Land Grabs Threaten World's Poor Even More Than Previously Thought, New Report Shows

© International Land Coalition

Over the last decade, more than 200 million hectares of land in developing countries have been sold off in large-scale land transactions that tend to benefit "national elites" while harming the world's poor and rural populations, according to a new report from the International Land Coalition (ILC). The group calls the report the most comprehensive study to date of large land acquisitions in developing countries.

Here is the bottom line of the findings in the report, from ILC:

Food is not the main focus of the land deals. Out of the 71 million hectares in deals that the authors could cross-reference, 22% was for mining, tourism, industry and forestry and three-quarters of the remaining 78% for agricultural production was for biofuels.

Land grabs have been called out for what they are over the last couple years, but the ILC report finds that rich national investors are driving the trend more forcefully than previously thought.

The report, which looks at almost 30 case studies, concludes that large land deals create problems for the poorest populations, largely by diminishing their access to land—often the most fertile land a region has to offer. See, a family growing food for subsistence or to sell to a local market needs the same thing that a plantation for biofuel crops needs: arable land and healthy soil.

ILC also found that governments miss out on long-term financial benefits as well, like tax and lease revenues, when they rush in to make deals and skip an effective negotiating process.

The coalition uses the report to recommend investment models that do not involve large-scale land acquisitions, and to instead work together—and this is really thinking outside the box—with local land users in ways that respect their land rights, food and resource needs, and skills as farmers who know how to best use their own land.

Tags: Africa | Agriculture | Biofuels | Developing Nations | European Union