Rome, 11 October 2016. 11 October 2016. Around the world, 26.7 million hectares of agricultural land have been transferred into the hands of foreign investors since the year 2000. This means that these investors possess approximately 2 per cent of the arable land worldwide, or roughly the equivalent to the total area covered by United Kingdom and Slovenia together. This finding comes from a new report entitledLand Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture, to be released today.

The report provides detailed information on who is buying up farmland in which regions of the world and how this land is being used. It also highlights the economic, social, and political impacts of land grabs.

“We are observing not only that more and more agricultural lands have changed hands, but also that they are increasingly being actively cultivated and used – for example, to grow grain, oil palms, and sugar cane,” said GIGA research fellow Dr. Kerstin Nolte, one of the report’s authors. “The impacts for local communities will likely further intensify in the coming years.”

“The report is very relevant considering the recent decision by the International Criminal Court to hold company executives, politicians and other individuals criminally responsible for environmental destruction and land grabbing,” said Wytske Chamberlain, University of Pretoria researcher and co-author of the report.

Hijaba Ykhanbai, director of JASIL, a Mongolian land organisation that partners with the Land Matrix, praised the publication of the new report: “in our region many countries are newly independent states: state policies as well as decision making processes on land use are not clear and not participatory,” he said.

Additional findings from the report:

  • Around the world, 1,004 signed agreements on agricultural land (so-called “land deals”) exist.
  • For approximately 70 per cent of these deals (710), agricultural activities have been initiated.
  • Africa is the continent most impacted by land grabs, with 422 deals covering a total area of 10 million hectares. Other heavily impacted regions are Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
  • The agreements primarily target areas previously used for agriculture. This creates increased competition for land and the potential for conflicts with the local population. Markus Giger, Head of Global Change Impacts on Sustainable Development at the University of Bern said: ”A lack of transparency and the marginalisation of local stakeholders weaken the bargaining position of smallholder farmers and pastoralists, including indigenous peoples”
  • Most of the investors are from Malaysia, the United States, Great Britain, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. Western European investors are involved in 315 land deals covering an area of 7.3 million hectares which makes Western Europe the largest investor region.

The Land Matrix Analytical Report II is available for download here.