Land Grab

Back on CFN we used to say if you had any spare cash maybe the thing to do was secure a few acres and grow your own. What if you had enough spare cash to buy it all?

Grabbing for mineral and fossil fuel resources has been in full swing for a number of years. In the last two or three years however, the grab for arable lands in underdeveloped countries in order to secure food and biofuels production has become a frenzy on global proportions. From a few recent news articles I’ve snipped a sampling of the current state of agricultural land grabbing. Sources are provided at the bottom of the post.


“Land grabs have been strikingly popular. Preliminary research by the International Land Coalition, a non-governmental organisation, reckons almost 80m hectares have been subject to some sort of negotiation with a foreign investor, more than half in Africa…” (1)

“The rush to acquire land is driven by four factors: food price volatility and unreliable markets; the energy crisis and interest in agro-energy/biofuels; the global financial crisis; and a new market for carbon trading. Proponents of these deals say they are competitive, that they economise on labour, and that they produce food for export at prices low enough for poor consumers. But, as research from Cambodia to Cameroon to Colombia shows, the social and environmental costs of such deals are rarely taken into account.” (2)

“Land grabs, either through economic or physical means, are, as Teo Ballvé from University of California, Berkeley put it, actually the “last step in a long chain of violent events” perpetrated against small farmers and pastoralists. The commodification and privatisation of land and the dispossession of farmers and herders is seldom taken into account in the boardrooms of corporations or in high-level meetings with governments.” (2)

“For instance there were reports in January that, with current rubber plantations in India maturing or getting old, Harrisons Malayalam, India’s largest rubber plantation and top producer of natural rubber is scouting Ethiopia, Cameroon and Ghana for acquiring fresh plantations.” (3)

“The idea of farm land outsourcing is not new, given the fact that many major cash-rich economies have started this long before. Over 20 million hectares of land has already been sold, globally.” (3)

“China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea top the charts on this account. Japan, a big player, has acquired lands in foreign countries thrice the size of its domestic farm fields!” (3)

“Demand for good agricultural land has exploded around the globe. Before 2008, global farmland expanded on average by fewer than 10 million acres annually, but expansion plans in 2009 totaled more than 100 million acres, according to the World Bank. More than 70% of the demand has been in Africa, where Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sudan and other countries have transferred millions of acres to investors.” (4)

A few examples:

Sierra Leone

“In exchange for promises of 2,000 jobs, and reassurances that the bolis (swamps where rice is grown) would not be drained, they approved a deal granting a Swiss company a 50-year lease on 40,000 hectares of land to grow biofuels for Europe. Three years later 50 new jobs exist, irrigation has damaged the bolis and such development as there has been has come “at the social, environmental and economic expense of local communities.”(1)


“Over a tenth of the farmland of South Sudan has been leased this year—even before the country has formally got its independence.” (1)


“GRAIN, an advocacy group, says it has seen proposals that would allow Saudi business groups to take control of 70% of the rice-growing area of Senegal.” (1)


“A survey by the World Bank† showed that in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, only 16 of 46 projects were working as intended (the rest lay fallow or had been rented back to smallholders).” (1)

“Most land deals contribute little or nothing to the public purse. Because markets for land are so ill-developed in Africa and governments so weak, rents are piffling: $2 per hectare per year in Ethiopia…” (1)


“In Mozambique, the World Bank found, one project had promised 2,650 jobs and created a mere 35-40 full-time positions.” (1)


“a South Korean company was offered half the country’s arable land—a proposal that fuelled protests which eventually toppled the government who approved the deal.” (1)


“Liberia-based Golden Veroleum has signed a deal worth $1.6 billion with the government of Liberia for a 500,000 acre estate grab and Golden Agri Resources, Singapore’s second largest palm oil firm, plans to invest in the company.” (3)


“In Africa, a Japanese aid agency works with partners from Brazil and Mozambique to convert part of Guinea’s vast savannah into corn, soybean and cotton production.” (4)


“A leading Malaysian palm-oil producer is looking at plans for a 300,000-hectare (720,000-acre) palm-oil plantation in Cameroon.” (4)


“Bahrain currently produces bananas on 2,400 acres in the Philippines. Kuwait is interested in another 2,400 acres there for rice production. Saudi investors are negotiating for an additional 2,400 acres for aquaculture and are already pumping money into a 12,000-acre project to grow basmati rice, corn, bananas and pineapple.” (4)


“In Mongolia, South Korea has bought more than 800,000 acres to develop “an overseas food base” to procure more food resources.” (4)


“In Romania, nearly 2.4 million acres of farmland are now foreign-owned – about 12% of the country’s base farmland.” (4)


