A Policy Approach to Address Land Grabbing

This from Archie Mulanda, Zambia, in response to Module 1 Assignment 2 is a review of an excellent article of containing suggested policy to address the problems of Land Grabbing.

Comments on the Article “Land Grabbing” by Foreign
Investors in Developing Countries: Risks and Opportunities
By Joachim von Braun and Ruth Meinzen-Dick (International Food Policy
Research Institute (Policy Brief 13 • April 2009)

Definition of Land Grab

Land grab is a large scale land acquisition through purchase, allocation or
lease for agricultural production or any other industry by transnational
companies or foreign investors, (CSO Monitoring 2009-2010 “Advancing
African Agriculture” (AAA).

Analysis of the Article

The Article brought out a number of important issues concerning land grab. It
looked at the reasons which have led to the widespread of land grabbing
issues across the world. The most important of these reasons is the world
food crisis of 2007/2008 which hit most countries around the world.

Most well economically established countries without have no enough land to produce
through agriculture and have decided to move into developing countries which
seem to have vast arable land to purchase, and lease out in order to produce
and secure food for their countries consumption.

The Article also looked at some threats that foreign land acquisitions pose
to the land rights and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists,
indigenous communities and other vulnerable groups. It also looked at the
opportunities that land grabbing can offer to developing countries.

The article further recognizes and emphasise the role or importance of civil
society organisation in negotiating land deals on behalf of the local
communities. It also brings out governments way of negotiating land deals as
not transparent.

The study also tried to list a number of developing countries which have
leased out land for foreign investment, the size of land allocated, purchased
or leased out and the economically well-established countries acquiring the


Developing countries cannot afford to close up themselves from foreign
investment in land and water especially African continent. African countries
have got vast arable land owned by citizens but it is underutilized. In the
face of the still increasing and dramatic demand for African and other
developing countries land and other natural resources linked to land in
particular water, it is urgent for government leaders of developing countries
to take a strong stance in order to defend the interests of the women and men
rights to land.

It is therefore, important that host countries regulate the
investing transnational companies from developed countries through
well-developed land, investment policies and laws in order to benefit the
local communities and the general public.

It is also important that host countries allows the local small scale holders owning vast tracks of arable land negotiate terms of contract with investing transnational companies in
order to promote a win – win situation or partnership.

It is true that most contracts agreed and signed with investing countries by
most developing/host countries do not undergo a consultative process with the
local communities and other key stakeholders in land administration. This has
in the end threatened the land rights / tenure to land of the small scale
holder and finally rejected by the citizens of the host country.

It is therefore important that land rights Activist and civil society
organisations at both national and international level ensures that
governments of developing countries put a moratorium on large land
acquisitions and embark on carrying out land audits and assessment of the
land investment situation in their countries and emphasise the need for host
governments in developing countries to facilitate a consultative negotiation
process of land deals between local communities and transnational companies
and other key stakeholders if foreign investment is to be perceived and
accepted as an opportunity and partnership by small scale holder farmers and
other land users in developing nations.

Land deals mostly intend to come out as land grabs because host countries lack a consultative process with the local people and other key stake holders in negotiating the terms of contract
with investing transnational companies from developed countries.

The other reason why land deals have been portrayed as land grab is due to
the fact that most host countries have weak land administration system.
Meaning land has been allocated and leased by host countries governments
through corrupt practises.

Although the Article by IFPRI looks at land grab to be more of a foreign
issue. It is also important to realise that ‘land grabbing’ does not only
involve foreign deals alone. In as much as land grabs are reported to be more
of foreign the developing countries rich and elite peoples also carry out
land grabs by kicking out local communities who are either pastoralist or
crop farmers and other land users from there ancestral land.

Focusing only on large-scale land acquisitions by foreigners can divert
attention from more serious ‘land grabbing’ in some societies. Therefore,
the response to ‘land grabbing’ needs to look more broadly at
strengthening transparent, accountable and accessible land administration
institutions that protect the rights of vulnerable people against all land

The tables in the Article of the signed land deals did not explain the tenure
of the acquired land leases in almost all the countries. It is important that
governments from developing countries give out short leases to transnational
companies unless the company enters into partnership with the local small
scale holder.

