The Global Land Rush

A global land rush—sparked primarily by a dramatic rise in global food prices and now driven by a variety of factors including increased demand for food and biofuels, carbon markets, and speculation—is remaking the face of agriculture and land use in the developing world.  The underlying economic fundamentals indicate that this rush for land will continue for several decades.

Already, huge swaths of ostensibly “available” land from Mozambique and Mali to Cambodia and China have been purchased or leased.  These transactions are frequently negotiated between governments and potential investors behind closed doors, without consultation with or significant compensation for the residents and farmers whose land is at stake.

This massive commercial pressure on land is occurring primarily in low-income and middle-income countries, often in settings where land rights are weak, unclear, and poorly governed.  This creates enormous risks for governments, investors, and poor people—especially women.  These deals can lead to a loss of access and rights to land, water, and other natural resources.  They can also result in the displacement of individuals and communities.  This in turn dramatically impacts the livelihoods and food security of area residents.

Landesa recognizes that land rights and land governance play a critical role in determining how the land rush will impact various stakeholders.  We also recognize that this trend presents both challenges and opportunities for all parties.

Landesa is engaged in a range of activities that will help create an environment for socially and environmentally sound investment:

  • Monitoring and helping draft international principles and guidelines for responsible investment.
  • Participating in international discussions to find practical ways to reduce harm and help all involved to benefit from these transactions.
  • Researching how the land rush impacts women and women’s land rights.
  • Engaging with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and a private company on a potential land, food security, and agro-ecological assessment of regions considered for biofuel production.
  • Conducting research on laws and local practices and providing recommendations on reforming China’s land takings system.
  • Preparing to develop and test a Land Tenure Impact Assessment Tool for use by governments, potential investors and others.
  • Seeking opportunities to help convene stakeholders to better understand the underlying land tenure issues, discuss how to reconcile various stakeholder rights, and develop a way to manage risks to vulnerable populations without dampening the overall investment climate.
  • Poised with staff and research resources to guide selected private sector entities towards socially responsible investments.

For further reading:

>> FAQs and answers about the Global Land Rush

>> Additional resources about the Global Land Rush