“North of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Japanese company is growing corn and soybeans for shipment back to Japan.” (4)






17 Replies to “Land Grab”

  1. Catton (1980) in his book “Overshoot” used the term “takeover” to describe this process. The other grab term is “drawdown”, which is when you mine past solar energy or mass to promote and support unsustainable living in the present. Takeover can range from displacing or killing off the original inhabitants of some ecozone, say by deforestation, to the Indian Wars that Europeans engaged in from the moment of discovery of North America until the present. Human survivors of takeover in North America are confined to reservations if they choose to live as their native american ancestors, but they are now of course invited to join modern society, with lots of risks to them, if they choose to do that. All human populations just about everywhere represent some result of takeover. Even the Papua New Guinea highland tribes likely displaced Java Man or similar and certainly cleared many native plants and animals from their present tribal habitats.

    Takeover works. What JR is chronicalling here is just the latest version of this tactic, using bribes in some currency (pretty beads or useful metal nails used to suffice) to get the local power elite (chiefs) to sell their countrymen down river and in the end, to lose it all to the foreigners. The foreigners will first use the land to generate their profits and stuffs bound for elsewhere, and when the locals wise up and organize against them (only a matter of time) they will bring in their military to protect their interests, “legally gained”. If in the process of protecting their interests, a lot of the local population is culled or driven off to tough it out elsewhere, so much the better for those doing the takeover.

    The USA does a form of takeover of energy in the ME by protecting the status quo that provides them with oil and natural gas, at present willingly via long-term contracts that funnel the funds to the local power elite. Using a version of the Carter Doctrine and under the cover of the War on Terror, their US military will enforce the continued flow of these energy sources to the US. That is why the current ME unrest is worrisome to the US, as it will have no choice but to increase the level of violent takeover, as it would not want to consider the alternative of living within a lower-energy society without supplies of foreign oil and gas.

  2. Good stuff I would add the billion dollar exporrts on the sales of green beans during the hieght of the late 80s Ethiopia crisis. Poor people in other countries got thier green beans put the poor in Ethiopia got TV shows and death

  3. maybe that’s why i’m so unhappy when we just eat cereal for breakfast instead of bacon & eggs. regret from our worst mistake since using those thumbs.

  4. mass education is an enterprise or business in america. i think the mantra is one can get a job or at least a better job with a college degree. when enough folks wake up to the lack of jobs even for those with college degrees, education through college will decline. right now, it is a haven for young and old alike that would just be unemployed otherwise. we have record enrollments, so far.

  5. we have record enrollments, so far.

    yeah, they’ve been well indoctrinated with the industrial dream. i usually, but not always, try to discourage young people from going to colledge. i still encourage those that have the capacity for abstract analytical thought. they’re few and far between. the others, i try to steer towards farming, the military, or some kind of mechanical trade.

  6. dave, we buy in on half a cow at the beginning of the season – local grown, grass feed, butchered how we want it. Some years are better than others, but even a bad year is better than store bought. Eggs, cheese and some veggies I don’t have good luck with we get local as well. For example, I just don’t have the mojo to prevent/rid my squash of critters without nasty chemicals.

    It’s hot out here in fly-over already (90+) and it is just May. I have a feeling it is going to be a struggle with heat and lack of rain the rest of spring and the whole summer – and that’s the good news.

  7. Taubes is currently drawing the full force of the modern medical comunity and the sugar industry. Clearly he is on the correct path. Its a good read.

    I only went to College to get laid. It work too good married for 21 years now

  8. I consider the most important part of my diet to be my breakfast which I eat around 5:30AM. I make a hot porridge of rolled oats, toasted wheat, quinoa, chia, amaranth, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and any other whole seeds or grains I have handy, coconut oil, sea salt, molasses, cinnamon and spring water that I eat hot and then for the next 3,4 days cold, along with yogurt, coconut milk or fruit juice, and honey. Then I often mess around in my garden for a few hours and come back in for a second breakfast of sausage, eggs, toast and coffee.

  9. I don’t mind cereals that have been mixed with some hops and then fermented. That makes a nice cold, fizzy beverage, so all cereals can’t be that bad.

    Ben Franklin said beer is “solid physical evidence” that God loves you and wants you to be happy. R U listening Obama?

    GB, all breakfasts, all the time, like a homemade Denny’s 24-7 restaurant. That first one you make would be even better with some tasty bacon or sausage on the side. Even SPAM is good sliced thin, well fried in a pan until the nitrates turn to nitrites and the stuff turns red and crispy on the outside. Yumm…

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