The World Bank used a more polite title in their report: RISING GLOBAL INTEREST IN AGRICULTURAL LAND’
CHS-SACHETAN director, Subhash Sule of Nashik, Maharashtra, draws our attention to a review of an academic paper, which associates this ‘phenomenon’ with the appropriation of freshwater resources and increasing pressure on the global land and freshwater resources.
Global land and water grabbing’, written and researched by Maria Cristina Rulli, Antonio Saviori and Paolo D’Odorico at Arizona State University, was published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. (An abstract can be seen here but to download the paper a subscription is required.)
They note that the number of countries and corporations acquiring relatively inexpensive and productive agricultural land located in foreign countries dramatically increased between 2005 and 2009 and have gathered land-grabbing data from many sources, “using a hydrological model to determine the associated rates of freshwater grabbing”.
Their findings: land and water grabbing are occurring at alarming rates in all continents except Antarctica. The per capita volume of grabbed water often exceeds the water requirements for a balanced diet and would be sufficient to improve food security and abate malnourishment in the grabbed countries.
Cecilia Rosen, writing for the Science and Development Network on 11th January, adds that though the majority of land grabbing takes place in Africa and Asia, the paper says that the amount taken is often a significant portion of a country’s total area, for example nearly 20% in Uruguay, around 17% in the Philippines and almost 7% in Sierra Leone. (Click on map to enlarge)
The process is described in the study as a “new form of colonialism that has intensiﬁed in the last four years, initially in response to the 2007 to 2008 increase in food prices” and is expected to rise as demand for resources increases. Many deals are done after only limited consultation of local people, without adequate compensation for previous land users and without seeking opportunities to create jobs or enhance environmental sustainability.
“Most land deals target the best and most promising land areas, where there is water and other infrastructure available, in close proximity to markets and transport routes,” says Kenneth Hermele, an expert on human ecology at Lund University in Sweden.
The top water-grabbing nations by volume are China, Egypt, India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the prime targets are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and the Philippines.