The recent growth of “land grabs” is leading to disastrous consequences for poor communities. Find out what you can do to help get land grabs under control.

Land grabs

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. Recent data indicates that at least 33 million hectares of land deals have been identified since 2001 – an area 8 times the size of the Netherlands.

And since the food price spikes of 2008, that's been happening more and more.

Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, grow crops for biofuels, or simply buy-up land for profit.

But in many cases, land sold as “unused” or “undeveloped” is actually being used by poor families to grow food. These families are often forcibly kicked off the land. Promises of compensation are broken. Often people are violently evicted by hired thugs.

Why it matters

There are many land disputes involving indigenous communities across Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil. Here's the human side of this bitter conflict.

“It’s like they have killed us already” – a story of land grabs in the Philippines.

Cambodia: Losing Ground – Acclaimed photographer Emma Hardy and writer Nicholas Shakespeare created an exhibition to show the effects of land grabs in Cambodia.

How you’ve helped so far

  • Thanks to your campaigning, at their Spring Meetings 2013, the World Bank finally acknowledged it has a part to play in tackling land grabs.

  • In 2011, 769 families were forced out of their homes in Polochic Valley. Their crops and homes were burned, and three people died. Thanks to the signatures of  over 100,000 people, the Guatemala Government has returned land to 140 of these families.

What more can I do to help?

Getting to grips with land grabs is possible. But for it to happen, effective global action is necessary.

Governments need to provide secure access to land for smallholder farmers, and especially for women – who often do most of the work on the land, but face the biggest battle to call it their own.

Biofuels strategies need to be given serious thought, because any plan that takes crops off people's plates and puts them into people's car tanks obviously isn't working.

And investments need to be made with marginalized communities – as opposed to only profit margins – in mind.

For our world to grow together, we need to get land grabs under control.

Act: Join the GROW Campaign, to help fix the food system and GROW justice.

Read: Oxfam’s research on land grabs: Land and Power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land

Learn: What's the problem with biofuels?

Share: Check out a wide variety of infographics and photos to share on social media

Blog: Our blogs about land grabs

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Uganda land case update, 8 July 2013

In September 2011, Oxfam profiled a land deal in Uganda in which villagers were being evicted to make way for timber plantations. Read an update about the case.