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OPINION: Land rights for small producers: a critical solution to the world’s food systems

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Farmers work in a rice field in Dala township, near Yangon.

What it will take to build a food system that is not only healthy and sustainable for the planet, but also recognises the critical role of smallholder producers in feeding our world?

Our food systems are in urgent need of transformation, as humanity faces one of our biggest challenges yet; feeding a future population of 10 billion people with safe and nutritious food while keeping a healthy planet. Our food system has the power to tip the scales and transform the future of our planet and humankind.

This year, the United Nations Food System Summit, called by Secretary-General António Guterres is looking to propose innovations and solutions that will transform our food systems and change our current course; in 2020, as many as 811 million men, women and children went without enough to eat, according to the recent UN State of Food Security and Nutrition report.

One of the biggest questions is what it will take to build a food system that is not only healthy and sustainable for the planet, but also recognises the critical role of smallholder producers in feeding our world. The good news is, they already hold the key to tipping the scale for true transformation.

Smallholder producers, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities are responsible for producing 60-80% of the food worldwide. Most often, in a way that is healthier for people, more sustainable for our planet and based on centuries of traditional knowledge that ensures food production needs are met and available resources are used in the most optimal way. These are the women, men and communities who must be the centre of the healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems of the future. Better supporting their role in food systems also allows a move away from models of intensive large-scale production predicated on cheap food, but at great cost to local societies and ecosystems.

So what is the most pressing challenge that smallholders across the world are facing?

It is impossible to speak about building and supporting sustainable food systems without talking about the land and territories on which the food is grown, and more importantly, who is in control of that land. While farmers and communities may have lost the ability to determine what is grown on their land through market and strong consumer preferences,  a step in the right direction towards building confidence, transparency and trust among stakeholders on what is grown and how it is grown can be the turning point for families, communities and countries’ development.

Farmers have demonstrated time and again that given the rights to the land they farm, they are good custodians of our production ecosystems. Indigenous Peoples, who occupy over a quarter of the world’s land, help to preserve global biodiversity by using their traditional knowledge and food systems. But today, they are also challenged by climate change and all forms of degradation, including lack of alternative livelihoods that leads to over-exploitation of the very resources they treasure the most.

It is also about respecting the rights of women. Women make up more than 60% of the agricultural labour force, yet despite being the majority food producers, less than 15% of landholders are women, with men controlling the family’s income generation and resource allocation. But it does not have to be the case. For example, female farmers in Rwanda co-own family land with their husbands. We need policies that advance land rights and gender equity.

New research by the International Land Coalition shows that land inequality directly threatens the livelihoods of an estimated 2.5 billion people involved in smallholder farming, as well the world’s poorest 1.4 billion people, most of whom depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Access to agricultural land has become highly unequal – with the largest 1% of farms operating more than 70% of the world’s farmland. Giving an equal chance to smallholder farmers to play their full role in feeding our world means ensuring they have access to sufficient land – which may require redistributing land from large landholders. In some cases, land inequality is not only worse than we thought but is on the rise as smallholder producers are being squeezed off their land, their human rights violated, and their production systems undermined.

The UN Food Systems Summit is an opportunity to find solutions we can work towards together.

Original source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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STATEMENTS

EU stands behind the empowerment of Human Rights Defenders

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Ensuring Responsible Business Conduct by Private Sector in Uganda

DanChurchAid Uganda joins the European Union to commemorate the European Union Day, as we strive for justice, accountability, and human rights, not only within Europe but across the globe.

DanChurchAid Uganda in partnership with the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), and Witness Radio (WR), would like to appreciate the European Union for the financial support towards the ‘Monitoring, documentation, and advocacy for human rights’ project in Uganda (MDA-HRU).

The 36-month project (2023 to 2026) aims to hold the private sector and government accountable for environmental human rights abuses and violations, through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

A beacon of hope

At its core, this project is a beacon of hope for communities in the Mid-Western sub-region (Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale and Mubende) and Karamoja sub-region (Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido and Karenga) of Uganda, where the private sector’s involvement in land-based investments (LBIs) has led to a myriad of environmental human rights abuses and violations.

