Land grabs push thousands further into poverty

By Oxfam
Lokuda Losil (not his real name), 60, father of eight children, claims his land was taken by the NFC. 'It was such a painful time because the eviction was so forceful and violent.'

Thousands of the world’s poorest people are losing their homes and livelihoods as a result of a new wave of land deals.

In one case, at least 22,500 people in Uganda lost their homes and land to make way for a British timber company, the New Forests Company (NFC). Villagers told Oxfam that some evictions resulted in physical violence, and destruction of property, crops and livestock. Many have been left destitute, without enough food or money to send their children to school. They have received no compensation or alternative land. NFC denies that it was responsible for any evictions.

What’s more, NFC is supported by investment from international institutions which claim to uphold high social and environmental standards, including the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. In addition, HSBC, which prides itself as a responsible bank, owns 20 percent of NFC and has one of six seats on the NFC Board.

Modern day land rush

Preliminary research indicates that as many as 227 million hectares have been sold, leased or licensed in large-scale land deals since 2001, mostly by international investors. This modern-day land rush follows a drive to produce food for people overseas, meet damaging biofuels targets or speculate on land to make an easy profit.

However, many of the deals are in fact ‘land grabs’ where the rights and needs of the people living on the land are ignored. Global safeguards exist to protect poor people, but they are being flouted in the scramble for more land. And it’s women—who produce up to 80 per cent of food in some poor countries—who are most vulnerable.

What Oxfam is calling for

Oxfam is calling for remedies to the Ugandan mass eviction and the other large scale land grabs included in the report. Investors, governments and international organizations must also put a stop to land grabbing by fixing the current policies, regulations and business practices, which frequently fail to ensure that local people are consulted and treated fairly during negotiations. They should also ensure that all relevant international standards are respected including the World Bank's International Finance Corporation Performance Standards and the Forest Stewardship Council's standards.

The US government should take a leadership role in curbing this growing phenomenon working closely with like-minded governments at the UN's Committee on Food Security in Rome next month to push forward strong and broadly supported Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure. Finally businesses and policy-makers should start to explore measures that the US government and industry can take to curb the worst abuses by US investors and US listed companies in affected countries, including measures to increase transparency around land deals.

What you can do

Get the latest updates on the Uganda case and find out how you can show your support—join Oxfam's GROW campaign today.

Help shine a spotlight on the worrying practice of land grabs. Read Oxfam's new land grabs report and share it with friends.

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