Guide to land grabs

Big land deals in poor countries are leaving people homeless and hungry. Families are being unfairly evicted from their land and left with no way to grow food or earn a living.

FAQ: What is a land grab?

What is a land grab?

It's when governments, banks or private investors buy up huge plots of land to make equally huge profits.

What's the problem with big land deals - isn't investment a good thing?

Responsible investment is an important part of fighting poverty. But big land deals are happening so quickly and on such a large scale that poor people are more vulnerable to the injustice of land grabbing than ever before.

So what does this mean for people living on the land?

They lose the land they rely on to grow food and feed their families. Their homes, jobs and livelihoods are taken from them - sometimes violently - and there is nothing they can do about it.

Why is there such a high demand for land?

High food prices and a demand for new fuels have both played a part. And a rising population makes land seem like a pretty safe bet for savvy investors.

Who's involved?

From Honduras and Indonesia to Liberia and Sudan, land is being looted by investors of all shapes and sizes. Governments, food exporters, tourism providers, Wall Street speculators - the list goes on.

But if investors use the land to grow food, won't it work out OK in the end?

Most investors intend to export the food they grow back to rich countries. Others will use it to meet huge biofuel targets for the developed world. They're making the hunger problem much worse.

Land grab facts

  • Every second, poor countries lose an area of land the size of a football pitch to banks and private investors.
  • Most land deals take place in countries with serious hunger problems - yet investors often intend to export everything produced on the land.
  • Poor families are often evicted from their homes without fair treatment or compensation.

In My Place film

To send a global message about land grabs, thousands of Oxfam supporters and Coldplay fans sent photos and videos of ordinary things out of place, echoing the displacement of land grabs.

Coldplay's music video director, Mat Whitecross, put them to an exclusive version of their song, In My Place.

In depth

Download 'Our Land, Our Lives: Time out on the global land rush' and find out more about how land grabs are pushing people further into poverty.