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Date: 08 Jul 2014

Land grabbing: a preliminary quantification of economic impacts on rural livelihoods


Global demands on agricultural land are increasing due to population growth, dietary changes and the use of biofuels. Their effect on food security is to reduce humans’ ability to cope with the uncertainties of global climate change. In light of the 2008 food crisis, to secure reliable future access to sufficient agricultural land, many nations and corporations have begun purchasing large tracts of land in the global South, a phenomenon deemed “land grabbing” by popular media. Because land investors frequently export crops without providing adequate employment, this represents an effective income loss for local communities. We study 28 countries targeted by large-scale land acquisitions [comprising 87 % of reported cases and 27 million hectares (ha)] and estimate the effects of such investments on local communities’ incomes. We find that this phenomenon can potentially affect the incomes of ~12 million people globally with implications for food security, poverty levels and urbanization. While it is important to note that our study incorporates a number of assumptions and limitations, it provides a much needed initial quantification of the economic impacts of large-scale land acquisitions on rural livelihoods.