Without Reform, Small Farmers Become Trespassers
UN Official Calls for US Return of Native Land
Natives say their struggle gives them hope and eventually yields results. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles on land reform from: (1) IRIN, Apr 26, on Malawi; (2) TruthOut, Apr 30, on Honduras, by L. Elliott and B. Bell; and (3) BBC, May 4, on US treaty land, followed by a video of a TV interview on basic reform, the Max Keiser show on Apr 29.
by IRIN, by Lauren Elliott & Beverly Bell, and by BBC
Without Land Reform, Small Farmers Become "Trespassers"
Most smallholder farmers in Malawi did not have a title deed for the land in 2009 when 2,000 subsistence farmers were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there.
In 2010, as they prepared to plant, they were met by a police van and the chief, Fennwick Mandala, who warned them not to come back. The next day, the farmers again set out for their fields, but this time they were met by tear gas and rubber bullets and that night six of them were arrested and charged with trespassing.
Some of them now eke out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest. Children have had to drop out of school to help their parents. People aren’t getting enough to eat.
In Malawi, like most other countries in the region with the exception of South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, more than 60 percent of land is customary, meaning that it is mostly untitled and administered by local chiefs on behalf of the government, with local communities merely enjoying user rights.
Politicians own massive tracts of land, so they’re reluctant to adopt a new legislative framework that would correct the land imbalances.
The 2,000 hectares of land once farmed by smallholders is now owned by a company called Agricane, which is leasing it to Illovo for sugar cane production. Ironically, Agricane's core business is providing technical support to clients, many of them international donors who are implementing community development projects. The company's biggest challenge in carrying out such projects was the issue of land tenure.
All the fertilizers and seeds in the world cannot make much difference for the great mass of farmers in Malawi, who do not even have enough land to grow the food their families need.
To read more
JJS: At least some smallholders elsewhere won victories.
Our Hope Is in Our Struggle: Reclaiming Land and Life in Honduras
On April 17, several thousand Hondurans occupied 30,000 acres of land, claiming a legal right to grow crops there. These occupations were part of the International Day of Peasants' Struggle, organized by the several million-member, worldwide, small-farmer organization Via Campesina. From Mozambique to Palestine to Spain, farmers and activists took to the streets, hosted teach-ins, and established land occupations. Over 250 actions took place globally that day.
Four days after these land occupations began, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) celebrated a long-fought victory: winning a community title to 741 acres of their ancestral land. COPINH and the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) are two groups demanding the right to communal control over ancestral lands, rivers, forests, and agriculture. Over the years, they and others have reclaimed ancestral lands, and stalled or stopped, hydro-electric dams, mining exploration, and logging.
For decades in the fertile Bajo Aguán region, the members of small-farmer cooperatives such as the Aguán Small Farmers' Movement and the Unified Movement of Aguán Farmers have been peacefully occupying land they claim has been taken from them, mainly by bio-fuel agribusiness. Today, despite constant arrests, assassinations, and threats from the landowners and the government, they have established six settlements where they're working towards their long-term vision of food sovereignty, liberatory education systems, collectively run media, cooperative businesses, and strong community.
To read more
JJS: In the US, too, natives struggle for their land.
UN official calls for US return of native land
A UN special rapporteur has called for the US to restore tribal lands, including the Black Hills of South Dakota, site of Mount Rushmore.
James Anaya announced the recommendation at the end of a 12-day tour, during which he met tribal leaders and government officials in seven states on reservations and in urban areas.
"The sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian Country," Mr Anaya said.
The trip, Mr Anaya's first tour of Native American lands, was to determine how the United States is faring on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
President Barack Obama endorsed the declaration in 2010, reversing a previous US vote against it.
The Black Hills are public land but are considered sacred by the Sioux tribes. The area, as well as other lands, were set aside for the tribes in an 1868 treaty. Nine years later, Congress passed a law taking the land.
"I'm talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they're entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative," Anaya said.
The Sioux refused to accept a 1980 monetary award from the US Supreme Court, calling for the return of the Black Hills.
The reservations near the Black Hills are some of the most poverty-stricken areas in the US, with extremely high rates of unemployment and much lower than average life expectancy.
Mr Anaya said ideas that native populations were gone, wanted handouts or that their culture has been reduced to casinos were "flatly wrong".
The UN fact-finder said he had met members of the Obama administration and briefed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, but was unable to meet individuals members of Congress. He said that he typically meets individual legislators during his tours of countries but said he did not know the reason why that had not happened in the US.
To read more
JJS: Some places were able to distribute land more fairly by taxing it, which makes hoarding land too costly, so more land is left available for smallholders. The principle of public recovery of land value creates an entirely different dynamic for the entire economy, flattening the business cycle and spreading prosperity.
Max Keiser Interviews Fred Harrison
This British talk show host learns a lot from an expert on the role of land in prosperity and justice on Apr 29.
To read more
JJS: The UK is way ahead of the rest of the world in discussing fundamental reform.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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