LONDON, May 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Zambia's
smallholder farmers could be made squatters on their own land as
the country opens up to farming multinationals in an effort to
boost its economy, said a United Nations expert.
Hilal Elver, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food,
said Zambia's ambition to develop its commercial farming sector
to become "Southern Africa's food basket" risks worsening
extreme rural poverty, as farmers face eviction to make way.
Elver said she was alarmed that 40 percent of Zambian under
fives have stunted growth due to malnutrition, despite the
country emerging from crisis to "impressive" levels of economic
Zambia's economy has been depressed for years by low
commodity prices, mine closures, rising unemployment, power
shortages and soaring food prices but the World Bank predicts 4
percent growth this year.
"It is vital that development plans and policies take into
account the true cost of industrial farming methods... as well
as the social and economic impact on people, rather than
focusing only on short term profitability and economic growth,"
Elver said in a statement.
Sixty percent of Zambians are small-scale farmers, who make
up many of the nation's poorest people but produce 85 percent of
its food, according to the U.N.
Elver said agricultural growth in Zambia over the last
decade had focused on large businesses, leaving peasant farmers
Around 85 percent of land is held under customary tenure,
mostly in the hands of peasant farmers, with little legal
protection from eviction, she said at the end of her first
official visit to the country.
After eviction, many peasant farmers are forced to work in
poor conditions on large industrial farms or are obliged to sell
their crops at knock-down prices for export by monopoly-type
multinationals who buy produce for export, she said.
Intensive commercial farming has also led to increased use
of agro chemicals proven to damage children's health and boosted
rates of deforestation and environmental damage, she added.
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.