Land and Power

The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land

Published: 22 September 2011
Author: 
Bertram Zagema, Senior Lobbyist

The new wave of land deals is not the new investment in agriculture that millions had been waiting for. The poorest people are being hardest hit as competition for land intensifies. Oxfam’s research has revealed that residents regularly lose out to local elites and domestic or foreign investors because they lack the power to claim their rights effectively and to defend and advance their interests.

Companies and governments must take urgent steps to improve land rights outcomes for people living in poverty. Power relations between investors and local communities must also change if investment is to contribute to rather than undermine the food security and livelihoods of local communities.

Key recommendations

  • The rights of the communities affected by these deals must be respected and their grievances addressed, and those who are profiting from the international deals must help to ensure this happens. Those financing and sourcing from land acquisition projects, and companies further down the value chain, must use their influence to ensure that this happens.
  • The balance of power must be shifted in favor of local rights-holders and communities. Governments should adopt strong, internationally-applicable standards on good governance relating to land tenure and management of natural resources.
  • Host governments should respect and protect all existing land use rights, and ensure that the principle of free, prior, and informed consent is followed and that women have equal rights to access and control over land.
  • Investors should respect all existing land use rights. They should make sure that the principle of free, prior, and informed consent is followed in all agreements, as well as seeking alternatives to the transfer of land rights from small-scale food producers.
  • Financiers and buyers should accept full supply-chain responsibility. They should require all agricultural operations that they finance or use as suppliers to follow the principles set out above, and remedy existing problems.
  • Home country governments should require companies investing overseas to fully disclose their activities, and ensure that standards and safeguards are implemented to protect small-scale food producers and local populations, including through development finance organizations.
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