Framework Needed for Land Deals in Developing World

Framework Needed for Land Deals in Developing World

Driven by food security concerns, governments around the world have begun purchasing land in developing nations for agricultural purposes. Foreign land acquisition -- known by critics as "land grab" -- responds to worries over global problems that include growing water scarcity, teeming populations, increasing demand for food and bio-fuels, and climate change impacting arable land and its productivity.

This trend necessitates an international framework or code of conduct that can protect small local farmers as well as the economy and the ecology of the host country from potentially negative impacts. Such a code would seek to resolve the question of food security so that the host country and its people are neither exploited nor marginalized. The World Bank, the U.N. and the African Union are all working on developing codes of conduct and guidelines for foreign land acquisition. But the conditions surrounding this trend and the parties involved make the measures taken so far inadequate.

Although the practice of buying up tracts of arable land in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe is not a new phenomenon, the food crisis of the last few years and growing water scarcity has accelerated the trend. Countries like South Korea, Saudi Arabia, India, and China are now buying or leasing hundreds of thousands of hectares in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and elsewhere to meet food demand back home.

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