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Large land deals a threat

The term 'land grabbing' is widely deserved (© Alun McDonald/Oxfam)
The term 'land grabbing' is widely deserved
© Alun McDonald/Oxfam

The biggest study to date of large land deals warns that deals are more likely to cause problems for the poorest members of society, who often lost access to land and resources that are essential to their livelihoods, than create opportunities. "The competition for land is becoming increasingly global and increasingly unequal," says Dr Madiodio Niasse, secretariat director of the International Land Coalition (ILC) which published the study. "Weak governance, corruption and a lack of transparency in decision-making, which are key features of the typical environment in which large-scale land acquisitions take place, mean that the poor gain few benefits from these deals but pay high costs."

In addition to poor governance, weak land rights are also a problem, Dr Lorenzo Cotula, co-author from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) states. "As governments own the land it is easy for them to lease large areas to investors, but the benefits for local communities or national treasuries are often minimal. This highlights the need for poor communities to have stronger rights over the land they have lived on for generations."The report adds that while international trade regimes protect international investors, there are fewer and less effective arrangements to protect the rights of the rural poor, partly because many policymakers think intensive agriculture is the best way to achieve food security.

"There is little in our findings to suggest that the term 'land grabbing' is not widely deserved," adds ILC's Dr Michael Taylor, who coordinated the study. The research, which involved more than 40 organisations, revealed that national elites play a larger role in land acquisitions than has previously been reported. For the deals where the commodity was known, the report also discovered that while 78 per cent was for agricultural production, three-quarters of this was for biofuels. Mining extraction, industry, tourism and forest conversions were also significant contributors.

Date published: December 2011

 

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