Proposal of discussion questions for the WFAL 2016

Forum Preparations. Discussion questions. 

A review of preliminary WFAL 2016 discussion themes.

Assessing contemporary evolutions in land and natural resource access and use. What conclusions can we draw about the state of land and natural resource access 10 years after the WFAR (Valencia, 2004) and the ICARRD (Porto Alegre, 2006)? The following questions can be used to guide discussions about this theme:

  • How is land currently distributed in the world, and what major evolutions are taking place?
  • What is causing existing inequalities in natural resource access and use ? Why do certain sectors of the population (women, youth, landless farm-workers, indigenous groups, and other vulnerable minorities) have less access than others?
  • What kinds of land-grabbing exist? How do they work? Who is involved?
  • Which national policies facilitate or go along with land grabbing? Which policies limit its scope or regulate it? How do existing political economies determine who has access to land and natural resources, and how they are used?
  • Do varying levels of development and limited access to capital (means of production, processing or transformation, transport, and credit) in rural areas lead vulnerable small-holders to relinquish their land to outside investors?
  • What is the state of existing movements (or other forms of organized resistance) that address land and natural resource grabbing? What can we learn from past experiences and what are the best strategies to use as we move forward? How can we draw upon the diversity of these experiences? What strategic alliances can we form, and how can we work together?
  • Will land and natural resource grabbing aggravate world hunger, undermine food sovereignty, and further marginalize already vulnerable populations? Conversely, how has investment in large-scale agricultural projects limited or attenuated these problems? In which contexts?
  • What impact has the phenomenon of land and natural resource grabbing had on the large cities that are absorbing displaced rural populations? Which new actors are now in control of productive resources? Who are they and where do they come from?

Land and natural resource access and economic efficiency. This theme pushes us to focus on the comparative efficiency of different production models and their attendant ways of accessing land and natural resources: large, highly specialized agricultural production units that require significant amounts of capital and employ salaried workers; different kinds of family farm (specialized or diversified) operating on a smaller scale ; contractual farm labor, etc. In order to successfully explore this theme, we must revisit the criteria that is currently used to evaluate “economic efficiency.” The following questions serve as a starting point for discussions:


  • Are the land-use models promoted by investors (in particular large, specialized production units) more capable of meeting the world’s needs than the family models (agricultural, pastoral, forestry, aquatic) that they replace?
  • Production is the goal. But with which resources and which inputs, at what price? What is the best way to efficiently and sustainably mobilize the natural resources, land, and capital at our disposal?
  • How do the various strategies used to obtain land, natural resources, and other means of production allocate added value? How much added value goes back to workers, and how much goes to investors? Should we be focusing on the extent to which these projects benefit investors (on the economic profitability of agricultural projects), in hopes of attracting more capital, or should we distribute wealth that is generated more evenly, with the goal of boosting employment and generating income?
  • Does the relative ease with which investors usually obtain land artificially inflate the financial profitability of their investments? To what extent can this advantage be characterized as rent capturing?
  • Produce more: but for whom, and how? Do large scale agricultural projects protect food security (or even food sovereignty) in host countries? Do they create more added value at the national level?


Land access, natural resources access, and production models: impacts on employment and human development. We should think about the ways in which different ways of accessing land and natural resources, which are associated with different production models, impact employment, poverty and exclusion, and human development in general. The questions below will guide this discussion:

  • Does land and natural resource grabbing aggravate the marginalization of vulnerable groups including women, minorities, and indigenous people? If so, how?
  • Do the jobs created by large-scale production units with easy access to land and natural resources compensate the (formal or informal) jobs that are lost when said resources change hands? How can we effectively measure how many jobs (full, part-time, seasonal, or daily) have truly been gained or lost overall?
  • How would a more egalitarian distribution of land and resources (the right to land? ) strengthen the fight against poverty and malnutrition? What positive or negative examples can we look to as we develop solutions for the future?
  • Did the discussions that took place during the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) ultimately arrive at the conclusion that family farming both creates jobs and fights poverty? How should access to land and natural resources be organized to make it more efficient?

Environmental   consequences   of   land   and   natural   resource   access,   use,   and management. This topic is focused on the consequences that different ways of accessing land and natural resources, and different production models (agricultural, forestry, aquatic…) have on biodiversity, and on the climate. The following questions provide a starting point for discussions:

  • How do different ways of accessing land and natural resources, and the production models that go along with them, influence soil fertility in the short, middle, and long term?
  • What impact do they have on landscapes, on biodiversity, on the climate? What is the connection between land and resource grabbing, technology (in particular biotechnology), and fossil fuel use?
  • In places where there are large swathes of land “available” to governments, is it advisable to offer concessions to investors intent on installing large-scale production units (forest concessions, perennial plantations, etc.) or would it be more environmentally, economically, and/or socially constructive to allocate this land to landless small-holders?
  • How can we encourage sustainable development by strengthening the rights of populations involved in collective management and use of forests, pastures, and fisheries?
  • Which forms of water access (for irrigation, fishing, etc.) are the most sustainable?
  • How do different ways of accessing land and natural resources encourage, or prevent, the the progression of agro-ecology? Should we view agro-ecology as a purely technical model? Or does it require us to overhaul many of the ways in which access rights are currently granted?
  • How can a variety of actors, with multiple usage and management rights, peacefully coexist in rural territories? What is best way to?

Existing policy and policy outcomes; a discussion aimed at improving policy in the future. The discussion should be focused on existing policies and policy outcomes.  How can we learn from them as we move forward? The following questions will structure the discussion:

  • How can the wealth and diversity of past experiences with agrarian reform (whether positive or negative) help us to develop new forms of agrarian reform (such as popular agrarian reform”) that are more adapted to current realities, and can more efficiently secure the rights of those that need land the most?
  • Does land reform intended to make tenure more secure by awarding property titles truly benefit those that need land and natural resources the most? How can we make sure that these reforms do not simply make it easier for investors to purchase land from vulnerable populations?
  • How can we regulate property markets (purchase, sale, or rental) and adapt fiscal policies to more broadly favor the general population, in particular vulnerable groups (women, youth, indigenous populations, etc.)?
  • How can we promote the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” (CFS, 2012) and make sure that they are implemented on the ground? What lessons have we learned thus far?
  • Will the “Principals for Responsible Agricultural Investments” (CFS, 2012) make it easier for agricultural, pastoral, and forest-dwelling populations? For fishermen?
  • How should land and natural resources access be regulated? What forms of governance should we support? How does the distribution of land influence the distribution of power? Is it possible to implement supranational regulations without undermining national sovereignty, and citizens’ rights?
  • When countries implement policies that facilitate foreign direct investment, in particular in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing sectors, what development model are they promoting? Is it possible (and if so, in which contexts) to implement development models that rely on local resources, such as agro-ecology? How can we prevent elites land and natural resource grabbing at the national level?
  • Finally, how can more evenly distributing land, water, and natural resources, and promoting sustainable production models that generate added value and create jobs without excessive inputs, help us to confront global challenges now and in the future?