Island News

Blowing in the winds of change

Written By : LEO NAINOKA. By THINKING of the current proposed land reforms what comes to mind are the words of the song ‘Blowing in the wind’ by Bob Dylan,
02 Oct 2010 12:00

Written By : LEO NAINOKA. By
THINKING of the current proposed land reforms what comes to mind are the words of the song ‘Blowing in the wind’ by Bob Dylan, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. One verse goes like this:
“…How many years can a mountain exist, before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?
And how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind…”
With regards to the proposed land reforms, specifically to do with native land, it is important that we consider, as a nation, the long term impacts of the reforms as they are broadly proposed. While there are many areas to be considered, it is important that the environment is a key factor in our consultations.
This is because the environment is easily overlooked in our haste toward assumed economic prosperity and progress for all. It is also important that Fiji consider the proposed land reforms seriously because we are looking toward two international monetary institutions for funding (the International Monetary Fund and the World Band).
The very two institutions that have been implementing such reforms wreaked havoc in many nations around the world.
Around kava bowls in many resource- owning villages and settlements, discussion centres not only on the when, how and what of these proposed land reforms.
But on the impacts these proposed land reforms will have on the i-taukei’s deeply fragmented relationships as well as what will happen to a land owning unit’s attachment to their resources and their livelihood that is the environment.
Government must be commended for improving development work in our rural communities in areas such as infrastructure, health centres and educational facilities. In a short span of time Government has made inroads and won the respect and support of the rural communities.
Not only for their immediate response to daily needs of the people but also their reassurance that all clan members benefit from any development that is planned.
Pillar 6 of the “People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress” encourages the usage of idle land for agricultural, commercial and social purposes and to transform it for commercial gain (Pillar 6: Making more land available for Productive & Social Purposes): P27.
This has been heralded by some to be a good idea because it turns ‘idle’ land into commercial entity and increases the likelihood for foreign investors leading to economic growth and prosperity for all.
The fact is our position on the proposed land reforms is clear – it is one of support and admiration for this Administration to finally move an area that seemed unmovable through various politically motivated and elected governments. However, having worked on the ground with rural i-taukei landowners for the past eight years on empowerment and collective decisions, we offer these thoughts for consideration.
There are always two sides to the coin.
On the one hand, using ‘idle’ native land for commercial purposes will be of great monetary value that will greatly benefit the landowners.
On the other hand, there is great potential for negative environmental impact on the future of our environment which very much affects our resources, food security, our social life and other human dependence on resources for survival in these times of economic globalisation.
Yet how we choose to utilise these gifts will determine the survival of our future generations for years to come.
Question – what mechanism does the CBLU propose to put in place to lessen the severity of the negative environmental fallouts of this exercise on the future generation of this nation?
Most indigenous people all over the world, including the i-taukei, respect nature, worshipping the earth as their mother.
They revere the forces of life which control the seasons, soil fertility and the enduring cycles upon which the health of the planet ultimately depends.
The negative impacts, does not only affect indigenous people’s lives but the whole human family, regardless of race, creed or any other social groupings.
Every indigenous society has stories and mythology and most are rooted in their belief and their attachment with their land.
The modern way of thinking will claim that myths of the past may seem primitive and irrelevant to our technological society.
Indian philosopher Gomara Swamy said that “Myths embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words” while C G Jung said a myth is the revelation of the divine life in man (Charles HRH (1991): Forward “Save the Earth”
All religious belief have their version of environmental stewardship – loving care and keeping of creation as a central, joyful part of human task.
The book of Genesis in the Bible speaks of replenishing the earth, subduing it and taking care of it.
This Christian notion of stewardship (using, restoring, serving, keeping, entrusting and so forth) must not be misinterpreted.
As communities of God and children of the creator who made, sustains and reconciles the world, all denominations in communion and living in harmony must be vibrant testimonies to our creator.
In comparison, the global historical practice of international funding agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund reflect a belief that the world and its vast resources is there entirely for humankind to dispose of for economic progress and profit.
Many World Bank projects have been environmentally destructive and highly controversial –
l In Botswana – $18 million was provided to increase beef production for export by 20 per cent, despite already severe overgrazing on fragile grasslands. This project failed. (Porritt, J (1991): Save the Earth
l In Ethiopia – rich floodplains in the Awash River valley were flooded to provide electric power and irrigation water for cash export crops. More than 150,000 subsistence farmers were displaced and food production was seriously reduced. . (Porritt, J (1991): Save the Earth
l In India – the sacred Narmada River was transformed into 30 large dams and 135 medium sized ones financed by the World Bank. About 1.5million hill people and farmers displaced as a result. (Porritt, J (1991): Save the Earth
l More recently on the April 27, 2010 there was a warning in Washington, USA that land acquisitions announced by the World Bank and supported by the UN will legitimise and promote land grabbing in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The World Bank claims that these acquisitions will promote agricultural investment.
In reality they will further entrench corporate agriculture for profit and destroy local livelihoods.
It is also proven to further marginalise small food producers, and local communities.
Large scale corporate agriculture is one of the leading causes of environmental damage, responsible for about half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction from land clearance and huge use of fossil fuels and natural resources.
(Friends of the Earth International:2010)

