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Oxfam report raises red flag on land grabs in Africa

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Oxfam says the land grab is accelerating and that ‘foreign investors have been buying an area of land the size of London every six days.’ TEA Graphic

Oxfam says the land grab is accelerating and that ‘foreign investors have been buying an area of land the size of London every six days.’ TEA Graphic  Nation Media Group

By PAUL REDFERN Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, October 13  2012 at  18:32

In Summary

  • A huge amount of land has been sold off or leased out globally in the past decade.
  • According to the Oxfam report, Our Land, Our Lives, an area equivalent to the size of Kenya has been sold off in Africa to international investors over the past decade in order to facilitate the growing of bio fuel and other commercial crops.
  • The report also says the land already sold “could feed a billion people, equivalent to the number of people who go to bed hungry each night.”
  • Oxfam says the World Bank itself is partly to blame for the crisis.
  • The World Bank’s investments in agriculture have tripled in the last decade, from $2.5bn in 2002 to $6–8bn in 2012. Oxfam argues that although such an increase is welcome, it also heightens risks which must be addressed.
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As the scale and pace of large-scale land acquisitions increases globally, evidence is mounting that the land rush is out of control and that the price being paid by affected communities is unacceptably high.

A huge amount of land has been sold off or leased out globally in the past decade.

According to the Oxfam report, Our Land, Our Lives which was released earlier this month (October 4), an area equivalent to the size of Kenya has been sold off in Africa to international investors over the past decade in order to facilitate the growing of bio fuel and other commercial crops.

Oxfam says the land grab is accelerating and that “foreign investors have been buying an area of land the size of London every six days.”

The report also says the land already sold “could feed a billion people, equivalent to the number of people who go to bed hungry each night.”

With food prices spiking for the third time in four years, interest in land could accelerate again as rich countries try to secure their food supplies and investors see land as a good long-term bet.

While some land deals are negotiated with local people, Oxfam say that “all too often, forced evictions of poor farmers are a consequence of these rapidly increasing land deals in developing countries.”

Oxfam says the World Bank itself is partly to blame for the crisis. “As the world’s leading standard-setter and a big investor itself, the World Bank should freeze its own land investments and review its policy and practice to prevent land-grabbing.

“In the past the Bank has chosen to freeze lending when poor standards have caused dispossession and suffering. It needs to do so again, in order to play a key role in stopping the global land rush.”

The World Bank’s investments in agriculture have tripled in the last decade, from $2.5bn in 2002 to $6–8bn in 2012. Oxfam argues that although such an increase is welcome, it also heightens risks which must be addressed.

“Investment should be good news for developing countries – not lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship,” says Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking.

“We would argue, based on the evidence, that in too many cases, the application of safeguards for affected communities has not been sufficiently stringent.”

The activists say that since 2008 alone, 21 formal complaints have been brought by communities affected by Bank investments that they say have violated their land rights.

However the World Bank hit back over the Oxfam report, saying that although it “shares the concerns Oxfam raised in their report” regarding the potential risks that can be associated with large-scale land acquisitions, it “disagrees” with Oxfam’s call for a moratorium on World Bank Group investments in land intensive large-scale agricultural enterprises, especially during a time of rapidly rising global food prices.

“A moratorium focused on the Bank Group targets precisely those stakeholders doing the most to improve practices — progressive governments, investors, and us,” a statement said.

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