Land acquired over past decade could have produced food for a billion people

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Fri Oct 5 00:34:59 BST 2012

Hash: SHA1

Please tell me, honestly, is this what "greens" stand for -- or should we 
instead seek to tackle the lifestyle-system that demands the fuel in the 
first place rather than substituting one perceived "evil" with another?


Land acquired over past decade could have produced food for a billion 

Oxfam calls on World Bank to stop backing foreign investors who acquire 
land for biofuels that could produce food

John Vidal, The Guardian, Thursday 4th October 2012

International land investors and biofuel producers have taken over land 
around the world that could feed nearly 1 billion people.

Analysis by Oxfam of several thousand land deals completed in the last 
decade shows that an area eight times the size of the UK has been left idle 
by speculators or is being used largely to grow biofuels for US or European 

In a report, published on Thursday, Oxfam says the global land rush is out 
of control and urges the World Bank to freeze its investments in large-
scale land acquisitions to send a strong signal to global investors to stop 
"land grabs".

"More than 60% of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors 
between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger 
problems. But two-thirds of those investors plan to export everything they 
produce on the land. Nearly 60% of the deals have been to grow crops that 
can be used for biofuels," says the report.

Very few, if any, of these land investments benefit local people or help to 
fight hunger, says Oxfam. "Instead, the land is either being left idle, as 
speculators wait for its value to increase … or it is predominantly used to 
grow crops for export, often for use as biofuels."

The bank has tripled its support for land projects to $6bn-$8bn 
(£3.7bn-£5bn) a year in the last decade, but no data is available on how 
much goes to acquisitions, or any links between its lending and conflict.

Since 2008, says Oxfam, 21 formal complaints have been brought by 
communities affected by World Bank investments, in which they claim that 
these have violated their land rights.

Oxfam's chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said: "The rush for land is out 
of control and some of the world's poorest people are suffering hunger, 
violence and greater poverty as a result. The World Bank is in a unique 
position to help stop land grabs becoming one of the biggest scandals of 
the century."

She added: "Investment should be good news for developing countries – not 
lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship."

According to the International Land Coalition, 106m hectares (261m acres) 
of land in developing countries were acquired by foreign investors between 
2000 and 2010, sometimes with disastrous results.

Nearly 30% of Liberia has been handed out in large-scale concessions in the 
past five years, and up to 63% of all arable land in Cambodia has been 
passed over to private companies.

Oxfam dismisses the claim made by the World Bank and others that lots of 
available land is unused and waiting for development. "It is simply a myth. 
Most agricultural land deals target quality farmland, particularly land 
that is irrigated and offers good access to markets.

"It is clear that much of this land was already being used for small-scale 
farming, pastoralism and other types of natural resource use."

A 2010 study by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) – the World Bank's 
official monitoring and evaluation body – stated that about 30% of bank 
projects involved involuntary resettlement. The IEG estimated that at any 
one time, more than 1 million people are affected by involuntary 
resettlement in active World Bank-financed projects.

Oxfam urged the UK government, one of the bank's largest shareholders, to 
use its influence to persuade it to implement the freeze. "It can also play 
a crucial role as president of the G8 next year by putting food and hunger 
at the heart of the agenda, and addressing land grabs as part of this. 
Critically, it can also press the EU to reverse biofuels targets – a key 
driver of land grabs."

Stocking said: "The UK should also show leadership in reversing flawed 
biofuels targets, which are a main driver for land and are diverting food 
into fuel."

In a statement to the Guardian, the International Finance Corporation, the 
World Bank's private lending arm, said: "IFC does not finance land 
acquisitions for speculative purposes. We invest in productive agricultural 
and forestry enterprises that can be land intensive to help provide the 
food and fibre the world needs. IFC has roughly a $4.85bn portfolio of agri-
related investments. Of that, roughly $600m has a land component. Total 
land holding related to those investments total 0.7m hectares.

"Competition for scarce land resources has spurred rising investment in 
land. This competition can fuel conflict with existing users. Inevitably, 
bank group involvement in forestry and agriculture is not without risk, 
particularly given the fact we are operating in imperfect governance 
environments. But the total number of complaints received gives no 
explanation as to their validity."

- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see

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Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
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