Large-scale Farmland Investments: blessing or curse? International initiatives in a bid to prevent excesses in large-scale farmland acquisitions

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Fears over future food and fuel shortages have led in recent years to the emergence of a new phenomenon: “land grabbing”. Within the group of those seeking for land, one can make a clear distinction between 1) governments searching for food security for their inhabitants and 2) (private) investors who see land as a new source of revenue. Which in fact led to the “commodification of farmland”. Developing countries are welcoming such investments. Although, there are mixed views whether such investments are beneficial to the countries where they occur. Poor rural people are often dependent on agriculture, livestock or forests for their livelihood. Concerning the topic of the study, the debate revolves about two themes: on the one hand securing access to land for the poor, and on the other hand whether such deals can work for development. In terms of land tenure security we can distinguish two different approaches: a title-based approach and a rights-based approach. The first approach can be characterized as an economic market approach, whereas the second can be characterized as a socio-economic welfare approach. This second approach is most popular these days. It’s proponents argue that the denial of customary lands as private property is the cause of insecurity, and thus a logic solution would be to legitimize customary tenure. A 'rights-based' approach is the starting point for most cooperation efforts to reduce poverty. Many tenure problems arise because of weak governance. With regard to the second theme there are some different positions. For instance, Paul Collier encourages large-scale commercial farming as a way to get African agriculture moving. On the other hand there are some risks related to large-scale farming, which could be the creation of environmental problems and the loss of livelihoods for rural people. Nonetheless, advantages could be that it: may stimulate new farm and off-farm jobs, boost incomes of rural people, facilitate transfers of new technologies in production and processing, increase production of food crops, build up infrastructure and improve access to basic services. Nonetheless the loss of livelihoods should weigh heavy in this debate.
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