Grabs for land include water

A paper on the impact of so called ‘land grabbing’ on freshwater resources has recently been published. Authored by researchers at the University of Virginia and the Polytechnic University of Milan, it is the first assessment of the amount of water appropriated within land investment deals.

Land is thought to be in short supply while at the same time demand for food, livestock and biofuels is growing, driven by population growth, changing diets and increasing food and oil prices. In an effort to ensure national food and energy security some countries over the past decade have been buying up land in other countries on which to grow crops and livestock. The World Bank has estimated that around 45 million hectares of land has been purchased since 2008 involving 62 countries doing the ‘grabbing’ in 41 countries across every continent except Antarctica.

Land grabs have hit the headlines and received strong criticism when large-scale land investments have proven to be inequitable and unsustainable. Problems include the reduction in natural resource access for local land users, displacement of local inhabitants without compensation and without the creation of job opportunities or consideration for the environment. Indeed in many places land that was a natural landscape or dominated by smallholder farming is transformed to large-scale commercial farming. In Ethiopia residents are thought to have been moved to new villages lacking adequate food and water resources to make way for the lease of land to foreign investors. Indeed where 100% rights over natural resources such as water are part of the deal both environmental sustainability and the livelihoods of local land users are negatively impacted. This has been seen in Sudan where land deals around the Blue Nile have affected local water users further downstream. [Read more…]