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26 August 2010

Stop land grabbing now

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Say NO to the principles of “responsible” agro-enterprise investment promoted by the World Bank

State and private investors, from Citadel Capital to Goldman Sachs, are leasing or buying
up tens of millions of hectares of farmlands in Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and
fuel production.

This land grabbing is a serious threat to the food sovereignty of our
peoples and the right to food of our rural communities. In response to this new wave of
land grabbing, the World Bank (WB) is promoting a set of seven principles to guide such
investments and make them successful. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have agreed to join the WB in collectively pushing
these principles.

Their starting point is the fact that the current rush of private sector
interest to buy up farmland is risky. After all, the WB has just finalised a study showing
the magnitude of this trend and its central focus on transferring rights over agricultural
land in developing countries to foreign investors.

The WB seems convinced that all private
capital flows to expand global agribusiness operations where they have not yet taken
hold are good and must be allowed to proceed so that the corporate sector can extract
more wealth from the countryside.

Since these investment deals are hinged on massive
privatisation and transfer of land rights, the WB wants them to meet a few criteria to
reduce the risks of social backlash: respect the rights of existing users of land, water and
other resources (by paying them off ); protect and improve livelihoods at the household
and community level (provide jobs and social services); and do no harm to the
environment. These are the core ideas behind the WB’s seven principles for socially
acceptable land grabbing.


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