The World Bank and other monetary institutions under the guise of development and profit-making are known as notorious polluters. In the name of development, forests have been excessively removed.
This has contributed largely to disasters and new phenomenon like climate change and ozone depletion.
A local daily report titled “Forest Land Lost” stated that about 70,000 hectares of Fiji forests have already been lost over a span of 15years because of unsustainable logging plus agriculture and improper land use revealed by the translated version of the Fiji Forest Policy 2007.
Globally, World Bank-supported development projects including massive land utilisation, has wrought far more devastation on our livelihood and environment then any commercial activity undertaken by local communities.
Ironically, the World Bank is a specialised agency of the United Nations and there is considerable debate about whether it ought to be bound by the provisions of the UN Charter that includes the promotion of human rights (Frankovits, A (2009): Lobbying the World Bank & ADB
The World Bank mentions food, shelter, clothing and acceptable levels of health and education as basic needs.
Similarly, it considers non-discrimination, equity, a focus on vulnerable groups, meaningful participation and accountability as part of a practically oriented policy discourse rather than as human rights principles framed in international law and binding on governments.
On the civil and political front, the World Bank avoids any offence to borrowing governments by using the term governance, although this is most often defined in terms of economic efficiency rather than the rights of peoples (Frankovits,A (2009): Economic, Social and Cultural rights)
Massive resource utilisation like reforms driven by the World Bank and IMF may be economically good for the people and economy on a short term.
In the long term, it has been proven to be disastrous.
In Fiji, recent reports that the current administration is awaiting key economists of the World Bank and IMF to engage with the Government on the proposed reforms.
This should be a point of concern for many Fiji citizens in light of the history of these institutions around the world.
Utilising land for commercial purposes is always viewed as a positive step toward economic growth and prosperity.
However, commercial purpose insists on the clearing of land to build sites, factories, resorts and eventually towns and cities.
Opening up ‘idle’ land for commercial purposes as proposed by the current Administration, means opening up our lands to outside corporations whose main objective is profit at the expense of our environment.
Those outside corporations are already here in Fiji conducting explorations for minerals, logging and mining. While, this may seem appealing to many in the short term, it needs to be balance against the longer term effects.
Recently, a report was published in the Fiji Sun (Sat May 8, 2010) of the Namosi landowners’ complaints of the negative impacts of mining in their land.
They complained that the exploration work done by the Namosi Joint Venture Company is now drastically affecting their food source, their environment and their livelihood.
If Fiji intends to pursue this line of ‘development’ and go into partnership with the World Bank, IMF or other transnational corporations, then we must also be prepared to face the negative environmental consequences in the long run.
In reality most of these financiers do not care about our livelihood, environment and the devastation to our eco-system or the lives of our people. Their main objective is payment of interest on debt and for multi-nationals the key concept is ‘profit’.
These proposed land reforms does not yet speak of the reality on the ground for rural i-taukei land owners in the long term but rather what continues to be highlighted is another set of arbitrary decisions under the guise of consultation, made in the interest of economic progress.
Whatever decisions we make now, whether it affects the future generation or not only time will tell. It is certainly blowing in the wind.
In consideration of the above, we recommend the following regarding the proposed land reforms on Native Land that is considered ‘idle’:
1. That a special Education Committee within the CBLU and working closely with the Land Bank be set up whose objective is the education and awareness among i-taukei of the pros and cons of commercialising their land. This Committee should ensure that the materials and concepts are accessible to all i-taukei LOU
2. That an environmental protection clause be drafted into all contracts from outside interested investors that ensures there will be a replenishing plan for all land areas used. In this way, it should be linked to the overall plan of planting a tree a year but modified to a more corporate standard
3. That i-taukei interested in leasing ‘idle’ mataqali land be taken through a process of verification i.e. of all registered members to ensure that there is no misunderstanding of the plans undertaken. Special reference should be given to the future generation (the youth) and women in this process to ensure that consultation is real
4. That i-taukei interested in leasing their land be bound by contract to ensure a replenishing plan is integrated into their contract in order that they as stewards of the land area held accountable for this decision
5. That the i-taukei Ministry begin immediately to implement this education for all i-taukei landowning units starting with the interior and where there is mass land available and little formally educated members available to assist them
6. That the CBLU and all government/military officials going out to ‘consult’ with the i-taukei are versed in mediation and facilitation in order to ensure long-lasting agreements rather than hurried decisions made by a minority group of male in the community
7. That an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) be made public for all disasters that have been linked to the works of all current Transnational Corporations and be communicated to both the Host and Home States for action and compensation.
8. That all transnational corporations shall be reminded of the human rights requirement that “ they shall carry out their activities in accordance with national laws, regulations, administrative practices, and policies relating to the preservation of the environment in Fiji as well as in accordance with relevant international agreements and standards with regard to the environment as well as human rights, public health and safety, bioethics and the precautionary principle; and shall generally conduct their activities in a manner contributing to the wider goal of sustainable development.(Norms on the responsibilities of Transnational Corporations;2003)

(The writer is an advocacy coordinator of the Social Empowerment Education Programme (SEEP). Views expressed are his and not of the Fiji Sun)
Charles HRH (1991): Forward on the book “Save the Earth “ Fiji Sun (Sat May 8, 2010) Fiji Times (Panapasa G, Fiji Times Monday, August 16, 2010) Frankovits, A (2009): Lobbying the World Bank & ADB Frankovits,A (2009): Economic, Social & Cultural rights Friends of the Earth International (April 27th 2010):
World Bank accused of promoting land grabbing Human Rights Library: Norms on the responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights (2003)
Peoples Charter for Change, Peace & Progress(2009): Pillar 6: Making more land available for Productive & Social Purposes: P27.

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