The Social and Environmental Consequences of Land Grabbing...
Investment in rural areas is vital to improving the living conditions of local communities, and they can also help to protect the environment, but promises of jobs, better infrastructure and sustainability often come at a high cost or fall through completely.
In the case of foreign land investments, all too often negative social and environmental consequences far outweigh the potential advantages for the host community. Investors may promote a win-win situation for the communities and themselves, but this is rarely the case.
Areas that are subject to land investments are often remote, largely untouched nature reserves inhabited by small-scale and subsistence farmers. The knowledge and traditional agricultural practices of these farmers can have an important function in safeguarding the ecosystem; farmers who have cultivated local varieties and pastoralists who have grazed local breeds on the same land for generations. However, if they inherit land rights through their father, there is usually no public register of this and the land ownership is not officially recognized.
When farmers are forced to leave their land they usually don’t receive any compensation, and many find themselves migrating towards the slums of the big cities, trying to find another occupation and often living hand-to-mouth.
There have also been reports of some very violent incidents of communities being displaced, like the one from Gambela region in Ethiopia where in January 2012 70,000 dwellers were displaced to make room for a multinational agribusiness corporation (Human Rights Watch, 2012).
When local communities leave their land for foreign developers, the delicate balance between human land use and the environment may be violated. Investors and agribusinesses tend to employ industrial large-scale agriculture, which is one of the major causes of environmental damage.
Unsustainable use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides can negatively affect soil and water quality, and even renders the land unusable for years. Large-scale monocultures and the introduction of foreign plant species - as often happens with land investments, such as palm tree, jatropha or eucalyptus plantations - are likely to adversely affect biodiversity and severely disturb local ecosystems. Land clearance techniques and large-scale agriculture are known to foster erosion in areas that are already facing similar problems.