Landgrab or reasonable investments? Large-scale land investments in developing countries.
Landgrabbing. A term that many know und many know: that’s not good! But for most landgrabbing is not more than a vogue expression from the other side oft he world, 6000 kilometres away.1
But that’s exactly what land investments aren’t anymore: On the Website Landmatrix.org, that tries to collect and evaluate the biggest deals, more than 49 million hectares are listed as sold. This area equals 67 million football fields or five times the size of Portugal.2
Under which conditions are these investments made? The biggest supporters are commonly the local governments but often end up at the so called Chiefs. These people that are legitimised by the common law lead a complete village. In the most cases, the Land is not owned by single people but by the total community which makes the decision to sell a decision of the chief, not of the local population. The enormous danger of corruption is threatening the local people and their nutrition. Many Chiefs prefer to take the SUV instead of securing the nutrition und living space of the community.
Exactly that is the point at which we stop talking about land investment and start calling it land grabbing. This term was only defined once in history by the International Land Coalition (ILC) in the Tirana Declaration as land investment that is
not based on effective democratic planning, independent oversight and meaningful participation.
To stop landgrabbing and support sustainable investments is the aim of many international organisations. But how do we help a country in which the government is corrupt, die roads are heavily damaged and energy is non-existent? How do we help a country that lies on the other side of our planet? How does he help without heavily damaging our own economy? The solution is, as the problem itself, not one-dimensional, it consists of four pillars that rest on a stable foundation to form a solid building of fair and effective land investments
These four solutions can only be combined with a solid foundation, a foundation of motivation and the sufficient funds. Investors should be motivated to get a better image, the population to get a better life and the local government to increase their income and legitimation. Necessary funds should be collected from the provision of the auction platform, development funds of the EU and UN and from the development aid of the industrial countries. Furthermore, the creation of an anti-landgrabbing fund which also could be defrayed by the foreign investors would help to make this four pillar system come true.
1: Distance Kiel-Kongo; www.luftlinie.org; 06.07.2017
2: Data and comparisons von www.landmatrix.org; 06.07.2017
3: Tirana Declaration of the International Land Coalition, page 2 point 4; http://www.landcoalition.org/en/resources/tirana-declaration; 06.07.2017
Since 2000, about 26.7 Million hectares of land have been purchased by international investors in developing countries and emerging markets. This equals about two percent of agriculturally useful soil or the size of the United Kingdom plus Slovenia.
Some people call this landgrabbing and point to the non-transparent processes and the negative consequences for poor countries of origin. Contracts are brokered quite often behind closed doors and the previous land owners don’t take part in these negotiations. When small farmers get displaced, they very often lose their livelihood.
Others, on the contrary, speak of essential investments for the underfinanced agriculture and stress the chances for these countries. Often the local infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals benefit from these investments. Jobs are created and the markets get closer to the small farmers. As a result, the farmers have a better and quicker access to seeds and fertilisers.
Those are two positions of the extreme and the truth is somewhere to be found in the middle. The investments must be checked individually to make a judgement on them.
In which context should investments be made and how should the people affected by it participate in the negotiations?
This topic has been selected to work on by the YES! team of the Helene-Lange-Gymnasium Rendsburg. Learn more about the YES! 2017 team of the Helene-Lange-Gymnasium Rendsburg here on their profile page.