Land grabs Q&A

Tick Tock: Every thirty seconds an area of land the size of London’s Olympic Stadium is grabbed by rich investors in poor countries. That’s like the sporting heart of London being snapped up every few ticks. On your marks...
56 million hectares is about the size of Spain. It’s also the same amount of African farmland bought up in big land deals. That’s a lot of land which could be used to grow food – in a continent where 17 million children die from hunger each year.
60% of land deals over the past decade have been used to grow crops that can be made into biofuels. That means that agricultural land is feeding the one billion cars that populate our planet, while one billion people go to bed hungry every night.
Two thirds of foreign land deals in poor countries happen in places with serious hunger problems. This land is being used to feed some unhealthy trends, like helping to produce yet more food for export while people go hungry. It’s a super-sized problem.

Oxfam research shows that big land deals in poor countries are leaving people homeless and hungry. Families are being unfairly evicted from their land and left with no way to grow food or earn a living. Land grabs are big business for rich investors – with a big cost for poor people.

1. What is a land grab?

Land acquisitions become land grabs when they violate human rights, fail to consult affected people, don’t get proper consent and happen in secret. Land grabbers overlook the possible social and environmental impacts of the land deal.

2. What’s the problem with big land deals – isn’t investment a good thing?

Responsible investment is an important part of fighting poverty. But big land deals are happening so quickly and on such a large scale that poor people are more vulnerable to the injustice of land grabbing than ever before.

3. So what does this mean for people living on the land?

Where land grabs occur, communities lose the land they rely on to grow food and feed their families. Their homes, jobs and livelihoods are taken from them – sometimes violently – and there is nothing they can do about it.

4. Why is there such a high demand for land?

High food prices and a demand for new fuels have both played a part, making land a more profitable investment. Combined with an increasing demand for food, this makes land seem like a pretty safe bet for savvy investors.

5. Who’s involved?

From Guatemala and Indonesia to Liberia and Sudan, land is being looted by investors of all shapes and sizes. Governments, food exporters, tourism providers, Wall Street speculators – the list goes on.

6. But if investors use the land to grow food, won’t it work out ok in the end?

Investment in developing countries is desperately needed. But not investment that deprives poor people of their access to land and natural resources. Most investors intend to export the food they grow back to rich countries. Others will use it to meet huge biofuel targets for the developed world. They’re making the hunger problem much worse.

7. Is there a solution?

Yes. It's not necessarily a problem when wealthy companies invest in agricultural land in poor countries for commercial use. But when families are kicked off the land or less food is grown as a result, that's a very big problem indeed. Read about the many ways that people like you are taking action -- and making a difference! -- to help stop land grabs.

Take action

Go Behind the Brands and ask Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Associated British Foods to help stop land grabs