Large food firms back voluntary plan to stop land grabbing
By Chris Arsenault
TORONTO, Aug 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global food giants and international NGOs have drafted a framework to prevent land grabs just as hedge funds, companies and plantation owners race to acquire new territory.
Drafted by senior figures from Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola and other large firms, along with researchers from Oxfam, Global Witness and the other international organizations, the voluntary guidelines on responsible land acquisition were released on Monday.
Indigenous people and local farmers in some of the world's poorest countries in recent years have seen companies push onto land they have inhabited for generations, as investors scramble to secure land rights and forest resources.
"Companies are taking greater responsibility to avoid forced evictions. They don't want to be expelling people from their land in order to produce goods," Jeffrey Hatcher, managing director of Indufor, a consultancy, and one of the authors of the new guide, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Based on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's guidelines, the framework is designed to make it easier for companies to comply with guidelines on buying land in areas where legal systems and formal documentation over who controls territory are often murky.
The guidelines don't just recognize formal ownership, they also back a form of squatters' rights, where communities that have been living and working in an area for a long-period have some claim to the land, said Hatcher.
The document also provided guidance on how to handle grievances from communities that feel they were unfairly impacted by land investments, Hatcher said. Continuación...