ISGP Podcast: The Land Before Food

Large-scale land acquisition, or procurement of rural land by public and private investors, has become common in places like Africa, often to the detriment of local communities.

Securing land for growing food sounds like a pretty good idea, considering a lot of the prevailing research leads scientists to believe that we need to double our food production by 2050 to feed our growing human population. However, there are some significant concerns over these new large-scale land acquisitions. About two-thirds of the recent large-scale land acquisitions are located in Africa and the tendency of these deals is to mainly benefit the often-foreign investors, as opposed to local communities. They can displace small farmers, threaten local ecological integrity, and even reduce local food production. Countries such as China, India, and Qatar are acquiring land for future production of food (often for their own populations) and private companies are acquiring land for commodity crops such as soy and palm oil.

Currently, very little actual governmental oversight exists that’s dedicated to monitoring land acquisitions and ensuring that the agreements are transparent.

These issues were discussed as part on the ISGP’s Food Safety, Security, and Defense conference series, and this particular program was focused on Food and the Environment. The conference took place in October of 2014 at Cornell University. The policy position paper that was at the heart of the conference debates on this topic was written by Dr. Wendy Wolford, the Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Development Sociology and the Faculty Director of Economic Development in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell, and was titled “Competing for Land: Future Trajectories for Rural Development.”

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