Land Grab

Land Grab








The World Health Organization defines food security, as the consistent economic and physical access to a sufficient quantity of food and fresh water, together with the knowledge of how to use it. Because of the changing dynamics of global food supply, this equation works out very differently, if you happen to be a wealthy, perhaps overweight citizen of the developed world, rather than an undernourished subsistence farmer in the the third world. Developing countries need to be able to feed themselves, because they can’t afford imports. Wealthy countries, especially those who have little or no farmland themselves, have both the political will and economic clout, to buy long leases on fertile bits of other countries, to ensure a stable supply.

In 2008/9, the World Bank reported a sharp rise in large scale land deals, with over 46m hectares (ha) across 464 negotiations. By 2011 it had risen to 80m, shared mainly between speculators, corporations, and sovereign wealth funds. Examples include Daewoo, leasing 1.3m ha in Madagascar for biofuels (which take up 20% of all deals), and Qatar making arrangements in Kenya, Cambodia, Sudan and Vietnam for fruit, vegetables, rice and wheat. 70% of all deals are in Africa, perhaps because most of the land titles are either unassigned, or held by governments.

The consequence of such changes of ownership, can include large scale displacement of locals, loss of livelihoods and environmental damage. Food and feed crops will double in the next fifty years to meet escalating demand, but will it meet the needs of those who need it most?

 © orlando kimber

Image: Extreme food insecurity. With thanks to Maplecroft

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