News

Feeding the world: land, hunger and human rights


4 June 2012

Elizabeth Tongne says large scale agricultural and logging projects have significant negative consequences for her community in PNG.
Elizabeth Tongne says large scale agricultural and logging projects have significant negative consequences for her community in PNG.

Hunger is the world's number one health problem, killing more people every year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

This Wednesday 6 June Sydney Ideas will host a One Just World forum that asks why we can manage to produce enough food to feed everyone on the planet, and yet one in seven people go to bed hungry each night.

The forum - which includes speakers from the University of Sydney, Oxfam Australia, ANZ Bank and a PNG-based community organisation - will look at how competition for land means that all too often communities are forced to leave land they have occupied for generations, in some cases without compensation.

"Around the world, including in Australia, we are observing a mad scramble for land," says speaker Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia's economic justice policy advisor.

"A growing global economy and population, climate change, food insecurity and changing diets are driving governments and investors to acquire land outside their own borders for future food supplies.

"Often, this land is sold to foreign governments or corporations as unused or underdeveloped, ignoring poor small-scale farmers who can be forcibly evicted from the land and left with no way of growing food and earning a living."

Elizabeth Tongne, from a community-based organisation in Papua New Guinea, Wide Bay Conservation Foundation, says large scale agricultural and logging projects have significant negative consequences for her community.

"I am from a matrilineal society where land is traditionally passed on from a woman to her children. In our traditional society women are able to get what they can from the land, work the land, and put food on the table for their families.

"Our traditional way of decision-making in terms of land usage and what type of development takes place on our land does not involve women any more. They are increasingly being left out of decisions involving land."

Costs such as school fees and medical expenses means men and women are increasingly leaving their homes to look for work on large scale projects in order to gain cash income, she says. "This means they are more vulnerable to diseases like HIV and AIDs."


Speakers

Dr Alana Mann (moderator) is a lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. Her research focus is the strategic communication between peoples' movements, NGOs and other actors in agrarian reform and food politics.

Elizabeth Tongne is the Executive Officer for Wide Bay Conservation Association, a PNG community organisation specifically supporting clan groups in taking ownership of their clan land and resources.

Kelly Dent leads the Economic Justice team at Oxfam Australia. She works on agriculture and sustainable livelihoods, climate change, trade and investment, and labour rights.

Michael Whitehead is Director of Agribusiness Research with the ANZ Insights team. His work focuses on mapping industry trends and analysing the impact of changes on stakeholders across the agribusiness sector.


Event details

What: Feeding the world: land, hunger and human rights, a One Just World forum hosted by Sydney Ideas

When: 6pm, Wednesday 6 June

Where: Seymour Centre, corner City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale. See map and directions 

Cost: This event is free and open to all

Book now on the One Just World website 


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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au