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Land freeze – take action on land grabs

Clearing land to make way for a rubber plantation in Cambodia, 2010

Land in numbers

30% of Liberia has been leased out in the past 5 years; Over 50% of Cambodian arable land has been transferred to private companies; Biofuel crops are grown on nearly 60% of land bought in global deals.


The last decade has witnessed an unprecedented rush to acquire land in developing countries - 203 million hectares have been sold or leased in large scale deals in that period.

The lack of transparency and regulation around land deals has left poor communities vulnerable to land grabs. Communities are increasingly losing their homes and the land they rely on for food to eat and make a living.- often violently and without any compensation to help them piece their lives back together.

Oxfam is now so concerned that, as part of its GROW campaign for a future where everyone has enough to eat, it is calling on the World Bank to freeze all of its land investments for six months.

A freeze would allow the World Bank to take steps to protect communities and ensure that its investments are truly beneficial for development, and act as a catalyst for other investors to follow their best practice.

Read Oxfam's new Briefing Our Land, Our Lives: Time out on the global land rush.

Land, food prices and hunger

There is clear evidence linking large-scale agricultural land acquisitions to rising food prices. Spikes in global food prices prompt investors and governments to renew focus on land as an investment opportunity and a means of guaranteeing food supply for their own people. Two thirds of foreign land investments are in countries with serious hunger problems.

Biofuels mandates are also making the problem worse: biofuels production accounts for 68 per cent of land deals, diverting crops from food into fuel limits supply and inevitably drives up food prices.

As demand for land increases, land resources become increasingly scarce and therefore incrementally more valuable. This exacerbates the problems of rising food prices, which is already having a disproportionately high impact on poor people.

Key publications

Our Land, Our Lives: Time out on the global land rush: Our briefing note calling on the World Bank to temporarily freeze its agricultural investments in land so it can review its advice to developing countries, help set standards for investors, and introduce more robust policies to stop land grabs.

The Hunger Grains The fight is on. Time to scrap EU biofuel mandates: If the land used to produce biofuels for the EU in 2008 had been used to produce wheat and maize instead, it could have fed 127 million people for the entire year. EU biofuel mandates are driving the rush for land on which to grow biofuel crops. They need to be scrapped now. 

Private Investment in Agriculture: Why it's essential, and what's needed: Massive investment in agriculture is desperately needed to help fix the broken food system. Private sector investment, if properly regulated, can play a vital role in delivering inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. This paper sets out what's needed. 

Land and Power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land: Oxfam's 2011 research report that revealed the issue of communities losing land to local elites and domestic or foreign investors because they lack the power to claim their rights effectively and to defend and advance their interests.

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