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Big-money investment in agriculture cutting out locals

April 24, 3:15 pm CET

BERN, Switzerland – Big-money investment in agriculture – including, controversially, socially responsible investment (SRI) – is cutting out locals (particularly women) and fostering anti-political sentiment.

Research presented to the Global Land Programme’s 4th Open Science Meeting suggested that the search for financial yield is not only impeding sustainable development but also combatting local efforts to achieve it.

The University of Bern, for example, studied specific projects in Ghana, Malawi, Morocco and Tanzania, finding in general that locals were cut off from their land by the scramble of outsiders for returns on investment.

“Under the promise of development, a growing number of land users are deprived from access to commons (local land); at the same time local to global elites are increasingly interested in assuring high returns of capital investment,” researchers Jean-David Gerber and Tobias Haller, found.

One example was Morocco’s huge solar power development near the Sahara border town of Ouarzazate. It has left pastoral farmers in the lurch.

In a similar vein, a rice development scheme in northern Ghana was agreed between investors and local chiefs, without recourse for local farmers.

Women in particular get cut out of decision making over land.

Research by Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology, meanwhile, found that soybean farming in Brazil had increased at a massive rate with little to no employment benefit to locals. (Unlike sugar, soy is not labour-intensive.)

Soy covered 33 million hectares in 2016; it is expected to reach 45 million by 2025.

Researcher Mairon Giovani Bastos Lima said new actors – “faceless companies” – were taking over land previous grabbed by speculators, but there was little to no recourse.

The amount of land was considered “too big to fail” or even “too big for justice”, he said.

Overall, the picture was of a global search for profit – and perhaps food security – leaving the poor and powerless even more insecure than they already were.

Food insecurity is not a case of people not being able to feed themselves because they are stupid, one researcher said, but because their land has been taken away.

Check back often over the next few days for our ongoing coverage of the Global Land Programme’s 2019 Open Science Meeting. You can view the plenary keynotes on the free online livestream from the event, and follow minute-by-minute coverage on Twitter at @GlobalLandP or use the hashtag #GLPOSM to follow attendees’ posts.