The Article confirms the following land deals to be done. It indicates the
investing country, host country, number of hectares, purpose of the land, the
source of the information and the year it was published.

Below are some of the land deals the assignment has selected from the IFPRI Article, bear in
mind that this are some of the countries among many others recorded from the
source which scored high in terms of confirmed land deals.

Some done land Deals According to IFPRI, 2009

Investing Country Hosting Country Number of Hectares Deal Status Land
Purpose Source Year Acquired

South Korea Sudan 690,000 hectares Signed Wheat plantation Korean Times
(South Korea) June 2008

Libya Ukraine 250,000 hectares Signed Agriculture Guardian (UK) November

Saudi Arabia Indonesia 500,000 hectares Signed Rice plantation
www.thejakartaglobe.com. March 2009

Jarch Capital (USA) Sudan 400,000 hectares Signed Agriculture
www.reuters.com. Between 2006 – 2009

China (Chongqing Seed Corp) Tanzania 300,000 hectares Singed Agriculture
www.chindaily.com.cn May 2008

Source IFPRI 2009

The table above shows that the agriculture has been the main purposes for all
the land deals acquired above. This just confirms how vulnerable peasant
farmers from developing countries when it comes to land deals.

Response Needed to Land Grabs

Following a well-articulated Article on “land grab” by Foreign Investors
in developing countries: Risks and Opportunities by IFPRI the assignment
would like to urge key stakeholders in land administration such as land
rights Activist, Human Rights Activist, Academicians, civil society
organisation, community groups / leaders and the members of the general
public in all developing countries to promote responsible investment in
agriculture and other industries and to oppose ‘land grabbing’ in spirit
of promoting partnerships with transnational companies.

Governments of developing countries have a major role to play in promoting /
championing responsible agricultural investment and in developing
transparent, accountable and accessible land administration institutions that
can recognize and defend the rights of rural communities – especially of
the most vulnerable households.

Further, social mobilization by community leaders and civil society
organizations to oppose ‘land grabbing’, in general, and by outside
investors in particular, is essential.

Land grabs (not only those by foreigners) and their negative impacts need to
be documented and disseminated by researchers and the media – as do good
examples of sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between outside
investors and rural communities.

Civil society and private-sector service providers can play a major role in
empowering rural communities and in strengthening good land governance.
Socially responsible investors have a role to play in influencing both
governments and other investors.

One area of social mobilization that is often neglected, but could be highly
effective in shaping investment, is mobilizing consumer sentiment in
developed countries in support of socially responsible investment.
Intergovernmental, multilateral and bilateral organizations have a part to
play in supporting the above.


Finally, the assignment wants to urge foreign investors to invest in
developing countries farmers, do not take the farmers land. Investment in
agriculture in all developing countries in Europe, Asia America and Africa is
needed and welcome provided such investments are built in partnership with
the local farmers and other land users.

This does not require the long term transfer of large amounts of land to foreign interests. It is important that all large land related investments, even those implemented in partnership,
must be done in a way that ensures a win – win situation.

The assignment recommends further reading of the following reports / articles
on land grabbing especially on Africa:

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2011, responding to
‘land grabbing’ and promoting responsible investment in agriculture.

FAO, IIED and IFAD, 2009, Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural
investment and international land deals in Africa.

Mr. Olivier De Schutter, 2009, Special Rapporteur on the right to food,
Large-scale land acquisitions and leases: A set of core principles and
measures to address the human rights challenge.

EAFF, 2011, "Foreign direct investment in land in Africa: Risks,
opportunities, challenges"

Friends of the Earth Europe, 2010, Africa Up for Grab, the scale and impact
of land grabbing for agrofuels.

The Oakland Institute, 2011, Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,
country report Mali.

| Email: mulundaarchie@hotmail.com | Archie Mulunda, Zambia