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Land and the Right to Food in Zambia: U.N. Envoy Urges Shifts Away from Large-Scale Projects

Originally published by Food Tank on 05/12/2017

Leave it to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, to remind the Zambian government—and all of us—that in agricultural countries such as Zambia the right to food depends on the access of the rural poor to land.

“The push to turn commercial large-scale agriculture into a driving engine of the Zambian economy, in a situation where the protection of access to land is weak, can risk pushing small-holder farmers and peasants off their land and out of production with severe impacts on the people’s right to food,” Elver said in Lusaka on May 12, 2017, at the end of her 10-day official mission to the land-locked southern African country.

In the absence of secure land rights, she warned, small-scale farmers can become “squatters on their own land,” as they become laborers or contract farmers to export-oriented commercial farms. “This situation is particularly alarming since small-scale farmers represent 60 percent of Zambians and at the same time produce 85 percent of the food for the population.”

With nearly four-fifths of rural Zambians living in poverty and 40 percent of children—more than one million—suffering stunted growth from malnutrition, Zambia has become one of Africa