London Zoo will be the stage of a global conference taking place on 26-27 March 2013, where researchers will meet join the dots between large land deals, conservation, land rights and efforts to tackle poverty in poor communities worldwide, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) spokesperson Mike Shanahan said today.
Speakers will present research on both impacts of land grabs on conservation and its reverse – the role of conservation as a driver of land grabs. They will also share studies that show how stronger land rights can improve conservation outcomes.
“The issues are burning because worldwide large land deals are on the increase, and they often take place in areas that are home to both large numbers of poor people and important biodiversity. People and wildlife can lose out when investors acquire land for large scale agriculture,” Shanahan said.
“At the same time, there are growing threats from ‘green grabs’ that displace communities in order to conserve wildlife or gain value from eco-tourism, biofuels or the carbon that forests store in their wood,” he added.
The conference is jointly organised by IIED, the International Land Coalition and the Zoological Society of London and Maliasili Initiatives.
The event is the international symposium of the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group.
Speakers are expected to present case studies from Cameroon, Uganda, Chile, Kenya, Mongolia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Liberia and Cambodia, IIED said.
“The global rush for land threatens to squeeze out both poor communities with weak land rights, and wild species and habitats that we should be conserving,” Dilys Roe, IIED senior researcher IIED, said.
Media reports continue to castigate China for its shady land deals, which they allege are being made only between Chinese investors – mostly funded by their government – and African governments, without any effort of consulting local communities who live on those lands. Reports said sub-Saharan Africa’s vast swaths of farmland have been expropriated from land owners by African politicians to sell or rent it out to their rich Chinese friends.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimated in 2009 that between 15 and 20 million hectares of farmland in developing countries had changed hands since 2006.
Roe added: “It is in the interests of both the conservation and land rights communities to tackle the land rush. One solution is for them to work more strategically together to secure or strengthen local land rights in ways that bring both conservation and development benefits.
“Secure land tenure is a foundation of community-driven conservation efforts around the world,” says Fred Nelson, Executive Director of Maliasili Initiatives, which supports sustainable natural resource management efforts in Africa.
“The current land crisis provides an opportunity for conservation, development, and human rights groups to work together to address historically-rooted weaknesses in the recognition of local communities’ land rights, and to enable communities to better secure their territories and the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend.”
*Photo by China in Africa: the Real Story