Land squeeze: Soaring land prices, grabs and carbon schemes threaten food production, experts warn
IPES | 12 May 2024

Land squeeze: Soaring land prices, grabs and carbon schemes threaten food production, experts warn

New study exposes how land grabs in various forms have led to doubling land prices globally since 2008, and tripling in Central Europe, placing unprecedented strain on farmers and rural communities.

Soaring land prices, land grabs, and carbon schemes are creating an unprecedented ‘land squeeze’, threatening farmers and food production, reveals a comprehensive new report today by IPES-Food

The report comes as land issues rise up the global agenda – with the World Bank holding a conference on ‘Securing Land Tenure and Access for Climate Action’ in Washington DC this week, a recent World Bank report on net-zero in food systems calling for measures to reduce the conversion of forests to croplands, and as Brazil launches an agrarian reform policy ‘Terra da Gente’ to allocate land for 295,000 families by 2026. 

The new study exposes the alarming escalation of land grabbing in various forms, including through ‘green grabs’, opaque financial instruments and speculation, rapid resource extraction, and intensive export crop production. Land around twice the size of Germany has been snatched up in transnational deals worldwide since 2000. 

Green grabs

Major new pressures are emerging from ‘green grabs’ for carbon and biodiversity offset projects, conservation initiatives, and clean fuels, the report highlights. Huge swathes of farmland are being acquired by governments and corporations for these ‘green grabs’ – which now account for 20% of large-scale land deals – despite little evidence of climate benefits. Governments’ pledges for land-based carbon removals alone add up to almost 1.2 billion hectares, equivalent to total global cropland. Carbon offset markets are expected to quadruple in the next 7 years.

This global trend of land grabs and green grabs is particularly affecting sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, while land inequality is growing fastest in Central-Eastern Europe, North and Latin America, and South Asia. Shockingly, 70% of the world’s farmland is now controlled by just 1% of the world’s largest farms.

Squeezing farmers

As demand for land continues unchecked, the panel of experts says the ‘land squeeze’ is inflaming land inequality and making small and medium scale food production increasingly unviable – leading to farmer revolts, rural exodus, rural poverty and food insecurity. With global farmland prices doubling in 15 years, farmers, peasants, and Indigenous peoples are losing their land (or forced to downsize), while young farmers face significant barriers in accessing land to farm.

IPES-Food calls for action to: 

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