#GROWWeek 2012 begins, talking about land

Serena O'Sullivan

Blog post by Serena O'Sullivan

Oxfam Great Britain, GROW global campaigner
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Often when the evening news has its “world news” section it’s bleak and can often leave you feeling a little bit hopeless. But from our work around the world we meet people who are doing great things and are part of powerful movements that are changing lives and transforming communities.

They have great stories to tell and that’s why last year we started GROW week, a chance for people to come together and show what is being done to tackle important issues. It’s all part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign for better ways to grow and share food.  This year, as a key GROW issue; we’re looking at land grabs.

Responsible investment in Africa and elsewhere is a thing to be encouraged. However, the problem is that big land deals are happening so quickly and on such a large scale that, without the proper protections in place, poor people are more vulnerable to the injustice of land grabbing than ever before. People are being kicked off their land - land they rely on for their crops and homes - to make way for biofuels or food to be exported to rich countries. Hard-working families are being unfairly evicted from their land and left with no way to grow food or earn a living.

Recently we launched our global land campaign: the idea is to ask a huge organization, the World Bank, to do something brave - freeze their investments in big land deals in developing countries for six months. So why ask the World Bank to take action? We want the Bank - as an investor and standard setter in the sector - to stand with us and freeze their investments until they can be sure those investments are being done in the fairest way for all. Read our report 'Our land, our lives' for more info.

This certainly has hit a nerve with Oxfam supporters. We’ve seen the Bank’s potential role as a force for good and thousands of people around the world have joined us on Twitter, Facebook and signed our petition to urge action. This led to acres of news coverage and ruffled some feathers in the World Bank. People took to the streets too - with bulldozers, placards, and petitions in London, Brussels, Washington DC, the Netherlands, France and Madrid.

Then we took these messages of support to the heart of the Bank at their Annual meeting in Tokyo. Oxfam Japan activists got on their diggers and posed for the press. Thanks to the buzz that is being created across the globe the Vice President of the World Bank joined us in a panel debate on land grabs. The Bank has heard the noise that we’re making; but so far they are not agreeing to the freeze.

It's been just over a week of campaigning - and a brave idea has now become a global call with a growing and vibrant public backing. We've made massive progress and it's thrilling to think of where we'll be soon.

Throughout GROW week we’ll be talking about how people’s lives are being affected by the global rush on land. We’ll bring you some of the most interesting stories that will shine a light on what is happening.

Help us spread the word by sharing these with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, using #landgrabs and #whatwillittake.

Take action: Urge the World Bank to help stop land grabs