The Conference or Workshop on Land Grabbing in Francophone Africa was held in Abidjan from 21 to 23 November 2017. Its tasks were to identify where land grabbing was happening and to promote endogenous solutions to overcome it. This workshop followed the one held in Kenya in 2015. The participation was massive, with several JPIC groups, NGOs and partners …. and the presence of the Bishops of West and Central Africa. Mgr. TOUABLI, 2nd Vice-President of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa, Mgr. UGORJI, President of RECOWA’s Justice and Peace Commission, and Msgr. SPITERI, Apostolic Nuncio in Côte d’Ivoire, emphasized the urgent and evangelical character of the Church’s commitment to Land Grabbing.

The pastors looked to the Social Doctrine of the Church, in particular Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, Laudato Sì, but also the Pope’s speeches at FAO in 2017 and the World Meeting of Popular Movements in 2016 to foster the hope of an Africa that stands on its own feet where no one is robbed of their land and their dignity anymore. The Earth’s problem is the problem of Life as its effects on the people are malnutrition, food crisis, deforestation, internal displacement, impoverishment, conflicts and violence.

The reflection hoped to identify what land-grabbing means … indeed we did not speak only of land but also of mining, the prime area of human exploitation.

Land grabbing has a destructive impact on African populations. It leads to the displacement of families and communities, conflict, exploitation and famine; it stops development, deprives women of their rights, degrades the environment, leads to the loss of indigenous crops and seeds, causes deforestation and pollutes water sources.

The majority of produce coming from land acquired in Africa is shipped to developed countries, with little or no sale in local markets, and some companies lease land exclusively for cash crops. Yet their story is that they produce food to provide food security for starving Africans. Small farmers who make up the majority of the labour force are worst affected. As a result, many families are deprived of their source of livelihood.

Quite apart from the land-grabbing, small-scale mining destroys the land quickly. This causes environmental degradation and a heavy toll on health. The miners, mainly Chinese, provide the local people with heavy equipment such as excavators and transport trucks, and employ men, women and youth in hazardous mining activities. This work is labour-intensive with little help from technology and has a significant impact on people’s livelihoods.

During the three days of the conference, representatives of the different countries presented concrete cases of “resistance to land grabbing and endogenous sustainable land management solutions” related to mining, forestry, agro-business and to the legislative question. It would be impossible to do justice to the presentations here.

A final declaration was drawn up that aimed to draw the attention of citizens, country officials, international partners and multinational corporations to their grave responsibility regarding the exploitation of environmental resources, the choices they make and the development projects they engage in. In one way or another these all affect the entire planet. The work of building a prosperous society must be a work of solidarity (Pope Francis).

Loredana Dalla Libera- AEFJN Congo Antenna