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Lakota Lead Native Americans, Ranchers and Farmers in Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline

Author: Jason Coppola

Amidst the cries of “protect our water, protect our land, protect our peoples,” Native Americans, ranchers and farmers are standing their ground along a highway in North Dakota. They are blocking the crews of Energy Transfer Partners — a Dallas-based company whose workers are protected by both police and armed, private security personnel — from accessing the site of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The roughly 1,200-mile-long pipeline would transfer about a half million barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of its construction worry that a leak or rupture would spell disaster for not only the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, but for all communities along the Missouri River that depend on it for drinking and agriculture.

At least 10 arrests have been made. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told the Bismarck Tribune that those arrested “were not staying within bounds set by law enforcement and getting in the way of surveyors working on the pipeline.” The arrests included a pediatrician and a grandmother who allegedly crossed the highway to check on a buffalo pasture.

As reported by Truthout in May of this year, Lakota youth, protesting the proposed construction of the pipeline, began a relay race from their Spirit Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota, to the office of the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Nebraska, to deliver a petition against the pipeline. The Corps later decided to grant the necessary permits and green light the pipeline’s construction.

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Pension Funds: Key Players in the Global Farmland Grab

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Large scale agricultural land acquisitions are generating conflicts and controversies around the world. A growing body of reports show that these projects are bad for local communities and that they promote the wrong kind of agriculture for a world in the grips of serious food and environmental crises. 1 Yet funds continue to flow to overseas farmland like iron to a magnet. Why? Because of the financial returns. And some of the biggest players looking to profit from farmland are pension funds, with billions of dollars invested.

Pension funds currently juggle US$23 trillion in assets, of which some US$100 billion are believed to be invested in commodities. Of this money in commodities, some US$5–15 billion are reportedly going into farmland acquisitions. By 2015, these commodity and farmland investments are expected to double.

Pension funds are supposed to be working for workers, helping to keep their retirement savings safe until a later date. For this reason alone, there should be a level of public or other accountability involved when it comes to investment strategies and decisions. In other words, pension funds may be one of the few classes of land grabbers that people can pull the plug on, by sheer virtue of the fact that it is their money. This makes pension funds a particularly important target for action by social movements, labour groups and citizens’ organisations.

The size & weight of pensions

Today, people’s pensions are often managed by private companies on behalf of unions, governments, individuals or employers. These companies are responsible for safeguarding and “growing” people’s pension savings, so that these can be paid out to workers in monthly cheques after they retire. Anyone lucky enough both to have a job and to be able to squirrel away some income for retirement probably has a pension being administered by one firm or another. Globally, this is big money. Pension funds are currently juggling US$23 trillion in assets. 2 The biggest pension funds in the world are those held by governments, such as Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Korea and the US (see Table 1).

Table 1: World’s top 20 pension funds (2010)

Rank

Fund

Country

Total assets (US$ millions)

1 Government Pension Investment Japan

1,315,071

2 Government Pension Fund–Global Norway

475,859

3 ABP Netherlands

299,873

4 National Pension Korea

234,946

5 Federal Retirement Thrift US

234,404

6 California Public Employees US

198,765

7 Local Government Officials Japan

164510

8 California State Teachers US

130,461

9 New York State Common US

125,692

10 PFZW (now PGGM) Netherlands

123,390

11 Central Provident Fund Singapore

122,497

12 Canada Pension Canada

122,067

13 Florida State Board US

114,663

14 National Social Security China

113,716

15 Pension Fund Association Japan

113,364

16 ATP Denmark

111,887

17 New York City Retirement US

111,669

18 GEPF South Africa

110,976

19 Employees Provident Fund Malaysia

109,002

20 General Motors US

99,200

Source: Pensions & Investments, 6 September 2010, P&I/Towers Watson World 300      

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Hungry for Land: Small farmers Feed the World With Less Than a Quarter of All Farmland

It is commonly heard today that small farmers produce most of the world’s food. But how many of us realise that they are doing this with less than a quarter of the world’s farmland, and that even this meagre share is shrinking fast? If small farmers continue to lose the very basis of their existence, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.

GRAIN took an in depth look at the data to see what is going on and the message is crystal clear. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems.

Download the PDF version of this report here

Download the printer friendly dataset in PDF format here

Download the fully-referenced dataset as a spreadsheet here

Governments and international agencies frequently boast that small farmers control the largest share of the world’s agricultural land. Inaugurating 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), sang the praises of family farmers but didn’t once mention the need for land reform. Instead he stated that family farms already manage most of the world’s farmland1 – a whopping 70%, according to his team.2 Another report published by various UN agencies in 2008 concluded that small farms occupy 60% of all arable land worldwide.3 Other studies have come to similar conclusions.4

But if most of the world’s farmland is in small farmers’ hands, then why are so many of their organisations clamouring for land redistribution and agrarian reform? Because rural peoples’ access to land is under attack everywhere. From Honduras to Kenya and from Palestine to the Philippines, people are being dislodged from their farms and villages. Those who resist are being jailed or killed. Widespread agrarian strikes in Colombia, protests by community leaders in Madagascar, nationwide marches by landless folk in India, occupations in Andalusia – the list of actions and struggles goes on and on. The bottom line is that land is becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of the rich and powerful, not that small farmers are doing well.

Rural people don’t simply make a living off the land, after all. Their land and territories are the backbone of their identities, their cultural landscape and their source of well-being. Yet land is being taken away from them and concentrated in fewer and fewer hands at an alarming pace.

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