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Church Organizations Host Conference on Land Grab and Just Governance in Africa November 23rd, 2015

Land of Gassol community that have been allocated to Dominion Farms in Nigeria. Photo Courtesy of Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED)

Land grabbing and just governance discussed in a unique pan-African conference from November 22-28, ahead of Pope’s visit to Africa.

Land grabbing is a serious problem across Africa, requiring urgent attention since it threatens livelihoods and food security. It has already dislocated hundreds of thousands of people from their lands, deprived them of natural resources, and threatened their livelihoods.

Land grabbing and just governance, issues that constitute a significant threat to food sovereignty, will be discussed at the conference “Land Grab and Just governance in Africa”, from November 22-28 in Nairobi, Kenya, and organized by SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) with the collaboration of AEFJN (Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network), AFJN (Africa Faith & Justice Network) and CIDSE (network of Catholic development agencies). The event will gather about 150 participants from the African continent and beyond, including many people directly involved in land grabbing struggles.

Land grabbing is most often described as the acquisition of large areas of land in developing countries by international firms, governments, or individuals. In recent years land grabs have increased following the worldwide spike in food prices in 2008, prompting investors to look toward the Global South, particularly Africa, for potential land investment to produce food and biofuel for export and international markets. Large tracts of land are also being acquired for speculative purposes, known as “land banking”, where the buyer holds the land and sells it later.

Among the cases that will be presented during the conference is the one involving the Italian project Senhuile SA, which has leased 20.000 hectares of land in the Ndiaël Reserve in Senegal, land used for decades by residents of some 40 villages in the area. This resulted in an ongoing conflict with the villagers, who want the project stopped. The case of farmers in Nigeria’s Taraba State and in Kenya, who are being forced off lands that they have farmed for generations to make way for US company Dominion Farms to establish a rice plantation, will also be a subject of discussion. Cases involving Bollore land deal in Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Liberia as well as in Sierra Leone and cases from Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali will also be showcased.

This conference takes place ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic. The Pope has previously voiced great concern about the issue of land grabbing. In a speech delivered at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in June 2015, Pope Francis warned against the “monopolizing of lands of cultivation by trans-national enterprises and states, which not only deprives farmers of an essential good, but which directly affects the sovereignty of countries”. The Holy Father also pointed out that: “There are already many regions in which the foods produced go to foreign countries and the local population is doubly impoverished, because it does not have food or land”.

Further guidance and indications in relation to the dangers of land grabbing were expressed in the Pope’s Encyclical letter Laudato Si’, in which he denounces an exploitative approach towards land while recalling: “For them (indigenous communities), land is not a commodity, but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for [industrial] agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.” (146). In support of Laudato Si and ahead of the climate conference COP 21 in Paris, the bishops’ conferences across the world signed on the 22nd of October an appeal which called for COP 21 “to ensure people’s access to water and to land for climate resilient and sustainable food systems, which give priority to people driven solutions rather than profits.”

The conference aims at developing strategies to support and strengthen local communities in their struggles to stop this menace and to build resilience.

SECAM (based in Accra), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, is an association of all the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Africa and its islands. Since its establishment in 1969, SECAM has shown concern for issues pertaining to human development. For this reason SECAM set up a Department of Justice, Peace, and Development in its Secretariat in Accra, Ghana. SECAM brings all the dioceses in all countries on the continent. SECAM represents almost 20% of the total population of Africa who are Catholics.

AEFJN (based in Brussels), Africa Europe Faith & Justice network, is a sister organization of AFJN founded on the same core values and ethos by European based religious congregations. However, the AEFJN is founded in 1988 to promote more equitable economic relations between Europe and Africa through its advocacy at the EU and currently has more than 43 religious congregations in its membership. AEFJN recently completed case studies on land grabs and “extractivism” in Senegal and Madagascar respectively

AFJN (based in Washington), the Africa Faith and Justice Network, began in 1983 as a response to what Catholic missionary congregations witnessed on the ground in Africa. AFJN was formed to promote more responsible and just relations between the United States and the countries of Africa, and to fight against policies detrimental to Africa. AFJN has 34 organizational members. From its offices in Washington D.C., AFJN continues its advocacy work with congressional lawmakers and with U.S. administrative agencies.

CIDSE (based in Brussels) is an international alliance of Catholic development agencies working together for global justice. Our 17 member organizations from Europe and North America come together under the umbrella of CIDSE to fight poverty and inequality. We challenge governments, business, churches, and international bodies to adopt policies and behavior that promote human rights, social justice and sustainable development. Find more information about CIDSE’s work on just food here.



Climate Change Will Strike the Poorest Countries Hardest April 30th, 2014

Drought in Bangladesh

Late monsoons in Bangladesh in 2013 affected all rain-fed agriculture.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate science body, declared in its recent report that global warming is wreaking havoc “on all continents and across the oceans,” with the worst yet to come. But by far the most severe impacts will strike the poorest countries that bear little or no historical responsibility for causing climate change, the report said.

“Those countries who have contributed least to the manifestation of this problem are in jeopardy of being the most vulnerable to it,” said Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report. “The poor, the young, the old and the people who live along the coasts will be hit the hardest.”

Continue reading this article from Inside Climate News…


Spring/Summer 2014 Issue of JPIC Report Available On-Line April 28th, 2014

JPIC-Report-Fall-2010The Spring/Summer 2014 issue of JPIC Report is now available on line as a PDF. It will soon be available in print form.

Please contact Mary O’Herron in the JPIC Office if you want to be added to the mailing list.

You can find all issues of JPIC Report on this website in the Resources section. (Download a PDF of the latest issue)


Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, Feb. 2-5 January 6th, 2014

csmg-montage-2The 2014 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC, will reflect on Pope Francis’ vision of Becoming “a Church that is Poor and for the Poor.” The gathering is scheduled for February 2-5 at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel. There is still time to register if you want to attend.

The organizers at the USCCB have developed an exciting program around a theme that takes its inspiration from the words and vision of Pope Francis: Becoming “a Church that is Poor and for the Poor”.

Online registration closes on Friday, January 24, 2014.

For more information and to register, visit the USCCB website…


Congress Urged to Protect Humanitarian Assistance and Poverty-focused Programs November 1st, 2013

sunwater-leadThe US Region of the Missionary Oblates was one of 140 non-governmental and faith-based organizations that urged members of the Congressional Budget Conference Committee to protect international humanitarian assistance and poverty-focused development programs. The groups also urged that the blunt tool of sequestration be replaced with a balanced deficit-reduction plan.

InterAction, a coalition of groups working on international relief and development, was responsible for organizing the letter. An identical letter was sent to all members of the Budget Conference Committee, which is responsible for reconciling the significant differences between the budget bills passed by the House and the Senate.

Letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, House Budget Chair (Download PDF)

Letter to Sen. Patty Murray, Senate Budget Chair (Download PDF)


International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: October 17 2013 October 4th, 2013

Be mindful of this day! Be mindful of the poor! – Fr. Ken Forster, OMI


You, the poor and needy, the world considers you the scum of society unbearable in its sight. That is what the world thinks of you.

Come learn from us what you are through the eyes of faith.

“You are the poor of Jesus Christ, my brethren, my dear brethren, my dear respectable brethren, listen to me. You are the children of God.

Click here to read more »

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