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Indian, Ethiopian Activists Against Land Grabbing Meet in New Delhi

January 31, 2013

Lagos, Nigeria - The Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and the Oakland Institute in the US will convene a day-long summit on 6 February at the India International Centre, New Delhi, bringing together activists resisting land grabs across India and Ethiopia.

In a press statement, received here Thursday by PANA, organizers said the meeting will be a ground-breaking opportunity for dialogue between Ethiopian small farmers and land rights activists and their Indian counterparts, providing space for those directly affected by land grabs to share their experiences, suffering, and collectively strategise to challenge institutional and corporate land grabbers.

In recent years, India has seen a massive transfer of land and natural resources from the rural poor to wealthy investors, the statement said, adding 'And the country has become a leader in external land-grabbing as well.

'Indian companies are the second largest investors in the Ethiopian economy, with approved investments worth nearly US$ 5 billion and land lease agreements for over 600,000 hectares across Ethiopia.

The deals have been facilitated by the Indian government, which supports merger and acquisition purchases of existing firms, public-private partnerships, and recently granted EXIM Bank's largest single line of credit (US$ 640 million) to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has been the focus of aggressive foreign agricultural investment, leasing out nearly 3.6 million hectares of land for commercial farm ventures from 2008-2010.

This investment corresponds with widespread human rights violations. Most egregiously, the Ethiopian government's villagization programme will displace 1.5 million people by 2013 -- with the five administrative regions that have the largest share of foreign investment the hardest hit.

The forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from their lands to make room for foreign investors has destroyed livelihoods and rendered small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities fearful of their own survival, as rapes and killings involving security forces have been reported in Lower Omo and Gambela regions.

Against this backdrop, the civil society summit aims to unify struggles across continents and amplify the voices of those impacted, thus lifting the demand for land rights and dignified livelihoods to a new level.

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank whose mission is to increase public  participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues.