| 12-03-2018

Zambia: UN report points to adverse effects of large-scale agricultural investment

Previously voiced by FIAN International, UN Right to Food Rapporteur confirms large-scale agricultural investments in the country lead to the displacement and worsening of nutrition of communities.

Professor Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, presented her report on the food situation in Zambia to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week. The report finds that large-scale agriculture promoted by the Zambian government leads to the displacement of smallholder farmers and has adverse effects for their nutrition and health. The report comes following Elver’s visit to a number of communities in Zambia, including those supported by FIAN International and its Zambian and German sections.

The report reaffirms FIAN’s analysis in relation to large-scale agricultural investments in Zambia:  access to adequate and nutritious food is indeed a challenge throughout most of the country, with women and children in rural areas faring worst. “The Government’s policy of turning export-oriented large-scale commercial agriculture into the driving engine of the national economy, in a situation where land protection is weak, runs the risk of pushing peasants off their land, which in turn could push them out of production, with a severe impact on their right to food. The impact of such polices is particularly worrying considering that smallholder farmers account for almost 60 per cent of the population and are dependent on land for their livelihoods; at the same time, they feed around 90 per cent of the Zambian population," the report reads.

“Makeshift conditions” for affected communities

The Special Rapporteur visited the Ngambwa community in Mkushi, Central Province, where around 70 families were living in makeshift conditions. Most of the community members had been living in the area since the 1980s, and currently survived on low-income informal work, mainly as agricultural workers. In her interviews, the Special Rapporteur was informed that the people ate barely once a day, that sometimes they were forced to make soup from local green plants to feed their families and children, and that they were under the constant threat of eviction. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the authorities take all measures necessary to guarantee the human rights of affected families, including their right to land, essential for the realization of their right to food and cultural rights.

Commenting on the report, Archie Mulunda from FIAN Zambia, who was part of that visit, states: "We agree with the contents of the Special Rapporteur’s report. FIAN Zambia urges the Government of Zambia and all other stakeholders to take the conclusions seriously, especially with regard to the threatened displacement of the community in Mkushi. Food and nutrition issues are central to their health and survival.”

Extraterritorial actors involved

For years, FIAN International, particularly through its German section, has raised concerns over the financing of the largest agricultural investors in Zambia, including through German development aid. FIAN research in Zambia has repeatedly documented problematic human rights situations related to investment involving the German Development Bank (DEG) and the AATIF Development Fund launched by the German Development Ministry (BMZ) in Luxembourg. DEG also financed the German agricultural investor Amatheon Agri, which has acquired over 40,000 hectares in Zambia. 

Despite FIAN repeatedly bringing these issues to the parties involved, no effective and independent human rights assessments of those development projects have yet been carried out.

"We see the findings from our work clearly confirmed by the report. Funding to investors and agribusiness such as Agrivison from Mauritius, Zambeef or the Export Trading Group - all related to land disputes in Zambia - thwarts any rights-based development approach,” Roman Herre, agrarian expert of FIAN Germany, points out.

The Special Rapporteur recommends Zambia to prepare and adopt a human rights-based national framework law on the right to food, with effective benchmarks and implementation plans for each region; and adopt a gender-sensitive, inclusive national land policy based on human rights principles and the UN Guidelines on Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, as well as the establishment of effective monitoring mechanisms of this policy.

For further information, please see the report of Prof. Hilal Elver     here 
If you have any questions, please contact Roman Herre:     R.Herre[at]Fian.de, Tel: 01520-7067302