Land Rights

The purchase and lease of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors has led to debate about whether land investment is a tool for development or force of displacement.

The Facts: 

Over the last four years, there has been a significant increase in land-based investment, both in terms of the number of investment projects and the total land area allocated. Industrialized nations and private foreign investors have driven demand for arable land in developing regions, particularly in Africa, but also in South America, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. Governments are interested in the lands for purposes of food security and biofuel production. Both governments and private investors are attracted by policy reforms that have improved the investment climate in developing countries, as well as arbitrage opportunities afforded by the extremely low cost of leasing land in these regions.

While only fractions of arable land in developing regions are being used for agriculture, demand for strategic swats next to irrigation and shipping sites is growing with greater investment. These areas and other lands are frequently in use even though occupants’ have no legal rights to the land or access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote investment in national lands, displacement and affected livelihoods are becoming serious sources of international concern.

What we are doing about it: 

Media coverage of land acquisitions has been sparse and lacking in investigative detail. The Oakland Institute is committed to increasing transparency about land deals including the terms of negotiation, theoretical consequences of investment, real impact on the ground, and ultimate impact on development in several African countries.

From rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the current obsession for agricultural land borders on speculative mania as private companies, hedge funds, private equity funds, and sovereign wealth funds join the land rush looking for lucrative deals in the developing world. An estimated 500 million acres, an area about ten times the size of Britain, has been bought or leased in the developing world in the last decade. The social, economic, and environmental impacts of this trend have been extensively researched and made public by the Oakland Institute. This brief offers insight into a new class of companies, such as African Land Limited, that use the idea of helping African communities, together with deception around yields and profits, to dupe investors—including retired individuals who’ve handed over their life savings—to make more while doing good. With the tagline “We Harvest—You Profit,” the UK-based African Land Limited offers an opportunity for land investment in poor countries that sounds too good to pass up. Unhappy investors, legal troubles, and a history of controversial directors reveal another story.
Créée en 1944 dans le but d’agir pour réduire la pauvreté, la Banque Mondiale, dont le siège se trouve à Washington, est une institution qui fournit de l’assistance financière et technique ainsi que des services de conseil pour le développement dans les pays pauvres et en transition. Malgré ces objectifs louables, les activités de la Banque Mondiale ainsi que son influence excessive sur la gouvernance des pays en développement ont soulevé de fortes critiques au cours des années. D’innombrables manifestations ont dénoncé l’agenda néolibéral de la Banque lorsqu’elle imposait des politiques de conditionnalité injustes, des mesures d’austérité niant le droit des personnes à la santé et à l’éducation, soutenait des projets aux conséquences environnementales destructrices ou fournissait un allègement fictif de la dette des pays. Les Programmes d’Ajustements Structurels (PAS) mis en oeuvre dans les années 1980 ont appauvrit des millions de personnes dans les pays en développement du fait de l’imposition du retrait de l’Etat et de la libéralisation radicale des économies comme conditions nécessaires pour recevoir les prêts de la Banque et du Fond Monétaire International. Les PAS ont été critiqués de toutes parts par la société civile jusqu’à leur abandon officiel en 2002.
Establecido en 1944 con el objetivo de reducir la pobreza, el Banco Mundial, con sede en Washington DC, es una institución financiera internacional que proporciona ayuda financiera y técnica, además de servicios de asesoramiento para mejorar el desarrollo en los países pobres y en transición. A pesar de sus metas loables, las actividades del Banco Mundial y su influencia excesiva sobre las decisiones políticas en los países en desarrollo han sido foco de controversia durante muchos años. Innumerables manifestaciones denunciaron los objetivos neoliberales del Banco, incluyendo cuando impuso políticas de condicionalidad injustas, medidas de austeridad que niegan el derecho a la educación o a la asistencia médica, cuando apoyó proyectos destructores con respecto al medioambiente, y falsos alivios de deuda. Los programas de ajuste estructural iniciados por el Banco durante la década de 1980 resultaron en el empobrecimiento de millones de personas en los países en desarrollo, ya que forzaron el fin de la intervención del estado y requirieron la extensa liberalización de las economías como condiciones para recibir los préstamos del Banco Mundial y del Fondo Monetario International. Los programas de ajuste estructural fueron muy criticados por la sociedad civil hasta su abandono oficial en 2002.


June 30, 2014
For Immediate Release June 30, 2014 Contacts: Frédéric Mousseau, The Oakland Institute, +1 (510) 512 54 58, fmousseau@oaklandinstitute.orgMaureen Penjueli, Pacific Network on Globalisation + (679) 3316722, Rosa Koian, Bismarck Ramu Group, + (675) 4233011,   
June 25, 2014
Arrested, assaulted, and then charged with libel: this is just some of what land and environmental activist Nasako Besingi has faced while helping communities from the southwest region of Cameroon stop US company Herakles Farms from grabbing their lands for the development of a 20,000 hectare palm oil plantation.
Quick Facts: 

56 million – total hectares of land (nearly the size of France) acquired in the developing world by international governments and investors since 2008.

70% of the population – in sub-Saharan Africa lives on their traditional lands that, because of colonial heritage, are classified as state lands in independent Africa. This is why governments believe that they can give away their land without consultation or legal redress.

$1 per hectare per year – the cost to private investors and foreign governments of leasing land in Ethiopia in 2008.