The lack of secure access to natural resources (land and water) by the rural population is one of the main causes of poverty in developing countries. The dispossession and marginalization of the rural poor has drawn media attention in recent years as the phenomenon of land grabbing  reached  unprecedented levels in the past decade and causing disastrous consequences  for the world’s poor.

The controversy  is economic as well as geopolitical and has been around since the beginning of the past century and relates to the large scale acquisition  of land by  foreign multinationals. The situation deteriorated by 2007 -2008 due to the food crisis and the willingness by countries to ensure food security.

As George Soros, Us billionaire said in 2009:” I’m convinced that farmland is  going to be one of the best investments of our time. Eventually of course, food prices will get high enough that the market will be flooded with supply through development of new land or technology or both and the bull market will end.”

 Many western countries have begun massive land purchasing around the world  to sustain their interest on biofuel crops, minerals and food security based in agriculture. Most of the land is contracted in Africa and South America. Because of the fertile land in Africa many transnational companies have invested on large scale land and water resources. In many cases, countries  that suffer from corruption are willing to allow corporate favoritism and foreign investment to take priority over  basic land rights. Some companies legitimize their operations by covering them up with philanthropic propaganda “lift Africa out of poverty”.

In South America the phenomenon is more largely driven by internal investors and stimulated by high value international food markets and agro fuels. The outcome of these operations are nevertheless the same with many peasants and small farms being dispossessed of their land.

 The World Bank made an estimate in 2010 of the extent of these land investments. The study reveals that between October 2008 and august 2009, 46 million hectares of  land was bought, two thirds of which in Sub-saharan  Africa. Half of the investments did not declare the extent of the land being purchased meaning that the extension of the problem may well be underestimated. Normally the land is contracted with local or national governments and may last for 25 to 100 years. In most cases the decision are taken without taking any consideration of how this affects the local community that are deprived of their land, often violently including deportations, and threats. These people are in many cases left with no ways to sustain themselves.

In theory investment should benefit citizens in developing countries by providing jobs and services. In reality poor people are loosing their land rights, their homes and jobs. Food produced is exported back to wealthy countries.

 Oxfam asked the leaders of G8 ,that for the first time are discussing the issue of land grabbing at large scale to introduce new criteria in terms of transparency. 

These may cause some concern to investors who need to confront local communities. Governments need to put an end to this and to introduce the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Tenure of Land Fisheries and Forest “ agreed by CFS (committee on World Food Security) by FAO on the 9th of march 2012.

 The UK expressed its willingness  to confront this issue and to initiate a Land Transparency Initiative, a global platform through which it is possible to ensure land rights in poorer countries by applying the guidelines on World Food Security.