‘Digital land grab’ deprives traditional LatAm peoples of ancestral lands: Report

Cargill’s grain terminal in Santarém in the Brazilian Amazon. The World Bank is helping finance georeferencing in South America, a high-tech tool that is helping facilitate landgrabbing, according to a GRAIN report. Image courtesy of Walter Guimarães Georeferencing — a digital mapping technique increasingly employed by South American governments to register land ownership — is being regularly used by landgrabbers and companies to expel traditional communities from ancestral lands occupied for decades or even centuries, according to a report by GRAIN, an NGO that works with peasant communities around the world. The innovative technology is also allowing a few powerful actors in the international financial sector to play a decisive expanding role in the transformation of large tracts of tropical rainforest and savanna into agricultural lands. Georeferencing originates with a digital image, — an aerial photo, scanned geologic map or topographic map, for example — then adds geographic information to the image so that GIS or mapping software can “place” the image in a real-world location. When this digital process is used exclusively, and not coupled with more traditional surveying techniques, the process lacks confirmation via ground truthing, risking fraud. Land ownership registration in South America has been chaotic since colonial times, leading to many, sometimes violent, conflicts between Indigenous groups and traditional peoples, and a variety of outside land claimants encroaching on ancestral territories. The lack of centralized governmental land registration systems offers landgrabbers an opening for claiming collective property occupied by traditional communities lacking legal deeds, with more than…This article was originally published on Mongabay
Read More

Scroll Up