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Land Grab By The Rich Pushing Out People. Create Hunger In Poor Countries

By Countercurrents.org

05 October 2012

“In the past decade an area of land eight times the size of the UK has been sold off globally as land sales rapidly accelerate. This land could feed a billion people, equivalent to the number of people who go to bed hungry each night”, said Our Land Our Lives, Time out on the global and rush , an Oxfam briefing note issued in October 2012.

“In poor countries,” said the note, “foreign investors have been buying an area of land the size of London every six days.” The trend was found in the period 2006-2010.

Raising the issue of increased food prices, the Oxfam briefing note said:

“With food prices spiking for the third time in four years, interest in land could accelerate again as rich countries try to secure their food supplies and investors see land as a good long-term bet.”

The note said:

“All too often, forced evictions of poor farmers are a consequence of these rapidly increasing land deals in developing countries.”

Calling on the World Bank the note said:

“As the world's leading standard-setter and a big investor itself, the World Bank should freeze its own land investments and review its policy and practice to prevent land-grabbing. In the past the Bank has chosen to freeze lending when poor standards have caused dispossession and suffering. It needs to do so again, in order to play a key role in stopping the global land rush.”

Referring to increased food prices Oxfam said in its note:

“The 2008 boom in food prices is widely recognized as having triggered a surge in investor interest in land: from mid-2008 2009 reported agricultural land deals by foreign investors in developing countries rocketed by around 200 per cent.”

The note said:

“[T]he sad fact is that very few if any of these land investments benefit local people or help to fight hunger. Two-thirds of agricultural land deals by foreign investors are in countries with a serious hunger problem. Yet perversely, precious little of this land is being used to feed people in those countries, or going into local markets where it is desperately needed. Instead, the land is either being left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase and then sell it at a profit, or it is predominantly used to grow crops for export, often for use as biofuels. About two-thirds of foreign land investors in developing countries intend to export everything they produce on the land. Africa has borne the brunt of this, with an area the size of Kenya acquired for agriculture by foreign investors in just ten years, but the experience on other continents is similar.”

Citing World Bank and IMF research the briefing note said:

“[M]ost of the land being sold off is in the poorest countries with the weakest protection of people's land rights.”

It mentioned examples from Liberia , Cambodia and Honduras . “More than 30 per cent of the land in Liberia has been handed out in large-scale concessions in the past five years, often with disastrous results for local people. In Cambodia , NGOs estimate that an area equivalent to between 56 and 63 per cent of all arable land in the country has been handed out to private companies. In Honduras , the toll of people killed in a land conflict in the Bajo Aguán region has risen to over 60, and shows no sign of stopping.”

The note cautioned:

“The global economy is expected to triple by 2050, demanding ever more from scarce natural and agricultural resources.”

As example, it said:

“[T]he area used for oil palm cultivation has increased nearly eightfold over the last 20 years to an estimated 7.8 million ha in 2010 and is expected to double again by 2020.”

Oxfam cited an example of World Bank's support to work that created problems:

“In 2007, indigenous people in West Kalimantan, Indonesia complained to the World Bank that a palm oil company it supported had cut down their forest and forced them from their land. The bank's complaints ombudsman investigated and discovered serious systematic problems, as a result of which Bank standards had been contravened and Bank staff had been able to claim (incorrectly) that the project would have ‘minimal' or no direct, adverse social or environmental impacts. There was such a controversy that the then Bank President, Robert Zoellick, suspended the bank's lending to the palm oil sector for 18 months until a new strategy was in place, supposedly intended to ensure that such problems did not happen again.”

The report actually tells a lot about capitalism, capitalism in agriculture, commodity production, connections in the economy that dives land rush, etc.




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