In parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, particularly Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru, peasants and indigenous farmers are losing tens of millions of hectares of their fertile farmland to foreign states and private sector investors. These invaders, representing large banks and agribusiness corporations are grabbing the land from their rightful owners and using it to produce food and fuel, primarily for export, not with a concern for reducing worldwide poverty, but moreso to gain profit.
The land grabbing phenomena, which is the purchase or lease of huge tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier countries in need of food security, is very detrimental to the small farm communities. Their livelihoods are destroyed, their self determination is undermined and they lose food sovereignty as well as national sovereignty. The environmental damage, the exploitation of natural resources and depletion of soil nutrients due to intensive, monoculture type of industrial agriculture are the grim effects of this land grabbing policy. Hunger, poverty and displacement are increasing as the percentage of farmers losing their lands rises and communities lose their self sustainability. According to Friends of the Earth Uruguay Director Karin Nansen, “Industrial production of soy, meat and agro fuels in South America means land grabbing is already taking place. Local communities are violently evicted from their land, while agribusinesses report record profits by taking control of local resources. More grabbing of farmland will intensify this violence against people’s sovereignty and also condemn us to ever rising deforestation and climate emissions.”
The current farmland grab, stimulated by the food and financial crises, is being fueled by factors such as trade and investment agreements and deregulation policies. In support of the land grabbing wave, the World Bank (WB) recently formulated seven principals that are to serve as guidelines for success of the global land acquisitions, as well as minimizing the risk of social backlash. They emphasize such concerns as respecting the rights of existing owners of land, water and other resources; protect and improve livelihoods and do no harm to the environment.
However, many persons and organizations averse to land grabbing are not impressed with the stance of the WB, and believe the principals to be a facade and a deceptive move to actually legitimize land grabbing.
Campaigns raised in opposition to this practice recommend keeping the land in the hands of the local folks, instate agrarian reform and the support of peasant farming.