Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rush for land a wake-up call for poorer countries, report says

Claire Provost in the Guardian (UK): Population growth, the increasing consumption of a global elite, and an international legal system skewed in favour of largescale investors are fuelling a worldwide rush for land that is unfolding faster than previously thought and is likely to continue, according to the largest study of international land deals to date.

Researchers estimate that more than 200m hectares of land – over eight times the size of the UK – have been sold or leased between 2000 and 2010. But although the food price crisis of 2007-08 may have triggered a boom in international land deals, the study argues that a much broader set of factors – linked to population growth and the rise of emerging economies – is raising the prospect of "a new era in the struggle for, and control over, land in many areas of the global south".

Forty civil society and research groups fed into the global commercial pressures on land research project, co-ordinated by the International Land Coalition (ILC), which draws on a decade of data to identify and analyse trends in large land acquisitions, and highlights the role of governments in brokering deals that may marginalise rural communities and jeopardise the future of family farming in favour of big industrial projects. This is the most comprehensive study to date of international land deals, pulling together findings from investigations around the world.

...Data collected by researchers show that around 40% of land acquired over the last decade is intended for biofuel production. In comparison, 25% is for food crops and another 27% for mining, tourism, industry and forestry. But the focus of land deals also varies by region: In Africa, 66% of land deals cross-referenced by researchers are intended for biofuel production, compared with 15% for food crops. Meanwhile, food production seems more significant in Latin America (27%), along with mineral extraction (23%)....

A communal rubber plantation near Benin City, Nigeria, in 1911

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