People's Struggles

“Our privatized pension systems in the north are destroying the future of people in other parts of the world.”

Rural and indigenous communities in the MATOPIBA region (an area of around 73 million hectares that expands across the Brazilian states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahía), in northeast Brazil are resisting the developments of agribusiness and land speculation, which are leading to the destruction of their livelihoods and the erosion of local biodiversity.

What is happening in MATOPIBA illustrates how land has been transformed into a financial asset as a result of the growing power and influence of global finance and its ways of operating – a process called “financialization.” International capital has financed agro-industrial production in Brazil and elsewhere for a long time, but since the financial crisis of 2007/08 land has become a target for financial actors and a business in its own right, independent from the financing of agro-industrial production or the trading of commodities. These so-called “investments” are speculative because they aim to increase corporations’ portfolios’ value through rising land prices. This new form of land grabbing has exacerbated the intensity, scale, speed, complexity, and structural impacts on local people. 

As a result, violence against community leaders is on the rise, as are disputes over water. Land grabbers that are operating on the ground are backed by money coming from abroad, in particular from pension funds in the USA and Europe. These are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the land business. Through two local funds, TIAA (USA), Ärzteversorgung Westfalen-Lippe (Germany), ABP (Netherlands), and the Second Swedish National Pension Fund (AP2), among others, own almost 300,000 hectares of farmland in Brazil.

Both Brazil and the home states of the involved funds are breaching their human rights obligations by failing to put in place effective regulation and hold the actors responsible for abuses and crimes as well as by supporting a global financial system which escapes taxation, public scrutiny, and regulation. Local people are mobilizing on both sides of the Atlantic to halt this increasing trend.