LandRush is an artistic exploration of the impact of large-scale agro-investments on rural economies and land rights, the boom of renewable fuels, the reallocation of land, and the future of agriculture around the world. In a series of documentary films, an interactive iPad App and spacial installations the project questions what constitutes modern agriculture.
Today land use and agricultural practices rival climate change as a global environmental threat. Agriculture is using 40 percent of all the land on earth for agriculture, and more than 70 percent of all human consumed water, drying up riverbeds and draining aquifers. Fertilizer runoffs from industrial farming operations are destroying the ecosystems of rivers and coastal regions, while deforestation and the transformation of grassland into farmland cause soil erosion and a loss of biospheres and biodiversity. Furthermore agriculture is the single greatest emitter of greenhouse gasses.
Since the beginning of the century, in most years the world has consumed more cereal than it has produced—despite record crops. Food production simply cannot keep up with the growth of the world’s population and the changing dietary habits of the new middle classes in emerging countries. And increasingly energy production competes with food for acreage and water resources.
With crop failures becoming more frequent due to climate change, groundwater levels dropping, soils depleting, and the increase in productivity of most crop plants sinking, the question is: How can we feed the world without trashing it?
GPS controlled tractors replace wooden ploughs and machetes in western Ethiopia, where the worlds largest rose grower Karuturi LTD leased 100,000 hectares to grow food and energy crops in the remote region Gambela. To make way for international investors the Gambela National park was moved and reduced in size and a resettlement program forces many pastoralists and villagers from their ancestral land. What started as a grand investors dream becomes a social, environmental and financial disaster.
In Brazil the extension of the BR 163, the Soy Highway, drives the agricultural boom ever deeper into the Amazon basin. It connects the mega-farms in Mato Grosso with the Amazon port Santarem. The road opens up the wilderness for unfathomable wealth, work, education, and the law. The price for this dream is monoculture, pesticides, and the disappearance of nature. The classical road movie follows the rift that runs through the Brazilian rainforest—and through the minds of the people living close to it.
After decades of hardship and the young generation leaving for the cities, ethanol brings new hope of a profitable farming to Iowa’s family farms. The production of corn ethanol opens up new lucrative markets, pushes up agricultural profits and land prices. But ethanol diverts corn from the food cycle and, in conjunction with speculation, boosts global grain prices on futures markets. Family Affairs is an intimate story that follows two family farms in rural Iowa.
The current drought in California takes it’s toll on the Central Valleys agriculture. In many areas one might get the impression that agriculture still is in full swing, but this perceived normality is paid for with excessive ground water depletion that leads to land subsidence and broken infrastructure. Over the years more and more perennial water intensive crops like almonds where planted. While annual crop fields can be fallowed when droughts strike orchards need year round irrigation.
Concept, research and realization: Frauke Huber & Uwe H. Martin
Punkt Award for Science Journalism 2013, Greenpeace Award 2014, Filmfest Schleswig-Holstein 2015