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From our readers

Farming Matters welcomes comments, ideas and suggestions from its readers.

Please send an e-mail or write to P.O. Box 90, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Land grabs and land rights in Eritrea

March 2012: My name is Amanuel Ghirmay, I live in Eritrea and I am a subscriber of the Farming matters magazine. The December 2011 magazine which focused on land grab issue is a timely one. Your contribution in combating unsustainable land hiring schemes is commendable. Here is what I think about the issue.

From the article about the re-peasantisation in Araponga I learned that farmers initiative to organize themselves leads the way to establishment of organizations which in turn protect the legal and economic rights of the farmers. Organization is a very powerful method. After all, we are social beings made to co-operate. Everything local farmers can do to fight the handing over of their traditional lands to few foreign investors starts from being organized.

But if we are to blame anything, then the article ‘The Smart Lane’ provides it! The real underlying reason why we have this global problem of misuse and injustice is the growing lack of respect for people and nature and the excessive love of money. And we are paying the price through unpredictable food prices, tough economy, uneasy relations, disappearing greenery, shortage of water, etc. I would like to laud the writer for discussing the issue of values and morals in agriculture and economics. I don’t think there is book on agriculture, or economics, or ecology, or natural management, which raises morality as a solution. Greed is rooted in human nature. Greed is the problem, seeing everything in terms of ‘me’ not ‘us’. I think that the time has come for the anthropocentric attitude, with all its positive sides, to be properly revised. Your magazine should also highlight the role of ethics and morals in everything, be it politics, economics, or science.

Honesty is the best policy. Having respect to everything and everyone is the springboard to efficiently managing resources. I mean the science is there but why do it? Farmers in villages are poor with no attractive appearance. They have no money. So it is easy for politicians and other leaders in cities to ignore these kinds of people. This is why rural development works must be like a missionary work. The real interest should be helping and this requires ethics and morals. Or the work will not succeed. People who work in organizations dedicated at developing rural people can be seen as saints. We need to live by higher standards to help rural people. If not, our work will not bear fruit. And the great pleasure we get from helping!! No match for it! I felt it, trust me.

Your coverage of the issue of land is very important. I came to learn about the real nature of the scheme from your magazine, from an interview with one expert (woman) on the issue published a year or so ago. In my country, there is no land grab schemes, thankfully, but insecure land right is still a problem for traditional farmers. Arable land is re-distributed every 7-10 years making proper land care uninteresting for farmers. The government is trying to change this.

Thanks for reading and keep sending your great magazine. I hope to participate more in the future.

Amanuel Ghirmay

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It's the economy...

Your magazine reaches me regularly. It is very thoughtful and it helps us professionals who work in agriculture. But would you consider adding materials related to co-operatives and also about economic issues?

According to our government, yields are high and we are exporting lots of agricultural products. But all we see is huge scarcities everywhere. How can we make sure that macro-economic policies benefit farmers? And how do we cope with very high inflation rates?

Degu Assefa
Debre Tabor, Ethiopia

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Rio+20 section

Your website information on the coming Rio conference is very relevant to the work I am doing in Northern Ghana. I am happy you have included the implementation of financial mechanisms to support "green economy" initiatives.

Sustainable initiatives are not just happening in the Western world, but also on the ground here. There are several projects encouraging the usage of new sustainable agriculture practices and technologies which are as effective, if not more so, as other practices used.

Yet at the same time there are other projects that often contradict these initiatives, confusing small-scale farmers about which practices they should best use. Hopefully soon we will see some more co-ordination and consensus.

Read more about Rio+20

Siera Vercillo
Engineers Without Borders (Canada), Kpandai, Northern Region, Ghana

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Land grabs 2

As a long time reader of Farming Matters/LEISA Magazine I am very much concerned about the recent trends in some countries in the tropics, where large-scale businesses are invited to “develop” a region with large-scale plantations or with timber and mining operations. Unfortunately, this is also the case in Indonesia, but it is not a new development.

The “One million rice farms” scheme was started in 1994 in Kalimantan and has been going on since then. Though officially meant to assist small-scale farmers, this has been a way for timber companies to obtain cheap wood, and has resulted in thousands of traditional farmers being evicted from their land and the loss of more than one million hectares of traditional forest on peat lands.

