North-South Centre

North-South Forum

Transnational land acquisitions and rural development – Impacts on natural resources and livelihoods in developing countries

The recent food crisis has triggered a rush for agricultural land overseas – We will debate this challenge at the North-South Forum, organised jointly by the NCCR North-South and the North-South Centre

18 May 2010, 9:00 – 12:45 h
ETH Zurich, Main Building, Semperaula, HG G.60, Rämistrasse 101, Zurich

Free entrance, no registration required, conference language is English.


Picture gallery

Programme (PDF, 223 KB)

Media coverage

Zurich, 19 May 2010 – Swiss Radio DRS, Tagesgespräch: Landraub in Afrika?

Bern, 25 May 2010 – Swissinfo: Spotlight turned on issue of land grabbing / Das Phänomen der Landnahme in Entwicklungsländern

Transnational agricultural investments

International investment in agriculture is not new. Foreign owned plantations and land lease have existed for long. In 2008, however, the food crisis with its enormous increase in commodity prices brought the rush for land to a new dimension, driven by the demand for food, water and energy security.

Transnational agricultural investment, in recent debates also referred to as “land grab”, is taking place on all continents, with the bulk of these deals made in Africa. Net food importers are anxious to secure their long-term food needs through agreements. These agreements are entered predominantly with poor and food insecure countries – countries with a seemingly large proportion of unutilised or underutilised land.

Risks and potentials

In conditions where property rights are not guaranteed, the disadvantages of such land deals are evident: Farmers are rarely compensated when ownership shifts to foreign land holders, and local food security is further threatened. So far, negative economic and social implications have dominated the debate, but ecological consequences of an intensified use of natural resources are prone to arise. On the other hand, foreign investment in agriculture does have substantial potential: A flow of resources and know-how, the creation of employment, an improved infrastructure, and increased agricultural productivity could certainly benefit countries seeking solutions going beyond development aid.

The need for action

To ensure that agricultural investments provide broad benefits and effectively contribute to development, actors at different levels have acknowledged the need for action – for example through the elaboration of a code of conduct for land deals. Yet, the knowledge base is still rather weak and mostly focused on case studies.

At the North-South Forum we will discuss these issues with researchers, research funders, policy-makers, and practitioners working in international development and cooperation.


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