Ethical Eats

Brought to you by Oxfam @ Queen's

Land Grabbing – Not Just “Their” Problem

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As Victoria wrote, the Food Security Campaign hosted a speaker event at the Sleepless Goat  on January 27. PhD candidate Andrea Collins came to share her experiences in Tanzania researching land grabs and gender issues. She spoke about how, with global population increases, land is becoming more scarce and more valuable. Multinational companies buy up huge tracts of land for development or speculation, which results in displacement and disenfranchisement of locals, particularly already marginalized women. According to Andrea, often the culprits of land grabbing are Canadian multinational corporations. What she did not discuss is how Canadians are also the victims.

As a human geography major, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about Canadian land use policies in many of my classes. In the last few decades, extensification (AKA sprawl) has been a major trend of urban and suburban development. Although not necessarily land grabbing, this trend can be have the same results when improperly executed. When a region does not have strict development policies or when policies are bypassed, developers are allowed to buy up tracts of land and use them in unsustainable or even harmful ways. Agricultural or cultural lands can be repurposed for suburban growth, mining operations, or even military purposes to the detriment of the community.

That probably sounds quite theoretical, but even very light research yields some compelling examples. Only a few weeks ago The Globe and Mail published an article about a land grabbing situation in Trenton (only an hour from Kingston). Farmer Frank Meyers has been struggling with the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton. The Base plans to “annex” 200 acres of his family’s 227 year old farm for a new headquarters.

Another article from Alternatives Journal discusses an epidemic of corporate land buying schemes in Ontario’s Greenbelt. As in the Meyers farm situation, whole traditional communities could lose their way of life through the process of corporate land acquisition and development. Just as important is the real threat land grabbing poses to food production. The Greenbelt is supposed to hold some of Canada’s best farmland. The soil is rich and deep here. Purchasing of this delicate and important land by offshore multinational corporations is therefore a threat to Onatrio food security. And as one woman in this video expresses, “it is such a contradiction to have all our farm land bought up when the local food movement is thriving”.

So it seems that land grabbing is not just an issue “over there”. Land acquisition by multinational corporations also has negative impacts on Canadian rural life and food security. The imperative for us to continue support for LOFT food efforts is clear. Thanks for your support of Oxfam thus far! We’ll keep doing what we’re doing!

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