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
Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels
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.
Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
Witness Radio Condemns Violent Gunfire Incidents during State Land Minister’s Visit.
By Witness Radio Team.
Date: August 29, 2023.
Witness Radio, an advocate for land and environmental justice in Uganda, vehemently condemns the shocking and reprehensible act of gunfire that transpired during the visit of State Land Minister Sam Mayanja to the disputed land in Hoima district. The incident, which occurred on the evening of August 24, 2023, serves as grim evidence of the prevailing impunity surrounding land disputes in the country.
The events of that fateful evening in Rwabunyonyi village have laid bare the deeply unsettling reality of a land crisis that has engulfed the lives of countless innocent citizens. The State Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, tasked with upholding the principles of justice and legality, was subjected to a perilous situation by a barrage of gunfire emanating from security personnel associated with Pyramid Private Security. These armed guards, aligned with the interests of businessman Fred Mugamba, unleashed a torrent of bullets into the air in a brazen attempt to deter the Minister from carrying out his official duties.
The backdrop to this horrific incident can be traced back to a series of harrowing events that commenced in 2022, causing upheaval in the Rwobunyonyi and Kirindasojo areas of the Buraru sub-county in Hoima district. A land dispute, centered around 810-hectare parcel of land, has ignited a firestorm of displacement and anguish, displacing more than 2000 residents and plunging them into a state of distress. The chief orchestrator of these violent evictions, businessman Fred Mugamba, has heartlessly disrupted the lives and livelihoods of these innocent families who claim ownership of land, that has been a home to many since the 1940s.
Throughout this agonizing saga, the affected communities have borne the brunt of a relentless campaign of intimidation and violence, orchestrated by casual laborers and armed security guards in the service of Mr. Mugamba. Tragically, the situation escalated to a point where two lives were lost. Furthermore, those brave enough to raise their voices against this land grab were met with unjust arrests, perpetuating an atmosphere of fear and tension.
In a bid to stem the escalating turmoil, the State Lands Minister, guided by a sense of responsibility to restore peace, intervened in this crisis. Accompanied by Deputy Resident District Commissioner Mr. Michael Kyakashari and District Police Commander (DPC) Jackson Bogere, the Minister embarked on a mission to engage both the affected residents and the purported landowner, Mr. Mugamba. However, the hunt for peace was thwarted by the menacing presence of private security guards, who callously obstructed the Minister’s path and resorted to gunfire, causing panic and chaos.
Witness Radio’s records have documented a disheartening pattern of eviction cases, where private security entities have consistently perpetrated violence against vulnerable communities. These entities have acted with impunity, leaving the marginalized with no means of defense except vacating their own land.
In the face of escalating violent evictions, a directive was issued in March 2023 by the Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba Nalule. This directive explicitly forbade armed groups from participating in evictions, emphasizing the government’s capacity to conduct lawful evictions through its security agencies. Regrettably, the distressing surge of violent evictions has displayed a blatant disregard for this directive, persisting at an alarming rate.
While a handful of suspects have been apprehended in connection to the Minister’s shooting incident, and charges of threatening violence have been imposed against them, these actions must set a precedent. The police must intensify efforts to enforce the recent ministerial order, presidential orders aimed at curbing the menace of armed thugs, and security guards committing unlawful evictions under the directives of land grabbers.
Witness Radio is deeply concerned with the distressing surge in unlawful land evictions, often executed with the complicity of government forces, armed individuals, and private security guards.
This concerning trend continues unabated, inflicting severe harm upon local communities. The incident involving gunfire during the Minister’s presence serves as a stark reminder of the undue influence wielded by land grabbers, who exploit their power to destabilize communities.
It is glaringly evident that these orchestrated land evictions are the handiwork of influential interests that openly defy legal mandates and employ violent means to advance their agendas. Such actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens but also pose a dire threat to the security and stability of the communities affected.
In light of these deeply distressing developments, we urgently beseech the President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa, to take decisive and resolute action. We implore him to rein in the actions of individuals associated with land grabbers and to ensure the unwavering protection of citizens’ rights.
