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.
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One Degree Removed
Tanzania's Withdrawal from the African Court on Human and People's RightsMonday, December 9, 2019
A Wrong Move for the Country and for the Continent Maasai villagers, their faces are hidden for their protection. Credit: Oakland Institute When domestic mechanisms fail and there is no rule of law, independent regional and international mechanisms are essential to ensure accountability and human rights for all. This December 10th, recognized internationally as Human Rights Day, it is necessary to challenge Tanzanian President John Magufuli...
Dalit and Adivasi Women at the Forefront of the Forest Rights Movement in IndiaMonday, September 9, 2019
The Supreme Court of India is set to rule on a case, Wildlife Trust Vs the Union of India, which could result in the eviction of 1.9 million forest dwellers from the country's Indigenous and traditionally marginalized communities.
Legalizing Dispossession: A Tale of Two Indian Land GrabsThursday, August 15, 2019
India's 73rd Independence Day merits introspection on the deep crisis faced by the world's largest democracy. Two recent attempts at perpetuating unprecedented land grabs, mark the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government's proclivity for legalizing dispossession and marginalization of the most vulnerable.
Who is Afraid of the Forest Rights Act?Monday, August 5, 2019
International civil society must continue to demand that the government of India not only defend the FRA, a progressive legislation that protects traditional forest dwelling communities, but also ensure its careful and widespread implementation.
A Response to Klaus Deininger’s Blog Post The World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference: 20 years onFriday, March 22, 2019
Dear Mr. Deininger, Your recent blog post surprisingly contradicts the prescriptions and policy guidance that your organization, the World Bank, gives to governments around the world, particularly in Africa. You stress the need “to base interventions on land, on solid empirical evidence rather than ideology.” Yet, when it comes to land and agriculture, the World Bank clearly follows an ideological blueprint, which focuses on...