The hidden impact of land deals in developing countries to be revealed

05 April 2011
Press release

The vacant land discourse, promoted by some land deals, is fundamentally flawed. Cases of deals made for land that is unclaimed, unused or unoccupied by local people is simply untrue.

Attention: Planning/diary desks and development, international, Africa, economics correspondents.

Advance Notice: International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, 6-8 April at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK

Press Briefing: 13.30 Wednesday 6 April

The hidden impact of land deals in developing countries to be revealed

As reports of vast amounts of rural farmland in developing countries being scooped up by foreign governments and corporations continue to make international headlines, new research revealing the extent of the issue will be released at an international conference next week. The “Global Land Grabbing” conference takes place at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on 6-8 April at the University of Sussex, UK.

A landmark event, the conference will be attended by leading researchers and key policymakers, with over 120 papers documenting land grab cases from across the world being presented. Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will be the keynote speaker.

Ian Scoones, joint convenor of the IDS hosted Future Agricultures Consortium said:

"The rush for global farmland by foreign governments and corporations has become headline news. These deals are often criticised as forms of “neo-colonialism” and, as was the land-grabbing case in Madagascar in 2009, are often accompanied by protests. Despite some of these deals being well-publicised, their impacts remain little understood. Central to the issue of equitable land deals are questions of who wins, who loses and why, and what are the social, political and ecological consequences."

He continued: "Countries rich in oil but poor in land and water, as well as international corporations, banks, financiers and sovereign funds appear to be driving this interest looking to stem domestic uncertainty over food supply and prices. Despite promises of economic prosperity and employment, the impact on people farming their land for generations is uncertain at best."

New research that will be presented at the Conference will reveal issues of real concern. Displacement, unrealised promises of employment, deals without real investment, deforestation for biofuels driven by subsidies and incentives in Europe and the United States to switch to non-fossil fuel sources, are amongst the issues hidden within many reports.

Future Agricultures Consortium researcher, Ruth Hall, from the South African Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) said:

"The vacant land discourse, promoted by some land deals, is fundamentally flawed...cases of deals made for land that is unclaimed, unused or unoccupied by local people is simply untrue."

Ends.

See also - TNI sponsored side event to the FAO summit in Rome, November 2010 - where leading academics discussed "the Global Land Grab" >>

Notes for Editors

1.The conference is being organised by the Land Deals Politics Initiative which is hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium at IDS. See: www.iss.nl/ldpi, www.future-agricultures.org and www.ids.ac.uk

2.Panels include discussants from International Food Policy Research Institute, International Institute of Social Sciences, Cornell, ISSER (Ghana), International Institute for Environment and Development, University of the Western Cape, China Agricultural University, World Bank, UK Department of International Development, Institute of Development Studies, and many more plus plenary discussions that will debate livelihoods, the environment, political economy and governance around land deals. Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food will open the conference with a keynote address. See: http://www.srfood.org/index.php/en/special-rapporteur-/olivier-de-schutter

3.The conference programme, presentations and background resources is available at http://www.future-agricultures.org/land-grab.html

4.The Future Agricultures Consortium is five-year research programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. Since 2005, it has built a dynamic partnership between leading African and UK institutions, developed a strong evidence base for policy influencing around a set of themes and engaged with agricultural policy processes at global, national and local levels. For more information go to: www.future-agricultures.org

5.IDS is a leading global charity for research, teaching and information on international development. Our vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing. We believe that research knowledge can drive the change that must happen in order for this vision to be realised. For more information go to: www.ids.ac.uk

Media registration at the event

1.All media are welcome to attend the event during the first morning only (9am-2pm, including lunch). Please register your attendance by contacting Carol Smithyes: email: c.smithyes@ids.ac.uk, tel: 01273 915638. Details of the venue can be found at http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/about-ids/getting-to-ids

2.If you would like to organise interviews with participants, please indicate this as part of your registration.

3.A press briefing for questions and answers will be organised at 13.30 on Wednesday 6 April, involving a panel chaired by Jun Borras and including (tbc) Ruth Hall, Klaus Deininger, Ibrahima Coulibaly and Olivier de Schutter.

4.Specific questions may be directed to Carol Smithyes, IDS Communications Officer at: c.smithyes@ids.ac.uk