COSTS AND IMPACT IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH
‘Land Grabbing’ is a term used to describe a modern economic phenomenon that gives life to massive investments and foreign capital flows in the south of the world. Mainly spread in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it consists of large companies acquiring massive portions of land to develop monocultures.
As a report by Nikita Sud attests:
“in the past decade, almost 50m hectares of land have been leased or bought from individuals, communities and governments in the global south for the large-scale production of biofuels, food, forest resources, industrial goods, infrastructure, tourism and livestock. A complex network of multinational companies, financial institutions and governments in the north are the key beneficiaries”
We are not speaking so much about new forms of land agreements, but about a new and growing form of neo-colonialism.
The land grabbing has the effect of making significant human rights and environmental impacts. Of course the investors always promote this practice as a good opportunity for the receiving countries to generate new employment and economic growth, but the reality shows that land grabbing is causing the displacement of poor and vulnerable populations and damaging the environment, which in turn exacerbates poverty and food insecurity. Very often the promises of a better future are replaced by entire communities being sent away from their land, left without resources of food and shelter.
That this is hypocritically presented as a win-win solution is a clear example of western interest and supremacy for economic purposes. In the general silence, land grabbing is destroying the lives of thousands of people.
But why is there this general silence? How is it possible for the global north to follow this global land rush without any interference?
There are different factors that allow these easy acquisitions.
First of all is the different concept of land property in the land grabbed countries. Quite a few states, mainly in Africa and Latin America, based their property system on customary tenure. They don’t have specific laws or declaration about who owns which land and how. The result is that it is so very easy, from a legal point of view, to bypass the reality and to arbitrarily decide which land is free, underused or, in general, can be taken and used in a productive way. Yes, they say “productive”, but for how long? An extra problem regards the destructive impact on the environment. It’s certain that these monocultures generate negative environmental impacts in terms of soil degradation, water use, pesticides…
In general, the absence of formal land ownership laws, the lack of democratic institutions, the political and social instability and the absence of bureaucracy transparency that often characterize the hosting countries make it very easy for the foreign investors to take advantage of the land agreements and keep on with unfair negotiations.
This global farmland grab is a dangerous threat to the sovereignty of developing countries and the survival of local communities that have lived there for centuries.
The devastating impact of this practice on nature and on the human rights of the local farmers and communities are in the public eye and the watching public are now demanding an international statement.
By Gretta, from Italy