Land rush and sustainable food security by MS Swaminathan

by M.S. Swaminathan (Chairman, MSSRF, and Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)
The Hindu September 14, 2011

Managing our soil and water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner needs a new political vision, which can be expressed through the proposed Land Acquisition Bill and the recently formed Global Soil Partnership. […]

It has been estimated that 50 million to 80 million hectares of farmland in developing countries has been the subject of negotiations by international investors in recent years, two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa, widely recognised as a “hot spot” for endemic hunger. We found little evidence that such large-scale acquisitions have helped to provide food and jobs to the local population. More than three quarters of the deals are yet to demonstrate improvements in agricultural output. The panel identified several steps that governments should take towards more effective and equitable land tenure systems, starting with creating more transparent systems for registering, tracking and protecting land rights, in particular of women, tribal families and other vulnerable groups who depend on common property resources for the security of their livelihoods. Satellite and aerial imagery used in biophysical surveys is blind to the rights and institutions that govern how land is actually used on the ground. According to the World Bank, the “land rush” is not likely to slow. As a result, the landless labour population will grow, leading to greater unrest in the rural areas of developing countries.

The loss of land for food security has to be measured not only in quantitative terms but also in respect of land use. […]

Experts have pointed out that “the Arab Spring” had its genesis in food inflation. This is why I have been stressing that the future belongs to nations with grains, and not guns.

On the basis of widespread consultations, the FAO has recently prepared “voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security.” These will be considered at the next meeting of the CFS in October 2011. There are elements here worthy of consideration by the committee of Parliament, which will go into the provisions of the Land Bill. For example, one of them states, “subject to their national law and legislations and in accordance with national context, States should expropriate only where rights to land (including associated buildings and other structures), fisheries or forests are required for a public purpose. In no way should expropriation or forced eviction be made for private purposes.” The guidelines also recommend that “States should ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, fisheries and forests, independent of their civil or marital status.” […]

Over 15 years ago, a Global Water Partnership (GWP) was formed to stimulate attention and action at the national, regional and global levels on sustainable water security. It was conferred the status of an international organisation by the government of Sweden in 2002. India is a partner. Land use decisions are also water use decisions and hence the organisation of a GSP to work closely with the GWP is timely. The GSP will specifically address soil degradation, conservation of soil biodiversity, gender and social equity, climate change and soil health management for an evergreen revolution in agriculture. It will provide multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional platforms for mobilising the power of partnership in managing threats to food security arising from climate change and “land rush.” […]

Managing our soil and water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner needs a new political vision, which can be expressed through the proposed Land Bill. The year 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit and the 40th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. This will be an appropriate occasion to launch a soil and water security movement through education, social mobilisation through gram sabhas, and legislation like the Land Bill.

Source: The Hindu : Opinion / Lead : Land rush and sustainable food security
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2450481.ece?homepage=true
Date Visited: 25 January 2019

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