From land grab to win-win. Seizing the opportunities of international investments in agriculture.

From land grab to win-win. Seizing the opportunities of international investments in agriculture.

Land grab or land investment: lessons from Africa

Foreign acquisitions of farm land in developing countries have become the focus of concern. Many observers consider them a new form of colonialism that threatens food security of the poor. However, investments could be good news if the objectives of land purchasers are reconciled with the investment needs of developing countries.

The paper finds that land for agriculture in developing countries has become a target of international investments because of the following:

  • international investments into agriculture have increased, but land under foreign control remains a small portion in developing countries
  • though investments are mostly private, governments are heavily involved, especially in recipient countries
  • the focus of investments has shifted from cash crops to the production of basic foods.

The paper concludes that the risks attached to international investments have led to calls for a binding code of conduct. While its enforcement is likely to be problematic, it might nevertheless offer a framework to which national regulations could refer, especially if parties realise that compliance with common standards is in their mutual self interest. More importantly the paper concludes that:

  • international investments in agriculture, other than land acquisition, should be evaluated and promoted. To this end, the extent, nature and impact of international investments going to developing countries needs to be better understood and monitored
  • best practices should be catalogued in law and policy to better inform both host and investing countries
  • apart from improving the conditions of land deals, investment partners should also consider looser contractual arrangements. In fact, the purchase and direct use of land resources is only one strategic response to the food security concerns of countries with limited land and water.
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