Land sold off in last decade could grow enough food to feed a billion people

Posted by Jess Lockey Campaigns Communications and Training Assistant

4th Oct 2012

An exciting new land grabs campaign was launched today across the world. The campaign, which is part of GROW, is asking the World Bank for a freeze of all large scale land deals for 6 months until measures are put in place that take into account the women and men that often rely on the land for their livelihoods.

An exciting new land grabs campaign was launched today across the world. The campaign, which is part of GROW, is asking the World Bank for a freeze of all large scale land deals for 6 months until measures are put in place that take into account the women and men that often rely on the land for their livelihoods.

Powerful corporations and countries are acquiring farmland on an unprecedented scale. It is sold as 'unused' or 'underdeveloped' - but many poor communities call it home. A new Oxfam report Our Land, Our Lives shows that many big land deals in poor countries are forcing families from their land, unfairly evicting  them from their homes and leaving them with no way to grow food or earn a living. Oxfam recognizes the potential benefits of private investment in agriculture but all too often today's land deals fail to deliver benefits for local individuals and communities. Most worryingly, big land deals often lead to 'land grabs' which is a land deal that violates human rights, fails to consult affected people, does not get proper consent and happens in secret.

Every six days, land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors in developing countries. Two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with a serious hunger problem. Yet much of the land is either being left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase and then sell it at a profit, or it is predominantly used to grow crops for export, often biofuels or food for the countries of the investors. In Mozambique between 2007 and 2009 only around 7 per cent of land approved for agriculture investment was for food crops, at a time when more than a third of families in the country did not have enough food to eat.  In Liberia, 30 per cent of the country has been swallowed up by land deals in just five years. This isn't just about one company or one country - we are taking on the whole industry. The World Bank is a critical player as an investor, influencer of governments and key standard setter globally and we are urging it to show leadership to help fix this problem. Change is essential.

The World Bank is in a unique position to help stop land grabs becoming one of the biggest scandals of the century and must act now to freeze its agricultural investments in land, to ensure greater transparency of deals, to ensure local communities are consulted and consent is obtained and that their land rights and food security is guaranteed. Oxfam wants to see progress towards the freeze at the World Bank's first Annual Meeting, since Jim Kim was installed as its new President, which takes place in Tokyo from 12 - 14 October. Specifically, Oxfam wants the World Bank's freeze to send a strong signal to global investors to follow these principles and stop land-grabbing.

The UK government can use its influence in the World Bank to persuade it to implement the freeze. It can also play a crucial role as President of the G8, which takes place here next year, by putting food and hunger at the heart of the agenda, and addressing land grabs as part of this.  Critically, it can also press the EU to reverse biofuels targets - a key driver of land grabs.

Action is urgently needed so do sign and share the petition to Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank to urge the World Bank to freeze its investments. We need the UK government to act- individuals can contact their MP to ask them to press the UK Government on this issue. To check out the latest information and action look up #landgrabs on Twitter, visit Landgrabs, or you can find also activist's resources here.

Blog post written by Jess Lockey

Campaigns Communications and Training Assistant

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