Not so eco friendly: Farming at the expense of local communities


    As the world rekindles its love for agriculture, many individuals and organizations are turning their interests to large scale farming. While the benefits of growing our own good cannot be quantified (it’s numerous), one has to wonder at what cost.

    Land grabbing is a documentary that exposes the impact large scale farming by large organizations trying to make huge profits is having on some local communities.


    In the film,  director Kurt Langbein visits the scenes of land grabs and talks to farmers, local communities and to the investors behind the schemes.

    The documentary team travelled to Cambodia, to investigate a sugar plantation that has taken people’s land. They talk to Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk who interviews villagers and documents everything he finds. More than 1,000 families living in the area were violently evicted. Many houses were burned.

    The film is filled with heart wrenching stories that will make us think deeper and ask questions about how our food is gotten and grown, at what price.

    In Chris Lang’s review of the documentary in The Ecologist, he aptly captured the message that is being communicated.

    He wrote, ‘The documentary looks at large-scale industrial agriculture in Romania and contrasts this with small-scale farming there. While small-scale farmers can get small subsidies from the EU, millions of Euros are available for industrial agriculture.

    In Ethiopia, we see how tomatoes and peppers are grown in greenhouses for the ‘top of the market’ in the Middle East and Africa. The work is backbreaking and poorly paid. Workers are searched when they leave work to check that they haven’t stolen any tomatoes. It’s enough to make you want to boycott tomatoes.

    A bioenergy plant in Sierra Leone is the next stop. Addax Bioenergy earned Africa’s first Rountable on Sustainable Bioenergy certification. But Ibrahim Serie, a village head, describes how villagers gave away their land without understanding the impacts on their livelihoods.

    Addax showed the villagers a map and told them how many hectares of land they had. “We didn’t even know what a hectare was”, says Serie.

    The biofuel from Addax’s bioenergy plant in Sierra Leone will be exported to Europe, where it will be blended with petrol to be used by cars. ADDAX got a €250 million loan from public funds, including from the Development Bank of Austria.

    While there was no violence or evictions to make way for Addax’s sugar plantations, farmers have entered into contracts that result in them losing their land over longer periods of time. While some have benefitted, others are losing out. Water supply has been affected through Addax’s irrigation schemes.

    “If Addax won’t help us drill a well, they’re going to kill us”, Serie says. He accuses Addax of mixing chemicals into the water sprayed onto the sugar cane: “Our animals died from eating weeds near the sugar cane fields.” And in the rainy season, the chemicals are washing into the river. “This is a major problem for us. Big, big problem.”

    The documentary makes no comment, but none is necessary. The injustice of this destructive ‘development’ model could not be clearer.’


    Source: The Ecologist