financial motivations or have some interest in what the land offers (biomass, commodity sales), the outcome is the same: investors acquiring shares prioritise profitability, relegating agricultural production together with its social functions and its environmental objectives to a secondary place.
This session seeks to address the following questions:
To what extent is financialisation happening in Europe?
What are the consequences in terms of transparency of land ownership, the flouting of regulations, the impact on farmers' independence, and impact on farm succession?
How may we combat the financialisation of land sales?
Global corporations claim their new technologies will benefit us all, but they could threaten us, particularly small-scale food producers and consumers. Even before COVID-19, the arrival of big data, synthetic biology, robotics and other tech were being hailed as the answers to hunger, climate change and even infectious disease. In the summer of 2020, ETC Group began convening conversations with, and among, civil society organisations, social movement allies and communities with whom we work. “Which Way Forward?” examined the implications of technological trends, especially those advanced under COVID-19, particularly as they affect the Global South. They will also outline alternatives for the future. In this session you can hear from Southern activists who have taken part in the dialogues. They will give their views on the process, the technologies under discussion and their vision for the democratisation of technology.
Most soils across Africa are degrading and being lost to erosion. The conventional approach has been to push chemicals to ensure production. Research increasingly reveals that these chemicals contribute to killing soils, as well as causing harm to human health. Unfortunately, corporate and academic interests ensure a continuation of this ‘chemical life support system’.
During the last 50 years an increasing number of alternatives to the mainstream chemical approach have been emerging around the world and across Africa. Climate change, nutrition and research into the microbiology of soils have given increasing credence to what we now call an agroecological approach to soil management. These efforts tend to be dispersed. While networking has improved, there is still not enough joint learning around soil health improvement.
The session brings speakers linked to practical work around soil health through efforts of The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), working in collaboration with the Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) .A network of soil health improvement centres across the continent that work very closely with farmers is emerging. The aim is to encourage trials and learning towards identifying appropriate practices for advocacy purposes. Africa’s nutrition security depends on adopting a very different narrative to the current chemical one.
Small-scale farmers in the 16 countries of the Sahel in West Africa face a dual crisis to their livelihoods: climate change and land degradation.
For many generations, farmers had lived and farmed in equilibrium with the natural environment. They maintained soil fertility, water holding capacity and crop production through fallowing and other practices.
Today, population pressure, climate change, soil erosion, misuse of agrochemicals have reduced the resiliency and sustainability of the farming system. Farm communities have become highly vulnerable to drought. Hunger and chronic malnutrition have increased.
This session highlights the testimonies of farmers, men and women, from 4 countries in the Sahel in overcoming these problems. They represent a wider movement adapting the principles of “agroecology” (learning how to work with nature). This grassroots, farmer-led movement has achieved remarkable success in transforming landscapes, adapting to climate change, regenerating their soils, and improving their food security.
Their inspiring testimonies show how human determination, innovation, and collective action have brought hope to one of the most ecologically fragile, crisis prone areas in Africa.
Is it possible to change the world domination of a profit-driven industrial-style economy that respects neither people nor planet? This session aims to explore viable, social and fair economic models for farming and supporting short-chain local food systems from the ground up. The possibility of getting closer to true-cost accounting and really equitable and transparent ‘farm to fork’ systems.
Right Livelihood Award winner and president of the Biodynamic Federation, Helmy Abouleish, presents a radical new values-based system called The Economy of Love. This 20 min presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with other leaders in the world of food and farming who challenge these new ideas. Are they practical? Can they work on different continents? Please join us with your own thoughts and questions.
There are many efforts made to promote better nutrition in Africa, with the hope that it will improve health concerns ranging from chronic malnutrition that causes mental and physical impairment, to non-communicable diseases to cancer. However the focus of these efforts is often very narrow and addresses the symptoms rather than the cause. They do not look at the underlying problems in industrial farming and the widespread use of chemicals to grow food and then to process them.
AFSA has recently published a mini Barefoot Guide on Nutrition entitled: Surviving Covid-19: the neglected remedy. This presents an agroecological approach to nutrition, which celebrates the many traditional cuisines across the continent, all of which provide the basis for good nutrition. It also recognises the importance of diversity both in how food is grown and what is eaten and links the health of the soil to the health of the stomach, helping us to understand that a diversity of microbes is the basis to good health in both areas.
Agriculture and the food system accounts for nearly one third of all greenhouse gases, but the vast majority of this is from the energy intensive production and distribution of a few internationally traded commodities. Whereas farmers operating agro-ecological systems around the world produce food and resources for their communities while reducing cO2 emissions from agriculture and sequestering carbon at the same time.
Many governments now accept the need for net zero but there is a huge amount of conflict over the strategies we need to get there. From corporate veganism to carbon offsetting these false solutions continue to rely on the exploitation of people and resources around the world, just as much as the current agri-industrial food system does.
In this session, we will outline the Landworkers’ Alliance and La Via Campesina’s vision of how to create a genuinely climate friendly agriculture system while resisting the false solutions advocated for by the corporations ultimately responsible for reducing fossil fuels.
Please join the ORFC Global team and UK folksinger, Sam Lee, for a brief closing plenary (15 minutes)
For those who would like to sing along with the final song here are the lyrics.
One May morning early I chanced for to roam
And strolled through the field by the side of the grove.
It was there I did hear the harmless birds sing,
And you never heard so sweet,
and you never heard so sweet,
you never heard so sweet
as the birds in the spring.
At the end of the grove I sat myself down
And the song of the nightingale echoed all round,
Their song was so charming their notes were so clear
No music no songster,
no music no songster,
No music no songster
can with them compare.
All you that come here the small birds to hear,
I'll have you pay attention so pray all draw near.
And when you're growing old you will have this to say,
That you never heard so sweet,
you never heard so sweet,
You never heard so sweet
as the birds on the spray!