The Global Land Rush : Planet Money As global investors buy up land in poor countries, local people are getting the shaft, according to a new report.
NPR logo The Global Land Rush

The Global Land Rush

In the past few years, global investors have snapped up hundreds of millions of acres of land in poor countries around the world. The basic idea: Buy up farmland and forests and profit from the global rise in commodity prices.

But a new report from Oxfam argues that many of these land deals "have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights, and destruction of livelihoods."

The Guardian tells the story of a farmer who was affected by a land deal in Uganda:

Francis Longoli, a small farmer from Kiboga district of central Uganda, is tearful: "I remember my land, three acres of coffee, many trees – mangoes and avocados. I had five acres of bananas, 10 beehives, two beautiful permanent houses. My land gave me everything. People used to call me 'omataka' – someone who owns land. Now that is no more. I am one of the poorest now," he says.

Longoli and his family of six lost everything last year when, with three months notice, the Ugandan government evicted him and thousands of others from the Mubende and Kiboga districts to make way for the UK-based New Forests Company to plant trees, to earn carbon credits and ultimately to sell the timber.

And, via the WSJ, here's the response from New Forests:

The relocations were "voluntary, legal and fully respected and in accord with all stringent protocols," said board chairman Robert Devereux. In light of the Oxfam report, the company "will devise a formal, detailed and immediate investigation to try to get to the truth of the matter," he said.

HSBC Holdings, which owns a 16% stake of New Forests Company's Uganda operations ... said two of the Uganda sites have been independently certified as legal and respectful of local residents. An evaluation of the third site is under way, a bank spokesman said in an email.