Strong new agricultural investment rules needed to protect small-holder farmers

Published: 23rd April 2014

World’s biggest food investors need policies to protect their $170 billion investment

Big agricultural companies need a “gold standard” set of global rules to guide their investments after a new Oxfam report showing that even supposedly “responsible” deals can hurt poor farmers.

Oxfam’s “Smallholder at Risk” report is targeted at the UN’s Committee for Food Security that meets tomorrow (April 24) for talks on new investment rules to support the right to food.

Oxfam investigated three deals by US companies in marginalized regions of Paraguay, Guatemala and Colombia, to grow mono-crops of soy, palm oil and corn. The governments encouraged the deals as the best way to boost local development.

Local farmers not empowered

Despite the companies’ corporate social responsibility policies, Oxfam found the deals had largely undermined local communities and failed to live up to their potential. New jobs tended to be poorly paid.

Local farmers fared little better by becoming suppliers and often lacked the start-up capital to benefit from the new supply chains. Local communities had been hit by environmental problems and some had lost access to their land.

The companies had all done local philanthropy such as providing school materials and joining social marketing programs but this did not empower local farmers.

“Globally small-holder farmers invest $170 billion in agriculture each year. They are by far the biggest investors in our planet’s food system. They deserve policies that support and protect this huge investment – not undermine it,” said report author Stephanie Burgos.

Oxfam wants more investment in agriculture in order to reduce poverty and improve food security. However the conditions of investment are equally important, Burgos said. Oxfam is calling on the CFS to set a global ‘gold standard’ to guide all forms of agricultural investment.

Smallholder farmers deserve policies that support and protect their huge investment – not undermine it.
Stephanie Burgos
Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam

Notes to editors

Download the report: Smallholders at Risk: Monoculture expansion, land, food and livelihoods in Latin America (available in English, Spanish and French).

Contact information

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