The challenges faced by these communities are diverse which include limited capacity among Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) to monitor, document, and report violations which has perpetuated a cycle of human rights violations such as land grabbing, and lack of adequate and untimely compensation, among others.

Moreover, the lack of credible information about the impacts of Land Based Investment (LBIs) on violations has hindered efforts to demand accountability and access to justice for affected persons.

Empowered communities

In order to address these challenges, it is important to have, an empowered community comprised of human rights defenders. This project is geared toward building the capacity of land and environmental defenders to monitor, document, and report violations through the utilization of technology which is a key innovation in this project.

Through this collaborative action, 590 Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and LEDs will receive enhanced training and support to effectively monitor, document, and report violations. Additionally, mechanisms will be established to provide timely response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities facing threats and attacks.

Engagin the private sector in responsible business conduct

One of the critical outcomes of this action plan is the engagement of the private sector in dialogue on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The Project will build on the gains from the Business and Human Rights annual symposiums to promote Responsible Business conduct through the creation of a platform to dialogue effectively with the private sector. The project will raise awareness, advocate for the development of policies, and enforce regulations to ensure the protection of land and environmental rights through multistakeholder engagements.

As we celebrate European Union Day, let us remember that the pursuit of justice knows no borders.

By supporting initiatives like this collaborative action in Uganda, we uphold the values of responsible business conduct, human rights, accountability, and environmental justice for all.

Source: danchurchaid.org

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STATEMENTS

Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.

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Witness Radio – Uganda Statement: On the International Women’s Day, 2024.

Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.

Wakiso, Uganda. 08th/03/2024. As the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2024 under the theme “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress” it is imperative to underscore the critical importance of safeguarding women’s human and land rights.

In Uganda, where women play a pivotal role in agricultural production and rely heavily on the land for their livelihoods, the issue of land rights emerges as a central battleground in the fight for gender equality and women empowerment.

Women in Uganda face systematic barriers when it comes to land ownership and control despite their significant contribution to agricultural productivity.

Customary norms and cultural practices often favor male inheritance and land ownership perpetrating a cycle of discrimination and marginalization against women.

This disparity leaves women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, particularly in the context of land grabbing and eviction.

Tragically, women who assert their rights to land frequently encounter severe threats and human rights violations/abuses.

Witness Radio has documented numerous cases of violence against women smallholder farmers and women rights defenders (WHRDs), including gang rape and physical assault perpetrated by economically powerful and politically connected individuals and institutions with vested interests in land grabbing.

These egregious acts not only violate women’s rights but also perpetrate a culture of impunity and injustice.

The failure to investigate and prosecute violence against women smallholder farmers and WHRDs further exacerbates the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, leading to more human rights abuses.

Additionally, the aftermath of land evictions often leaves women and their families vulnerable with men sometimes abandoning their responsibilities and leaving women to bear the burden alone.

At the heart of the 2024 theme lies a recognition of the pivotal role women play in driving societal progress. Investing in women encompasses various aspects, including education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and legal rights. However, securing women’s access to and control over land is equally crucial as it intersects with multiple dimensions of their lives.

When women have secure land rights, they are empowered economically and socially. Land ownership enables women to participate meaningfully in economic activities, access financial resources, and contribute to households and community well-being.

Moreover, it enhances women’s agency and autonomy, enabling them to make choices that positively impact their lives and families.

Additionally, access to land is closely linked to food security and healthcare. Secure land rights enable women to engage in sustainable farming practices, improve agricultural productivity, and ensure adequate nutrition for their families.

Furthermore, land ownership can serve as a pathway to accessing health care, thereby promoting women’s overall well-being.

However, the current legal framework governing land rights in Uganda falls short of adequately protecting women’s land rights. Biased laws and customary practices perpetrate gender disparities leaving women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Amending land rights is a critical step towards addressing issues affecting women about land rights and promoting gender equality.

In conclusion, protecting women’s land rights is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic investment in accelerating progress towards gender equality and healthier lives. As we commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, let us reaffirm our community to ensure that women everywhere have equal rights to access, own, and control land resources. By prioritizing women’s land rights, we can unlock the full potential of women and girls as agents of change and drive transformative progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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Website: www.witnessradio.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wradio.uganda/

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.

Source: iisd.org

Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf

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