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Land investors targeting poorly governed countries to avoid red-tape, warns Oxfam

Posted by Lucy Brinicombe Senior Press Officer

7th Feb 2013

Investors are targeting the world's weakest governed countries to buy land, according to new analysis published by Oxfam to mark today's international day of action on land grabs. 

The analysis reveals that over three quarters of the 56 countries where land deals were agreed between 2000 and 2011 scored below average on four key governance indicators. The 23 least developed countries account for more than half of the recorded land deals over this period.

The analysis follows Oxfam's call for the World Bank to lead the fight against land grabs.
Oxfam's chief executive Barbara Stocking said: "Poor governance allows investors to secure land quickly and cheaply for profit. Investors seem to be cherry-picking countries with weak rules and regulations because they are easy targets. This can spell disaster for communities if these deals result in their homes and livelihoods being grabbed - sometimes even violently - without consent or compensation."   
The research cross referenced data from the Land Matrix - a database of reported agricultural land deals involving 200 hectares or more of land - with World Bank indicators that measure how well a country is governed. The indicators assess a range of factors including voice and accountability (e.g. whether citizens participate in selecting their government), rule of law, the quality of private sector regulation, and control of corruption. 
The analysis found that the average score across four key governance indicators in countries with land deals was 30 per cent lower than those without deals. 
In a number of cases the potential area of land available for investment does not appear to be a significant factor. For example Guatemala, which scores below average on all four governance indicators, has seen 87,000 hectares of land change hands in the last ten years despite high levels of hunger and malnutrition in rural areas. In contrast, Botswana, which has a similar area of land available per head of population but which scores well above the average on governance indicators, did not reportedly agree a single large-scale land deal.
Oxfam's analysis is supported by the World Bank's own research.
During today's day of international action on land grabs, iconic sites around the world, from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to the Coliseum in Rome, will be symbolically "sold" by campaigners.  
Oxfam is calling on the World Bank to temporarily freeze land investments in large-scale agriculture so that it can ensure its policies do not encourage land grabs. The Bank is in a unique position to act because it sets international standards for land investments, provides finance for land deals and advises developing countries on land investments.  
Stocking said: "The Bank is in a unique position to help stop this unbridled rush for land, which sees an area the size of London sold off to foreign investors every six days." 

Notes to editors
For more information and to organise an interview please contact Lucy Brinicombe at / +44 (0)7786 110054.

The media brief can be downloaded at: 

The area of land sold in Guatemala is calculated based on information in the Land Matrix:  The land matrix reports 10 deals in Guatemala for the period 2000-2011. The Matrix provides information on the area of land in 9 of the 10 deals recorded - the average size of these land deals is 8,723 hectares.  Based on this the total estimated area of land sold in Guatemala in this period is just over 87,000 ha. 

Multimedia materials

Huge SOLD signs will be placed on globally iconic sites from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to the Coliseum in Rome to mark the international day of action:  High resolution images of the actions are available at:
Powerful pictures, testimony and video footage documenting land grabs in Guatemala: 
Polochic - photographs and testimonies of communities displaced to make way for sugar plantations - please see the case study in the media brief for more details of the case:

Sayaxche - Photographs, film and testimonies of communities whose land has been converted to palm oil plantations:
Short video:
- Video news Release:
- Link to photographs, the case study and testimonies:
Oxfam is campaigning against land grabs as part of its GROW campaign, which aims to secure a future where everyone has enough to eat. Visit

About Enough Food for Everyone IF:

Enough Food for Everyone IF is a coalition of 100 organisations, including Oxfam, and counting which have joined together to campaign for action by the G8 on the issue of global hunger. The last time we worked together at this scale was for Make Poverty History. Now that the G8 group of world leaders are returning to the UK, we are demanding they take action on hunger. 2013 won't be the end of hunger, but it could be the beginning of the end. Join us at

Blog post written by Lucy Brinicombe

Senior Press Officer

More by Lucy Brinicombe