Land Grabbing

Large-scale land acquisitions pose a direct threat to the livelihood of the world’s poorest who struggle to assert the right to food.

Originally Published: 2 May 2017 By: Ana Beatriz Brito

Large-scale land acquisitions pose a direct threat to the livelihood of the world’s poorest who struggle to assert the right to food.

Why is it happening ?

International land transactions are driven by a combination of political and economic factors. The recent surge behind land deals all started around 2008 as a direct result of an increase in food prices. With the combination of rising food prices and the need to meet growing demand for food as a result of increasing populations, countries began to turn to a new approach to food production. That is, investing in profitable agricultural land in developing countries. However, there is a thin line between foreign investments positively contributing to development in the recipient country and forcibly displacing small-scale farmers from their land. Land grabbing is the term referred to as large-scale land acquisitions by foreign actors, mostly private corporations, in the absence of consent and just conditions.

Why does it matter?

Every single individual’s livelihood is undoubtedly and inextricably dependent upon land. This undeniable reality makes land grabbing a pressing issue that affects us all. Foreign investments in land are not a new phenomenon. International land deals take on such a variety of shapes and sizes that at first glance it is easy to dismiss such a common practice as even having the ability to produce negative implications. In reality, land grabbing forcibly displaces local communities from their homes and leaves most unable to sustain themselves. Put simply, the world’s poorest are made up of small-scale farmers dependent on land to either directly feed themselves through their own food production or indirectly through the resources gained by selling said food.

Land grabbing essentially strikes at the heart of food sovereignty. As private companies step in with foreign large-scale mechanisms of food production, the produced food rarely, if ever, reaches the local communities. Consequently, those that need food the most are those that are left hungry. Not only does this negatively impact food security locally, but individuals are facing evictions, unemployment and more. If land grabbing continues at this rate, this practice will continue to infringe the most basic fundamental human right inherent for all — the ability to feed oneself in a dignified manner.

What can you do about it?

While this widespread practice may make you feel helpless, there are ways to get involved in putting an end to land grabbing. In the grand scheme of things, the demand for transparent international land deals taking into account human rights and local needs must increase. Anyone can do their share by taking part in online petitions demanding governments and corporations to implement land transactions that are in accordance with human rights and environmental concerns. With movements like Hands on the Land, there is hope for a sustainable way forward that does not implicate human rights abuses.

In addition to becoming involved in online movements, every person can take into consideration where the food that they purchase comes from. The positive effects of buying food locally is undeniable — not only does it benefit the community but strengthening local food systems also contribute to sustainable practices in food production, distribution and consumption. Supporting local farmers puts direct pressure on reducing foreign land deals. So how about double-checking where that bag of rice at the supermarket comes from or making a trip to the nearest farmers market for seasonal and fresh produce?

Image Credit: Madote


Ana Beatriz Brito briefs from Lisbon, Portugal. She holds an LLM in Public International Law and is currently a legal intern at the United Nations.