It’s not an easy thing to say a priori whether countries with vast arable lands that they don’t use, are right to sell or lease that land to other countries or companies that intend to make productive use of it. In theory, the exchange of unused land for money could benefit everyone. But here is strong indication that there might be something wrong with that trend.
Oxfam has published a report saying that “over three quarters of the countries where land deals were agreed between 2000 and 2011 scored below average on four key governance indicators“.Translation: it’s bad corrupt governments that are selling their land. It’s not a big leap from that to conclude that the rich and corrupt elite makes money with the deal, the people of the country lose the that would otherwise be theirs to farm, and the buyer gets cheap land at the cost of a dispossessed native population.
One example is Guatemala which “scores below average on all four governance indicators, has seen 87,000 hectares of land change hands in the last ten years despite high levels of hunger and malnutrition in rural areas.”
The taking of land by rich countries and investors, to the benefit of buyers and corrupt seller politicians, and to the detriment of hungry and poor populations, is one of the most worrying trends of the beginning of this century. The increase strain on natural resources is going to make this one of the most important issues of the decades to come.