Student takes land grab fight to London

Photo credit: York Oxfam Society

Photo credit: York Oxfam Society

Harriet Milligan, University of York student and Oxfam campaigner, took part in Thursday’s international protest in London.

Milligan hoped to raise awareness of Oxfam’s high profile campaign against land grabs in underdeveloped countries.

The campaign sought to highlight the violating effects on the world’s poorest people as land areas as large as York are sold off each day to large multinational producers; globally the last decade has seen land eight times the size of the UK sold off which Oxfam says is enough land to feed a billion people.

Milligan is hoping to bring awareness of the campaign to York with the ambition to gain support to lobby the Government. She stated: “If we make our voices heard, we can support farmers in poor countries to have enough land to grow their food, and that everyone has enough to eat.”

“The rush for land is out of control” Milligan continued, “people who are trying to grow food and feed their families are suffering hunger, violence and greater poverty.”

Oxfam’s recent report ‘Our Land, Our Lives’ reiterates the significance of foreign investors on the poorest of the world’s population, stating that between 2000 and 2010, 60 per cent of agricultural land purchases by foreign companies were in developing countries where hunger issues are most rife; a majority of the final output by the foreign companies is also then exported.
Oxfam’s GROW campaign is lobbying the World Bank to halt these large scale land deals for six months to ease the destabilising results on local families who rely on their land as their only source of food.

Milligan believes that a positive influence by the World Bank would help to “stop these human rights abuses and ensure that investments help not harm poor communities. Investment should be good news for developing countries and not lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship. The UK government needs to put pressure on it too.”

However, in response to Oxfam’s campaign, the World Bank Group stated this Saturday that whilst they acknowledge and “share the concerns” that Oxfam highlights, they cannot agree to a moratorium period.

Instead they believe that knowledge of international markets and management that foreign investors can bring to developing countries aids the overall development of small scale subsistence farming to commercial scale output. They claim that “a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach is the only way to address the challenge of food security and help to feed the world’s poor in a sustainable manner”.

Oxfam urged the UK government, one of the bank’s largest shareholders, to use its influence to persuade it to implement the freeze.
Milligan added: “It can also play a crucial role as president of the G8 next year by putting food and hunger at the heart of the agenda, and addressing land grabs as part of this. Critically, it can also press the EU to reverse biofuels targets – a key driver of land grabs.”

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