Over recent years, a global land rush has resulted in a massive rise in the number of people in developing countries being evicted or denied access to their own land – sometimes in violent confrontation with the authorities – as big business moves in. Offered little in the way of compensation or alternative livelihoods, millions are being forced into increased poverty, hunger and dispossession.
The new ActionAid report, The Great Land Heist highlights how land grabs are being facilitated through public financing and policy incentives by both ‘host’ country governments, as well as by investor ‘home’ country governments, donors and multilateral agencies. Most of these deals are happening without the informed consent of community members, many of whom earn their living and feed their families from that land.
Among the incentives: the failure of host and home country governments to reform land governance laws based on international best practice, making it easier for powerful vested interests to assert control over land. Initiatives led by the G8/G7 and other donor governments help facilitate corporate land investments that do not reflect smallholder farmers’ interests and include no strong safeguards to uphold their rights, such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Government-funded multilateral financial institutions are providing financial, technical and policy support to projects involving land deals in the agricultural, forestry, mining, energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors. Publicly mandated biofuel quotas, particularly in Europe, are driving demand for land to grow energy crops in other countries for export.
But this disastrous trend can be stopped. Reforms are urgently needed to remove the array of public finance and policy incentives that buoy land grabbing, and redirect resources into types of agricultural production that are both more equitable and more sustainable. It’s time to put a stop to the great land heist!