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 80 million hectares of land deals have been identified since 2001 – an area 20 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.
Land is going for as little as 2.5 cents per hectare in South Sudan.
It's time to grow out of land grabs.
The way to grow
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.
What you can do to help
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
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Land grabs update
Progress in mediation between Mubende community in Uganda and British timber company
In September 2011, many of you joined our campaign calling for justice for villagers in the Mubende community in south west Uganda after a land deal by British timber company The New Forests Company (NFC) resulted in their eviction.
After a year of negotiations, a milestone has been reached between the Mubende community and NFC. A framework agreement has been signed by both parties which sets out the commitments they have so far agreed in the mediation process facilitated by the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), which handles complaints from communities affected by investments made by the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. Further discussions will take place before a final agreement is signed.
Read more about the progress reached in the mediation in the CAO Progress Report.