According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), wealthy countries have come up with a novel solution to the problem of increasingly scarce land resources for the production of food and fuel. In order to feed and otherwise support their rapidly growing populations, they’re buying land to farm in places such as Africa and South America, then exporting the goods back to their own citizens.
Agribusiness organizations and financial giants have seized the opportunity as well. A clickable map of land acquisitions from IFPRI shows large purchases in Ethiopia by Flora EcoPower, a German biofuels company, and Sun Biofuels of the United Kingdom. Agricultural organizations from Saudi Arabia and Jordan have purchased thousands of hectares in the Sudan for the production of food crops and livestock. Even financial services giant Morgan Stanley has purchased a large tract of land in the Ukraine for a yet-unspecified purpose.
So what does this mean? The ratio of proponents to opponents appears to be close to even, mirroring the equal opportunity for positive and negative outcomes. With the proper oversight, complete with human rights and environmental controls in place, this could be a great benefit to the “host” country, supplying badly needed income and infrastructure. Without such controls, the possibility of exploitation is high.
Follow the intriguing debate in this blog series from the Worldwatch Institute: Innovations in Access to Land: Land Grab or Agricultural Investment?, Is There a “Win-Win” Solution to Land Acquisitions?, Large Scale Land Grabs Do Not Benefit Local Communities and Leaked World Bank Report Highlights Extent of Land Crab Problem. Let us know what you think about the issue in the comments below.