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 eight 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, and Asia-Pacific.

The lands offered to investors are frequently in use although occupants lack legal claims to the land and access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote land investment, displacement and impact on livelihoods have become serious sources of concern.

What we are doing about it

The Oakland Institute is committed to increasing transparency about land deals including the terms of the deals, the actors involved, and the impact on people and the environment.

Publications

We Harvest--You Profit: African Land Ltd's Land Deal in Sierra Leone

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,...

World Bank's Bad Business in Mali

In 2013, Mali was classified among the African countries that made the most effort to improve their business climate since 2005 by the World Bank. Undeterred by the 2012-2013 political crisis, the country retained its top ranking out of the eight West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) nations in the Doing Business 2013 report. In 2014, Mali lost this leadership, coming at the 155th place, just behind Burkina Faso. The country, however...

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World Bank's Bad Business in Sri Lanka

Despite unreconciled tensions following the three-decade-long civil war, militarization of the state, human rights violations, and more than 200,000 civilians in displacement camps, the World Bank generously increased Sri Lanka’s ranking in the Doing Business assessment in recent years. During and after the war, the Sri Lankan military seized large tracts of land through forced evictions and by occupying land abandoned by civilians fleeing...

World Bank's Bad Business in Sierra Leone

Since 2004, the World Bank has provided continuous “investment climate advisory services” to Sierra Leone. Business reforms and Bank-piloted programs such as Sierra Leone Business Forum and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency led to the World Bank classifying Sierra Leone among “the top 15 economies that improved their business regulatory environment the most” since 2005 and rank the country third in the regional “Protection...

World Bank's Bad Business in Senegal

Senegal has made numerous reforms in an effort to garner a higher ranking in the Doing Business evaluation. The latest round of reforms, likely to be praised by the World Bank, favor land grabbing in Senegal, a country where large-scale land deals have become increasingly frequent in the recent years. Since the late 1980s, the World Bank has influenced the Senegalese public policy at the expense of households’ livelihoods, and in recent years...

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Blog

Time for Action to Stop Land Grabs in Papua New Guinea

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 Peiley Lau

Two recent events suggest a promising reversal of land grabbing in Papua New Guinea (PNG). In the past 12 years, the amount of customary land in PNG decreased from 97 percent to 86 percent. This is because although customary land cannot be sold under PNG law, legal mechanisms, such as the Special Agricultural Business Lease (SABL) scheme, were developed for foreign investors to access the land. The SABL is a lease-lease back scheme established...

What is World Bank’s Business with Agriculture?

Friday, April 11, 2014 Alice Martin-Prével

In 2012, the G8 called for the World Bank “to develop options for generating a Doing Business in Agriculture index.” With funding from the Gates Foundation, the UK, US, and Dutch and Danish governments, the project emerged in 2013 under the name Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA). The BBA methodology builds on its model indicator, the Doing Business ranking, which was developed by the Bank almost 12 years ago with very damaging...

The World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings: Relinquishing Sovereignty for a Good Grade

Monday, April 7, 2014 Peiley Lau

Launched in 2003, the World Bank’s annual Doing Business (DB) ranking system rates 189 countries on the “ease of doing business” within the country and pressures them to achieve higher rankings in subsequent reports by enacting neoliberal regulatory reforms. Despite its positive veneer, the report encourages governments to eliminate economic, social, and environmental safeguards and promotes competition among countries for higher rankings and,...

Development Fairytales: A Foreign Firm’s Story in Senegal

Thursday, March 6, 2014 Jettie Word

Large companies across the world are invading rural areas in developing countries, allegedly responding to a need for economic development, food security, and poverty alleviation. Such is the narrative of Senhuile, a shadowy company backed by a maze of foreign investors, which is operating in the natural protected area of Ndiaël in northwest Senegal. By establishing an agricultural plantation on land already used by rural communities, this...

Wall Street Wants Our Food System

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 Lukas Ross

Just look at the billions pouring into farmland from some of the deepest pockets in the financial sector. Rising interest from institutional investors such as hedge funds, pensions, and private equity firms is changing farmland from a mostly overlooked asset class into a potential global bubble. And, although media attention often falls on land deals in the developing world that are corrupt or even violent, the truth is that the global land rush...

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