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The Personal Side of Land Residence

[caption id="attachment_3413" align="alignright" width="200"] Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP[/caption] Did you ever reflect about the people who reside on the land? What about the elderly, stooped, weathered man in Meijer's or Walmart grocery stores whose dress and manner says "farmer?" Was the developer's offer at his age and in the current development around him just too much to reject? Or, there is the Amish man standing and gazing over his fields alongside 71N with the For Sale sign a few yards away. Must he sell if his children are to continue in farming elsewhere? What about the Blackfeet children out on their Montana reservation whose mountains, river valleys, wetlands and sacred sites may be lost to the Solonex energy company in its plan to develop the oil and gas under their land? Do the children have no rights to unpolluted water and land? To their cultural/religious/history? For the indigenous communities in Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia or Mexico, land is not a commodity, but rather a gift from God. Land is handed down from their ancestors who rest on it. Land with its water, plants, animals/fish is sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. Stories told by the elders to the children have the moral: "We who are alive now, do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it for our children;" we do not mortgage these resources of future generations for a "bowl of soup." The noble reasons given by local or national leaders for the selling of their lands to multinational corporations for large agricultural projects or mining are the usual: money for their children's education, jobs, and better living standards. Parental disillusionment comes very quickly as none of the promises materialize. Rather, data from Land Matrix, Global Land Project and several other sources paint a picture of tens of millions of hectares of land grabbed from the developing countries for pennies through shady deals. As of June 2012 about 227 million of Hectares (876,000 square miles) of land - the equivalent land area of California, Oregon, Washington, and the eastern US States stretching from Maine to Florida, plus Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia and the District of Columbia - have been grabbed from developing countries through contracts that dispossess the people of their land, their livelihood, their identity, their human rights, and drive them further into poverty. In addition the families of small farm holders lose access to the often scarce water supplies in their areas to industrial farming. The African Faith and Justice Network, an organization to which the Congregation belongs, has been working in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, the Congo to foster local awareness and education among the tribal women and men so that they are not hoodwinked into signing away their local resources. In addition,  AFJN and its director, Aneidi Okura, OP, is working in Washington, DC on behalf of justice which leads to peace in Africa. Watch this video for an idea of efforts for justice in relation to this land grabbing on the African continent.

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