UN expert calls for guidelines to protect vulnerable people against 'land grabs' Governments should be wary of speculation and concentration of ownership when land rights are transferred to investors to "develop" farmland, a UN expert has warned before key UN negotiations on land governance.
"We must escape the mental cage that sees large-scale investments as the only way to develop agriculture and to ensure stability of supply for buyers," said the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, amid concern among civil society groups about "land grabs". The recent surge in food prices has prompted investors and governments to focus on agriculture after decades of neglect.
Attention has also focused on land deals in developing countries. A report by Oxfam, published last month, identified 227m hectares (561m acres) of land – an area the size of north-west Europe – as having being reportedly sold, leased or licensed, largely in Africa and mostly to international investors in thousands of secretive deals since 2001. Africa and the world food crisis: time to focus on solutions. Dabney Tonelli, managing partner of Chayton Capital LLP and MD of Chayton Africa (Pty) Ltd.
Chobe soya fields in Zambia in February Harvesting soya in April Preparing harvested crops for storage and transport in July. Photographs provided by Chayton Africa In February 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Food Price Index reached an all-time high, while in 2010 the number of hungry in the world exceeded one billion people. Although it is no doubt vulnerable, Africa also has enormous potential to help solve this crisis.
There will be no single solution to this complex and growing problem. At the same time, it would be a mistake to indiscriminately discourage private investment as that could have an equally negative impact on the rural poor in Africa. Attracting foreign investors can facilitate growth of the agricultural sector through commercial expansion, increasing yields by implementing techniques like conservation tillage, crop rotation, doubling cropping and irrigation. Land and Power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land. CBC: Dambisa Moyo on her vision for Africa & what's wrong with aid. Indian agribusiness sets sights on land in east Africa. Indian agribusiness companies are ready to spend $2.5bn buying, or renting for decades, several million hectares of cheap land in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in what could be some of the largest farming deals struck in Africa in the last 50 years.
But in a separate development, plans for a US-based investment company to lease up to 1m hectares of South Sudan for only $25,000 a year appears to have stalled following protests by local communities over the potential "land grab". A delegation of 35 Indian investors, including food conglomerates McLeod Russel, Kaveri Seeds, and Karuturi Global, has been touring Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda for the last week to seek land to grow palm oil, maize, cotton, rice and vegetables, largely for the burgeoning Indian market. Karuturi said this week in Dar es Salaam that it was ready to spend $500m acquiring and developing 200,000 hectares of land for palm oil, 150,000 for cereals and 20,000 for sugarcane.
'Glen, Gary and Ross' - a film about land grabs. International Land Deals in Africa. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations nor the International Fund for Agricultural Development concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO or IFAD in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned. The designations “developed” and “developing” countries are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgement about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of FAO or IFAD.