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

Posted by Lucy Brinicombe Senior Press Officer

4th Oct 2012


World Bank must freeze investments to protect poor people from land grabs.


Land eight times the size of the UK was sold off globally in the last decade, enough to grow food for a billion people says international development agency Oxfam. This is the equivalent to the number of people who go hungry in the world today.

In its new report, Our Land, Our Lives, Oxfam warns that more than 60 per cent of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems. However, two thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on the land. Nearly 60 per cent of global land deals in the past decade have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels.
 
The report comes as Oxfam steps up its campaign to end land grabs that violate the rights of the world's poorest people. Oxfam supports greater investment in agriculture and to small-scale farmers. However the unprecedented rush for land has not been adequately regulated or policed to prevent land grabs. This means that poor people continue to be evicted, often violently, without consultation or compensation. Many lose their homes and are left destitute, without access to the land they rely on for food to eat and make a living. 

Already an area of land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors every six days in poor countries. In Liberia, 30 per cent of the country has been swallowed up by land deals in just five years. Oxfam calculates that land deals tripled during the food price crisis in 2008 and 2009 because land was increasingly viewed as a profitable investment. With global food prices again hovering at record levels urgent action is needed to stop the threat of another wave of land grabs. 

Oxfam says the World Bank must act now to freeze temporarily its agricultural investments in land so it can review its advice to developing countries, help set standards for investors and introduce more robust policies to help stop land grabs. 

Oxfam's Chief Executive Barbara Stocking said: "The rush for land is out of control and some of the world's poorest people are suffering hunger, violence and greater poverty as a result. 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.

"The World Bank can help stop these human rights abuses and ensure that investments help not harm poor communities. Investment should be good news for developing countries - not lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship."
 
The World Bank, with a remit to tackle global poverty, is in a unique position as both an investor in land and an adviser to developing countries. The Bank's investments in agriculture have increased by 200 per cent in the last 10 years, while its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, sets standards followed by many investors. The World Bank's own research reveals that countries with the most large scale land deals are those with the poorest protection of people's land rights. And since 2008, 21 formal complaints have been brought by communities affected by World Bank projects that they say have violated their land rights. 

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. Putting a stop to its investments in the short term will give the Bank time to put its own house in order. 

Specifically, Oxfam wants the World Bank's freeze to send a strong signal to global investors to stop land-grabbing and to improve standards for:

· Transparency - ensuring that information about land deals is publicly accessible for both affected communities and governments.
· Consultation and consent - ensuring communities are informed in advance, and can agree or refuse projects.
· Land rights and governance - strengthening poor people's rights to land and natural resources, especially women, through better land tenure governance as set out by the Committee for Food Security.
· Food security - ensuring that land investments do not undermine local and national food security. 

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 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. 

Stocking said: "Addressing the rush for land is key to tackling global hunger and must be at the heart of the debate when the UK government presides over the G8 next year. The UK should also show leadership in reversing flawed biofuels targets which are a main driver for land and are diverting food into fuel."

Ends

Notes to editors:
· According to the International Land Coalition, 203 million hectares of land was acquired in major deals globally between 2000 and 2010.

· The same research shows that 106 million hectares of land in developing countries was acquired by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010.

To see the report or to arrange interviews contact Lucy Brinicombe, +44 (0)7786 110054, lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk or Tricia O'Rourke, +447920596 358, torourke@oxfam.org.uk  

Oxfam is campaigning against land grabs as part of its GROW campaign, which aims to secure a future where everyone has enough to eat.




Blog post written by Lucy Brinicombe

Senior Press Officer

More by Lucy Brinicombe