Evictions and displacement: the accelerating acquisition of natural resources

An economy based on continuous growth constantly requires new metals, minerals, oil, gas, wood, and farmland. These are increasingly acquired at territories inhabited by the poor in developing countries.

The ecological footprint of overproduction and overconsumption concerns both environmental and social justice. The massive tropical deforestation underway in Indonesia and Brazil affects numerous forest communities. In India at least 30 million indigenous Adivasis have been displaced to make way for development projects. According to some estimates, large-scale development projects will displace 150 million people during this decade. Around 80 percent of these people live in developing countries. Even cautious estimates suggest that in 2050 the number of climate refugees may exceed 200 million. 

The acquisition of natural resources and land is most aggressive in the global South. Involved parties include corporations and funds operating in the agricultural, agrofuel, forest and mining sectors, and increasingly governments as well. Many rich countries invest aggressively in buying and renting land in poorer countries in order to increase their food and fuel reserves or to ensure the availability of raw materials required by large-scale industry. 

Land grabbing and the exploitation of land to meet the needs of the industrialised world is nothing new, but the magnitude of the phenomenom is. Never before has land been seized to this extent, not even during colonial rule.  Another recent development is that land acquisition and food production have become part of the speculative markets. Behind these developments is the global expectation of scarcity; the weakening of food security will make land and food prices soar. The widely spread fear of food scarcity is beneficial to investors, including pension funds and private investors. Moreover, the field itself is changing, as the boundaries between the rich North and poor South have shifted; China, Middle Eastern countries and South Korea have become active land grabbers. Nevertheless, European and North American countries remain prominent in the field as well.

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PETER KITELO comes from Kenya. His community lives in Mt. Elgon forest, about 3000 metres from the sea level. The forest is indigenous mountainous forest that transforms into  moorland when reaching the top.