Feeding the World: Land, Hunger and Human Rights

A One Just World Forum at the University of Sydney

Photo: Jerry Galea - OxfamAus

Photo: OxfamAus

6 June 2012

Hunger is the world’s number one health risk. It kills more people every year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. The world produces enough food to feed everyone yet one in seven people on our planet go to bed hungry each night.

In recent years, this problem has been compounded by changing weather conditions, escalating food prices, the global financial crisis, and the soaring demand for land as investors look for places to grow food for export, biofuels, or as an investment.

For already impoverished communities, this means that not only has land become even more out of reach, but all too often people are kicked off their land, in some cases forcibly and without compensation, after having been there for several generations. Loss of land can also deeply affect identity and connection to culture and tradition. For women, who have key responsibilities for feeding their families and for sustaining culture, loss of rights and access to land poses a huge challenge.

Competition for land is a constant factor in human history. It’s not necessarily a problem when wealthy companies invest in agricultural land in poor countries for commercial use. But when families are displaced with nowhere to go, people are unable to feed themselves and livelihoods are taken away as a result, that’s a very big problem indeed.

By 2050, it is estimated that demand for food will have grown by 70% globally. Can we meet this demand? How can we manage competition for land in a way that is fair to those who have the least power? And what are the rights and responsibilities of corporate investors?

What can we do to help prevent further abuse of human rights, displacement and to ensure that poor communities can access land to grow food and generate income?


  • Dr Alana Mann (Moderator) is a lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. The focus of her research 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, within a matrilineal society.
  • 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.

This One Just World Forum is supported by Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia

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Sydney Ideas is delighted to be hosting another series of One Just World Forums at the University of Sydney in 2012.

One Just World is a national series of free, after-work speakers’ forums designed to involve the community in conversation and debate on key international development issues facing Australia, the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Past topics covered reflect the diversity of issues in this area: whether climate change, gender equality, international development, food and nutrition, human rights, or disability and development. All forums feature panel of experts that may include academics, economists, scientists, policy makers, and community workers. And you, the audience, will have an opportunity to put your questions to them.

One Just World a partnership between World Vision Australia, the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), AusAID and a University in each state.

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