Combating Land Grabbing

It seems to be the case that almost all major international actors agree – land grabbing is something inherently bad. Despite this consensus, however, there is seemingly a lack of constructive proposals. How should land grabbing be tackled? Who is responsible for taking action? And what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future?

What will it take to solve land grabbing? Photo: Peretz Partensky, Flickr


Let’s start with the obvious. Land grabbing is a complex issue and often involves many different stakeholders, from the local farmers to multinational corporations. From an economic point of view some argue that foreign investments on grabbed land (which is often the case) can help developing countries prosper – in other words that land grabbing can be a good thing in the long run. However, this is often debunked by the socioeconomic consequences of having one’s land grabbed (as you’ve read in previous texts) and thus the need for actions is apparent.

Very few organisations have released action-plans with proposed steps for preventing land grabbing. However, ActionAid – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in the UK during the 1970s – proposed four steps in a report from 2015:

  1. A full implementation of the Tenure Guidelines by national governments (an international agreement made in 2012 through the United Nations about responsible land governance, especially with concerns to small-scale farmers, indigenous people and women).
  2. Ensure a free, informed and foregoing consent for all affected by land transfers, especially excluded and marginalised groups such as women, children and minorities.
  3. Review public policies that ease and/or encourage land grabbing and instead support policies that priorities the needs of small-scale farmers.
  4. Regulate businesses involvement in land deals so that they are fully accountable for respecting human rights, tenure rights and international environmental and labour standards.

In addition to these, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) further highlights the importance of transparency in negotiations, informing and involving the land-holders, and ‘sharing of benefits’, the idea that the local community should benefit, not loose, from foreign investments.

In sum, then, it is apparent that combating land grabbing rely heavily on state-led actions. Regulating businesses, reviewing public policies and ensuring consent between the involved are clearly important. However, neither ActionAid or IFPRI address the issue of corruption, local officials personally gaining from land transfers, nor the question of  state power and authority. Should developing countries, where the state might not be powerful enough in terms of resources and knowledge to enforce regulations and policies, just hope for transparency and the ‘sharing of benefits’ from large corporations?

Nonetheless, the European Union financially supports few projects – such as the African Land Policy Initiative – and has included Human Rights clauses with relation to land management in a few of its trade agreements. Despite this, there seem to be a lack of constructive ideas and practical policy implementation – taking into account conditions in developing countries – that would actually counter land grabbing. Thus, the combat continues.

Sources: ActionAid, the European Parliament & the International Food Policy Research Institute.

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Categories: Land Grabbing

About Fredrik Björksten

Fredrik is currently studying for a Bachelor's in Development Studies at Lund University. He is 22 years old, originally from Gothenburg, Sweden and has world politics, especially including the United States senate and the French presidential office, as his main interests. Fredrik will study in Bordeaux, France during 2018.

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