EAA Model letter for safe guarding communal/public land

Dear (insert name of Minister/President here)


RE: Promoting food security by safeguarding communal/public land


Warm greetings from [enter the name of your organization/coalition]. We are part of the Food for Life Campaign of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), a global coalition of Christian organizations that support just and sustainable food production, distribution and consumption, and the realization of the right to food for all people. The EAA Food for Life Campaign supports sustainable approaches to agriculture and food production as a means of ending global hunger. We focus on small-scale farms and women farmers, who in Africa produce over 90 percent of the continent’s food supply and yet are most affected by hunger and malnutrition


We are writing to you to express our deep concern that our food security is threatened as food-producing communal lands in many countries are being sold or leased to private and foreign investors. In some cases, the land that is sold or leased is either described as “reserve agricultural land,” or “idle land.” In reality, this land belongs to communities, is subject to long-standing customary rights and is essential for their livelihood. Such land deals will lead to the loss of wild edible plant species and grazing land, as well as reduce the availability of fruits, water and firewood to communities.


We see that large parts of agricultural lands in developing countries, especially communal lands, are being sold or leased to private and foreign companies who have taken millions of acres of land out of food production in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Much of this land is destined for the production of non-food crops, such as livestock feed or biofuel, while the terms of other land deals specify that the food produced will be exported. In Africa, rural land is communally owned, and is treated by governments as if it were their own. In Latin America, the gap between large landowners and small peasants is widening. In South Asia, many populations are currently being driven off their ancestral land to make room for large palm-oil plantations, special economic zones, or re-forestation projects. These land deals threaten the ability of rural people, especially women, to provide food for their families.


We observe that thousands of people have been evicted from their lands without consultation or compensation, not for any public purpose, but only so that the land can be sold or leased for profit. Most people living from these lands do not have formal land titles, but their right to use the land is recognized by tradition or local custom. Often the primary users of the land, the women, don’t even have customary tenure, as land is almost always held by men.


Within many of our countries we see growing rural and urban poverty and an increasing number of people going hungry. It is no exaggeration to say we are facing a food security crisis. Instead of selling or leasing our lands, we should make every effort to keep them in sustainable food production.


We therefore ask the [add name of country] government to ensure the following:

  • Legal protection for customary tenure, women’s access to land and communal use of land.
  • Land policies are understood by land users and enforced at all levels.
  • The FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Good Governance on Land and Natural Resources are supported and implemented.
  • Private investments should not displace communities nor degrade natural resources, but instead promote sustainable and agro-ecological production systems.
  • Investments should be aimed at improving income and employment, food production and access to food.


We also ask that food security be protected by involving all those who use the land when decisions are made on land use. This is especially important for foreign large-scale land investments.


Thank you for your consideration and action.


Yours in faith



 Published in June 2010

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