LandGrabs: 15-20 million hectares of farmland subject of deals or proposed deals in 2006-2009 (La Vida Locavore)

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http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/4821/land-grabs-in-agriculture-fairer-deals-needed-to-ensure-opportunity-for-locals

“Land Grabs” in Agriculture: Fairer Deals Needed to Ensure Opportunity for Locals

by: NourishingthePlanet

The trend of international land grabbing-when governments and private firms invest in or purchase large tracts of land in other countries for the purpose of agricultural production and export-can have serious environmental and social consequences, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute. Deals that focus solely on financial profit can leave rural populations more vulnerable and without land, employment opportunities, or food security.

The trend has accelerated as countries that lack sufficient fertile land to meet their own food needs-such as wealthier countries in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China-have turned to new fields in which to plant crops. “Growing demand and rising prices for food are leading some wealthier developing countries to seek secure access to food-producing land in the territory of lower-income ones,” said Robert Engelman, Executive Director of Worldwatch. “If all governments capably represented the interests of their citizens, these cash-for-cropland deals might improve prosperity and food security for both sides. But that’s not often the case. It’s critical that international institutions monitor these arrangements and find ways to block those that are one-sided or benefit only the wealthy.”

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports that some 15-20 million hectares of farmland were the subject of deals or proposed deals involving foreigners between 2006 and mid-2009. Additional land acquisitions occurred in 2010, including deals in Ethiopia and Sudan, according to Andrew Rice, author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget and contributing author to the recent Worldwatch report State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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