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CAN THE LAND GRABBING INCREASE MALNOURISHMENT AND POVERTY IN AFRICA AND ASIA?

A new research has found that the land grabbed in some of the world’s hungriest countries by foreign governments and corporations could feed up to 550 million people.

According to the research, the crops grown on grabbed land are usually exported, or used to produce biofuel. Experts argue that these crops could represent a solution to end malnourishment in those countries if used to feed local people.

Data show that since 2000, 31m hectares of land has been acquired by overseas investors seeking to secure food supplies or increase production, a process known as land grabbing. Areas such as Africa, particularly Sudan, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been most affected by this phenomenon. On one side, proponents suggest that the foreign investment can increase yields providing development and employment. On the other hand, critics say that the grabs often happen without the consent of those on the land.

Experts of the research team have stressed the importance to take into account the magnitude of the phenomenon. Even accounting for the crops used for biofuels, the grabbed land could support 300- 550 million people if yields were raised to the levels of industrialized western farming, the study calculates.

Related to that, the research suggests that if this food were used to feed the local populations it would be sufficient to strongly stop malnourishment in each countries, even without investments aiming increase yields. Moreover, the study suggests that policymakers need to undertake measures to implement these results.

In line with that, the head of policy for food and climate change at Oxfam has indicated that investments in small-scale farming and more sustainable agricultural practices could play a crucial role in reducing hunger for the poorest people.

Additionally, the study has stressed that many large-scale land grabs are occurring in areas facing hunger problems and in great need of food aid. For example, in Cambodia land grabs are causing the conversion of rice fields to sugar cane plantations and the relocation of peasants to less fertile land.

In this context, establishing adequate policies to prevent investors from exporting the crops produced in the acquired land represent one of the most challenging issue to overcome.

The gLAWcal Team

Friday, 27 June 2014

(Source: The Guardian)