Increasing commercial pressures on land in the face of poverty reduction: threat or opportunity?
Recent global trends are prompting a massive increase in global commercial interest in land and natural resources. Predicted medium and long term increasing food prices, demand for land to meet an increasing global demand for food and for animal feedstock as well as to produce feedstock for accelerating agrofuel production, and carbon-trading mechanisms that place a commercial value on standing forests and rangelands are converging factors that are causing steep increases in demand for land and in land values themselves.
The increasing interest in acquiring or leasing large tracts of land by investors based in the North and in the food-importing countries for commercial production or domestic food security objectives, in the context of liberalized trade and property laws in many countries of the world, are creating unprecedented pressures on land resources, placing new tensions on land tenure systems and increasing inequality in economic and political power between the competitors. Those most vulnerable to losing access to land are small-scale producers (1.5 billion living on less than 2ha) who do not have formal tenure over the land that they use, as well as women, indigenous people, pastoralists, and fisher-folks. Many of these are among the 1-2 billion people globally who are, according to land law, tenants of the state because they live on, and use, common-pool resources such as forest, pastoral and swamp lands.
Behind the crisis of food security lies a deeper and more structural crisis that may make it many more times harder for the world’s 925 million hungry to escape from hunger - a crisis of land tenure security which may result in millions losing their access to land and natural resources.
However, recognizing tenure rights of local land-users is an essential step towards enabling local communities to equitably benefit from these global demands.
What ILC is doing
ILC is working towards enabling an evidence-based response to increasing commercial pressures on land, which safeguards the tenure rights of poor landusers. ILC’s objectives in this initiative are:
- To provide and facilitate exchange of information so as to increase transparency and awareness of commercial pressures on land
- To increase understanding of the current and anticipated impacts on poverty of commercial pressures on land on the tenure security of the poor, particularly in the context of the work of ILC members
- To explore possible policy and operational solutions, both to mitigate negative impacts, and to enable poor land users to benefit from possible opportunities provided by the increased commercial value of land
- To open space for dialogue at national, regional and global levels by all stakeholders, in particular land-users who are most directly affected.
- To develop and promote the use of tools for use by investors, host governments, policy makers, donors and civil society organisations to facilitate land-related investments to be inclusive of local land-users
To achieve these objectives, the International Land Coalition is currently engaged in the following activities:
- Commercial Pressures on land portal.
Initially started as a blog in late 2008, this has now developed into a wider collaborative project implemented in partnership with a number of other partners. Its objective is to create an open space for the sharing of knowledge, information and perspectives.
- Global study on Commercial Pressures on Land.
Launched at the beginning of 2009, this collaborative research project is intended to analyze the underlying causes and mechanisms of ongoing land acquisitions and to explore related risks and opportunities for local poor land users. It includes individual case studies, regional overviews and thematic studies with a global scope.
- Monitoring of land transactions
This project aims to better understand the extent, trends and impacts of land-related investments by an ongoing and systematic stocktaking exercise of the various investment projects currently taking place worldwide. It involves a large number of organizations and individuals working in areas where land transactions are being made, and able to provide details of such investments.
- Widening the dialogue initiative
In response to the diverging perspectives on the implications and possible responses to the current phenomenon of large-scale land acquisitions, this component is intended to promote a wider dialogue bringing together all key stakeholders to debate the full range of proposals currently on the table.