Land grabbing threatens women’s rights across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Two grassroots activists, two grantmakers and a well-known research organization shared their strategies for tackling this injustice at all levels.
On 25 January, Global Greengrants Fund presented a session at the International Human Rights Funders Group conference in San Francisco entitled ‘Up for Grabs – Impacts of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Women’. The session was moderated by Peter Kostishack (Director of Programs at Global Greengrants Fund), and speakers were Miriam Miranda (General Coordinator of OFRANEH – the National Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), Fred Nelson (Executive Director of Maliasili Initiatives) and Ruth Meinzen-Dick (Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute). The purpose of the session was to explore the issue of land grabbing throughout the global South, particularly its impacts on women. Since the audience primarily consisted of fellow grantmakers, the goal was to focus on tangible funding strategies that have proven effective in addressing the human rights implications of large-scale land acquisitions.
Our discussion highlighted a number of philanthropic strategies that can be used by funders, regardless of a donor’s size or location. For example:
- Funding research to document the negative impacts of land grabs
- Funding community-level projects to educate and mobilize grassroots groups
- Strengthening communal land rights and other land tenure and consultation tools
- Funding policy advocacy with government agencies, development banks, and corporations
- Funding collective civil society action and helping groups to network with each other
We also discussed the need for individuals and foundations alike to examine their investments and endowments closely. Many publicly traded companies are at least partially responsible for the recent spike in land investments throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Corporations are buying up large tracts of land to produce food, biofuels and cash crops, or to pursue tourism and mining operations. By participating in shareholder activism, foundations and individual donors can send a clear message to companies about their land acquisition practices in developing countries.
What struck me the most during this session was the need for interventions at all levels – from a group of indigenous women learning about their land rights, to an NGO bringing a case to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, to a large foundation engaging in shareholder resolutions and divestment campaigns.
With such a wide range of solutions, it is clear that we need to communicate and collaborate with our peers in the philanthropic world.
Kim Jessen Roberson is director of philanthropic partnerships at Global Greengrants Fund