A number of similar schemes were recently announced, following laws which promote the development of mining, large-scale farming and timber industries – but which will give no benefits to the traditional population of these areas.

Implementation of these schemes will again lead to the eviction of many traditional farmers from their lands and to large-scale companies making huge profits.

Most surprising is that these new laws are all in conflict with the Agrarian Law of 1960, which protects the rights of traditional rural societies in Indonesia to work on the lands of their ancestors.

Charles van Santen
Bogor, Indonesia

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Land grabs 1

The themes and scenarios outlined in the different sections of your December issue are visible in our country, where there is a myriad of problems concerning land ownership – including land grabbing by powerful actors and insecure land ownership.

A new escalating scenario is currently emerging: big chunks of land are being sold or leased to big multi-national companies for tourism and horticultural enterprises and the local population cannot see the social, economic or environmental benefits.

This problem is especially affecting our area, the Laikipia district (in the Rift Valley Province), a semi-arid area where many “invaders” are taking advantage of the local population and seizing their land through cheap transactions.

Let me pay tribute to your magazine for highlighting these problems.

Bernard Nderitu Kamwaro
Nanyuki, Kenya

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Regional food systems

I was really delighted to read the September issue of Farming Matters. All the articles in this issue made very good reading: I really liked reading about food sovereignty and food security in the context of a globalised food system.

I see many good reasons for developing and strengthening local farming systems, producing multiple local crops and avoiding monoculture patterns.

This seems better than introducing foodstuffs, which almost always seem to disturb and destabilise culturally sound food habits, and introduce a large degree of vulnerability into the food chain.

Giridhar Kinhal

Sustainable Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Programme, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal

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Developing sustainable food systems

It worries me that, at some point when politicians finally “get it”, they will try to legislate a sustainable food system into existence.

What I really think needs to happen is that ordinary people, for the most part, need to take the lead in (re)developing sustainable food systems. Government needs to stand by and let it happen. It needs to stop supporting industry and a globalised food system led by profit. If profit is the goal, then that becomes the measure of success, and not whether or not people get fed. What farmers need is access to information.

My recent experience in Senegal with urban farmers tells me that they are hungry for information. It should be up to them how they use that information to improve their production in ways that are most relevant to their social and economic situations.

Stephanie White,
in response to the AgriCultures blog “Wars are fought over food in the future

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Home-grown school feeding

In semi-arid areas, not many crops may do well due to inadequate, erratic and unreliable rainfall. However, crops such as sorghum, millet, cow peas and cassava can do fairly well.

Despite this, production of such crops is limited, mainly because of low market demand (many people tend to rely on maize as their staple food). Promotion of home grown school feeding in such regions can trigger increased production of drought-tolerant crops because schools will provide a ready market for them. This would be a win-win situation where both the school community and the surrounding farmers benefit.

Titus Mutinda,
on the online debate on Home Grown School Feeding

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Regional food systems 3

Thank you for your informative article on the “Incredible Edible” movement. This community supported agriculture project is inspiring.

Reading about the current dysfunctional agriculture system can be quite disheartening, as such massive change is urgently needed. But articles like this one show promise and hope. I work with an organisation called Enfo (an Irish information service on the environment). We work a lot with children and young people, providing information about more sustainable living and informing them about environmental issues. After reading the piece about the Incredible Edible project we are determined to start our own project, perhaps amongst schools. The young people I have spoken to about this are enthusiastic about getting involved. Thanks again.

Martin Hunter
Wicklow, Ireland

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Regional food systems 2

was really inspired by your article about the Food Acquisition Programme (FAP).

But while the authors leave no doubts that it does work, I am generally suspicious about initiatives like this that are centrally steered and enforced in a topdown way. The article did not look at some of what I think are the important issues, leaving some unanswered questions. Is this programme sustainable? Do all target groups benefit equally from governmental support? Do farmers have influence over what they grow and how?

I would have liked to see a more critical view on the FAP. I understand that it is promising that national governments recognise the need to support regional food systems. Yet, I believe that it is as important to look at how programmes are implemented as it is to describe their content.

Marta Dabrowska
Wageningen, the Netherlands

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