The ongoing world-wide conversion of agricultural land to other purposes signifies a danger that may bring the human race to a pathetic end
Man is raping his only planet so cruelly that Nature journal warns a point of no return for Earth by 2025. Man has radically altered the planet (43%) and when it crosses 50 per cent which is not far, the Earth would give up.
But does the rapacious man care? Not by a jug full. The Worldwatch institute has, in its latest report said that an estimated 70.2 million hectares of agricultural land worldwide have been sold or leased to foreign private and public investors since 2000 (www.worldwatch.org) which spells disaster on two counts: conversion of green land to concrete structure adds to heat and CO2 to atmosphere and the other is a looming food crisis.
It’s plain land grab in the garb of development, it says. “Land grab” refers to the large-scale purchase of agricultural land by foreign investors. Land leases or purchases among domestic actors are omitted. If this too is added, the situation is pretty precarious.
Africa has seen the greatest share of land involved in these acquisitions, with 34.3 million hectares sold or leased since 2000. East Africa accounts for the greatest investment, with 310 deals covering 16.8 million hectares. Increased investment in Africa’s agricultural land reflects a decade-long trend of strengthening economic relationships between Africa and the rest of the world, with foreign direct investment to the continent growing 259 per cent between 2000 and 2010.
Asia and Latin America come in second and third for most heavily targeted regions, with 27.1 million and 6.6 million hectares of land deals,
Investor countries, in contrast, are spread more evenly around the globe. Of the 82 listed investor countries in the Land Matrix Project database, Brazil, India, and China account for 16.5 million hectares, or around 24 per cent of the total hectares sold or leased worldwide. When the East Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea are included, this group of industrialising countries has been involved in 274 land deals covering 30.5 million hectares.
The United States and the United Kingdom account for a combined 6.4 million hectares of land deals. The oil-rich but arid Gulf states make up the final group of major land investors, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar responsible for 4.6 million hectares.
The food crisis of 2007-08 helped spark the dramatic uprise in foreign acquisitions in 2009, as investors rushed to capitalise on the rising prices of staple crops. But food prices are not solely responsible for the land-grab trend. As fuel consumption and oil prices continue to rise, the demand for land on which to grow feedstocks for biofuels will likely rise too, increasing the pressure on limited cropland.
Land grab has many nice-sounding words. In India it goes in the name of Special Economic Zone which originated in China. These zones cause economic and social displacement of rural population and it leads to strife, besides the environmental adverse impact.
All right-thinking people in the ruling elite must realise the dangers of displacing agriculture which is the backbone of all human enterprise and the source of human survival.
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.