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.
Secure land tenure is not just crucial to have a place to call home — it is also the basis of the livelihood for billions of people, especially Indigenous communities, farmers, herders, and fisherfolk. For the majority in this world, land is the common good, which communities share, preserve, and manage collectively.
However, following the 2007-2008 high food price crisis and financial crisis. looking for the next commodity to invest in, “investors” including multinational corporations, private equity firms, and pension funds, swarmed in to take over lands around the world. Their goal has been to convert smallholder farms, grasslands, and forests into monoculture plantations, cattle ranches, and mines.
Faced with this threat, local communities and Indigenous groups have been on the frontline in the struggle against land grabbing and destructive practices. Their claim over land and their resistance to its takeover is viewed as an obstacle to investment and business. This is why many governments around the world are encouraged to adopt the Western capitalist notion of private land ownership. Adopting this notion would make land a commodity and lead to the creation of land markets so that land can be leased or sold and put into so-called “productive use” to “unlock its value.” The World Bank is a key actor in the push to privatize and commodify land. In 2017, its Enabling the Business of Agriculture report prescribed policy measures to governments in order to “enhance the productivity of land use” and encourage agribusiness expansion. These included formalizing private property rights, easing the sale and lease of land for commercial use, and systematizing the sale of public land by auction.
However, the lack of evidence of development outcomes associated with the introduction of private title systems makes it clear that the privatization of land has nothing to do with fighting poverty or improving livelihoods. The “creation” of land markets has actually been repeatedly found to solidify existing inequalities in access to land. Within a market system where land is nothing more than a commodity, corporations and wealthy individuals can price farmers and herders, who rely on land for their livelihoods, out of the markets.
Whether it is through large-scale extractive or agricultural projects, urban expansion, or privatization schemes that transform land into a marketable commodity, the threats to land rights are multiple and severe, driving the displacement of local communities and the destruction of their livelihoods.
The Oakland Institute is a leading voice on land rights issues, working on the front line of the struggle to defend land rights, uncovering the drivers, the actors, and the impacts of land grabbing around the world.
Through research, policy analysis, and advocacy campaigns, we work directly with communities to defend their land rights when threatened by governments, private corporations, and international development institutions.
On the policy level, the Institute produces research and evidence that promote tenure systems, which ensure the land rights of communities, Indigenous Peoples, farmers, and pastoralists.
Land Unchained?Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Shifting land registries onto blockchain is a part of the broader move to "unlock the economic potential of land" in order to put more land and natural resources into exploitation by private interests.
Who pays the price of King Leopold’s Bugatti?Friday, September 4, 2020
On September 5, 2020, a private collection of some of the world’s fanciest cars, belonging to Hubert Fabri, a Belgian millionaire, will be auctioned at a sale at the Hampton Court Palace in London.
New Laws Threaten Family Farmers and Ethnic Communities in MyanmarTuesday, August 25, 2020
The VFV Law, the Farmland Act, and the LAAR Law are designed to encourage the legal takeover of lands that millions of farmers and Indigenous people rely on for their livelihoods. The three laws are a potent combination which ensure that the practice of land grabbing – widespread in Myanmar under its previous military dictatorship – can continue, now concealed by false promises of 'economic development.'
Land Privatization: Why Sri Lanka Must Reject the MCC CompactMonday, August 17, 2020
A recent report by the Oakland Institute examines the MCC compact with Sri Lanka and raises alarm over the irreversible consequences of embarking on land privatization – when most of the land is public in the country.
Emperor Has No New ClothesThursday, January 30, 2020
The EBA program was not created to help farmers. The Bank's claims to support farmers via the EBA is inherently contradictory to the own raison d'être of the program. The best way for the World Bank to assist farmers would be to disband the EBA program altogether.