By Jude Njoku
Oxfam, an international development agency working in more than 90 countries worldwide, has stepped up its campaign to end land grabs that violate the rights of the world’s poorest people.
The Agency has therefore tasked 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 Bank’s investments in agriculture have increased by 200 per cent in the last 10 years, while its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, sets standards followed by many investors.
Oxafam noted that land eight times the size of the UK was sold off globally in the last decade, enough to grow food for a billion people. This is the equivalent to the number of people who go hungry in the world today.
In its new report, Our Land, Our Lives, Oxfam warns that more than 60 per cent of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems. However, two thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on the land. Nearly 60 percent of global land deals in the past decade have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels.
A statement by the development agency stated that “Oxfam supports greater investment in agriculture and to small-scale farmers. However the unprecedented rush for land has not been adequately regulated or policed to prevent land grabs. This means that poor people continue to be evicted, often violently, without consultation or compensation. Many lose their homes and are left destitute, without access to the land they rely on for food to eat and make a living.
Already an area of land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors every six days in poor countries. In Liberia, 30 per cent of the country has been swallowed up by land deals in just five years. Oxfam calculates that land deals tripled during the food price crisis in 2008 and 2009 because land was increasingly viewed as a profitable investment. With global food prices again hovering at record levels urgent action is needed to stop the threat of another wave of land grabs.”
Oxfam’s Executive Director, Jeremy Hobbs said: “The world is facing an unbridled land rush that is exposing poor people to hunger, violence and the threat of a life-time in poverty. The World Bank is in a unique position to stop this from becoming one of the great scandals of the 21st century”.