IS Academy lecture: Global Investments in Agriculture and Large-Scale Land Acquisitions. Stakes and Relations with Rural Development

Seminar date: 
16 December 2009
Speaker(s): Paul Mathieu

Paul Mathieu is senior officer of the FAO Land Tenure and Management Unit. He is also a professor of the Institut d'Etudes du Développement de l'Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium).

Discussant: Prof. Annelies Zoomers, Faculteit Geowetenschappen, Universiteit van Utrecht.

Publication 'Land Grab or Development Opportunity?'

Presentation Paul Mathieu

A number of trends are putting new pressures and demands on land worldwide. These include climate change and carbon trading; plantations for biofuels; and sovereign funds and other private investments that produce food for export (to the country supplying the investment capital). These changes and their combined effects on the economy, and the value and the scarcity of land are creating serious economic opportunities (which can be positive for all) as well as real risks, mostly for the rural poor and the customary users of the land affected by the new large-scale investments.

Opportunities for capital investment in infrastructure and to improve the productivity of agriculture are both needed and useful. However, land is the best safety net for the rural poor as weak governance and the absence of legal protection for the land rights of many leave them exposed to the risks of losing their land and insufficient compensation. Capital alone is not a sufficient guarantee of agricultural intensification and even less of rural development. A major responsibility of the state is to maximize the positive opportunities for the benefit of the whole nation and to avoid the risks of uncompensated loss of land rights for current land users and holders of land rights.

The work done so far by the FAO and its partners indicates that: (i) risks and opportunities are high for all and interlinked; (ii) well-informed, well-negotiated and balanced contracts between governments and investors, and between investors and communities are key to the outcome; (iii) a range of options is available for the type of contracts and agricultural development to be promoted to make land available for export-oriented agricultural growth; (iv) win-win situations between investors and communities can be designed under certain conditions; (v) rural small-holders and family-run farms should be integrated in plans and negotiations and be fairly compensated if involuntary displacement occurs; and (vi) massive and affordable programmes for the legalization of customary land rights and good governance in land tenure and land administration are key actions to minimize risks and optimize the benefits of such investments.

As of 12:00 lunch will be offered. The lecture starts at 12:30.
Language: English

Registration: 14 December at the latest at:

Registration is obligatory. If you have registered but are unable to attend please inform us as soon as possible.