Accountability must prevail for those responsible for these heinous acts, and robust measures must be instituted to prevent further harm to vulnerable communities. Witness Radio stands steadily committed to the pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of the land and environmental rights of all Ugandans.
EACJ TO GIVE A RULING ON THE PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS RAISED IN THE EACOP CASE
By Witness Radio, AFIEGO and Cefroht under the Hotpots program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kampala, Uganda
EACJ TO GIVE A RULING ON THE PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS RAISED IN THE EACOP CASE
On April 5, 2023, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) First Instance Division at Arusha-Tanzania closed the hearing on the preliminary objections. The preliminary objection had been raised by the governments of Uganda, and Tanzania and the secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) in response to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) case filed by civil society groups from Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya who are challenging the construction of the EACOP.
The preliminary objection raised by the respondent sought to dismiss the case before the main hearing, claiming that the court does not have the power to hear the case because it lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the human rights violations.
The respondents also claim that the EACJ does not have the power to entertain the case since it was brought outside of two months contrary to the East African Community Treaty (EAC).
Lastly, the respondents also argued that the pleadings in the main case were not verified.
At the hearing, both parties were given chance to make summary oral submission. In response to the objections, the applicants (Natural Justice, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Centre for Strategic Litigation and the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), CEFROHT, Natural Justice Kenya (NJ) and Center for strategic Litigation limited (CSL) presented evidence to show that the EACJ had jurisdiction to hear the case. They submitted that the case was filed in time and the question of limitation could not be entertained.
The applicants further asserted that the pleadings were verified and, in any case, there was no formality for verification of pleadings.
After the submissions by the parties, the court indicated that the ruling would be delivered on notice and at a later date.
“We are hopeful that the objections will be dismissed because the EACOP project is critical in terms of environmental, social, and economic survival for the people of East Africa and it would be unfortunate for a regional court to allow baseless objections to stop the main case from being heard on its merits.
Nearly three years since filing, the case has not advanced beyond the preliminary stages. The affected community’s situation and the emerging science from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on worsening climate impacts on vulnerable countries, we hope the court will make a swift determination and consider this important case on its merits.” Dickens Kamugisha CEO at AFIEGO states.
In the main case which was filed in November 2020 by the applicants, there is sufficient evidence indicating that the EACOP project violates several provisions of the EAC Treaty and other national, regional, and international laws, treaties, and conventions. The project impacts critical ecosystems including forests, wetlands, national parks and game reserves, lakes and rivers, communities where families deliver their sustenance, and others.
The project is also a danger to climate change and its negative impacts far outweigh its project economic benefits.
Specifically, the main case seeks the following remedies:
- A declaration that the sighing of the HGA and IGA by Uganda and Tanzania violates both national and international laws.
- A declaration that the execution of the EACOP project in legally protected areas contravenes the EAC Treaty.
- A permanent injunction against the respondents from constructing the pipeline in protected areas in Uganda and Tanzania.
- An order that the respondents compensate all the project-affected persons (PAPs) for the loss already incurred due to the restrictions issued on their property by the EACOP project developers.
“Often, the push by CSOs to challenge their governments to refuse global north companies keen to invest in harmful projects is a David vs Goliath affair that can only find justice in courts. We, therefore, trust the litigation process to give the vulnerable communities an opportunity to be heard – give facts about why they’re opposed to this project, the potential harm to their biodiversity, and why it would be in everyone’s best interest to divest to renewable energy projects.” David Kabanda CEO at CERFROTH says.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Tonny Katende,
Research and Media, Witness Radio.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK5 days ago
A son of the community defender is shot dead, another critically injured in a retaliatory attack by security guards evicting locals off their land to give way to large-scale sugarcane growing.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
East African Court of Justice is to decide whether it has jurisdiction to try the EACOP case filed by Four East African NGOs today.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
The East Africa regional court dismisses a case challenging the construction of the EACOP project.