Slow Food
 
 

Overview


 

  • More than 60 countries targeted by investors and governments
  • Globally, estimates of the total area falling under land grabs range from 80 million ha (ILC, 2011) leased or sold to 227 million ha (Land Matrix, 2011) since 2001
  • World Bank economist Klaus Deininger estimates up to 30% of globally available farmland under negotiation 
  • High Quest Partners estimates USD 10-25 billion has already been invested by the private financial sector alone (2010). High Quest Partners expects this amount to double or triple in the future. 
  • GRAIN (2011) identified Pension Funds as the biggest investors in farmland with a total of USD 30 trillion under management of which USD 15-20 billion is in farmland and agriculture 

 

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In a world where the population is growing rapidly and exponentially, access to land and water are crucial elements of power.

Land grabbing describes the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land for commercial purposes like food and agro-fuel production. Alternatively, investors may acquire land as pure speculation on volatile land and food prices. Also known as "foreign direct investment" (FDI), the term land grabbing emerged during recent years as the phenomenon experienced a number of alarming developments. 

Formerly disregarded by foreign investors, the soaring prices of food staples in 2007/2008 attracted widespread attention and lead to speculative investment on agriculture in developing countries. 

Today, investment activity is shifting towards the emerging markets of Latin America and Asia and, increasingly, Sub-Saharan Africa. Private and public investors have already leased or bought millions of hectares of farmland in Africa alone (approximately forty-six million hectares by 2010).

Leases typically have a contract period of between 50 to 99 years

The appropriation of access to water that goes hand-in-hand with land grabs often goes unnoticed. Water is of special interest for investors since even the most fertile land is worthless without it. Paradoxically, in some cases water rights are given away for free. Signing away water rights to private investors has the potential to severely aggravate living conditions of the people who already directly affected by the loss of their land.

Host countries looking for new sources of income and foreign investment become a vulnerable target for investors hungry for cheap land. In many cases, foreign investors profit from non-existant or unclear land rights statuses and agrarian reforms. Established communities are being driven away, their land diverted to large-scale agricultural operations often for export of food and agro-fuel and thus violating local food security. Investors don’t hesitate to emphasize the advantageous nature of their operations promising benefits like jobs, dwellings and infrastructure to the local communities. However, these promises often amount to nothing. 

Generally, land deals are strongly in favor of the investing parties. Even when local communities are not displaced, they loose access to agricultural land and the land itself is depleted of its fertility and biodiversity.

In many cases, local communities have mobilized to defend their territories from investors operating from afar, often with the support of the local government. However, their struggle is made very difficult by the distance between them and the investor and the often unclear legal and political mechanisms that tend to protect developers. 


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