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24 October 2011 | | | |

Rather than Investment, Appropriation

Interview with Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, researcher on agriculture investments

Download: MP3 (1.2 Mb)

The mainstream discourse in international reports, among governments and in the media equals investment with growth and even development. However, it is clear that the biggest “investors” in agriculture are not corporations but the millions of peasants around the world.

Dutch researcher Jan Douwe van der Ploeg said this during his presentation at the 37th Session of the World Committee on Food Security (CFS). He is a professor in The Netherlands and also in the University of Beijing, China.

The expert studied several cases of land grabbing and irrigation water appropriation by transnational corporations in different continents. His studies show that the current expansion of agribusiness in the control of natural resources “worsens food insecurity” worldwide. “These investments in agriculture do not provide a solution but they are rather part of the problem”, he told Real World Radio.

“The peasants invest a lot, not through banking mechanisms but with their work: they build terraces, irrigation, they increase soil fertility, and peasant agriculture is productive as a result. We should also consider that this type of agriculture is often under threat by land grabbing. I would say that those land acquisitions are not an investment in agriculture but they are an expropriation of the development possibilities”, said van der Ploeg.

He said that for every hectare of land irrigated by industrial agriculture, seven hectares of peasant farming are left without water. “That is not progress, but regression”, he explained. “Besides, this kind of agriculture conceived to save costs builds irrigation canals but not sewages, causing soil salinization”.

Meanwhile, based on scientific data, van der Ploeg claims that “family and peasant farming can feed the world. All the existing serious studies claim that there is no doubt that family farming is more (economically, environmentally and socially) efficient than industrial agriculture”.

“If Europe has been able to keep a strong agriculture it is because of the great presence of family and peasant farming. The presence of big corporations in agriculture is more a reflection of barbarism than of civilization”.

Photo: M. Litvinsky / FIAN

(CC) 2011 Real World Radio


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