05 Aug “Land grabs” and Responsible Agricultural Investment in Africa
Recently, a paper was published that supports land grabbing for food security. The paper suggests that the land in question is ‘marginally utilised’ and land grabbing will lead to more food being produced.
In the article, the authors argue,
It is expected that in the long run large scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) for commercial farming will bring the technology required to close the existing crops yield gaps… We show how up to 300–550 million people could be fed by crops grown in the acquired land, should these investments in agriculture improve crop production and close the yield gap.
The article is: Maria Cristina Rulli & Paolo D’Odorico (2014) “Food appropriation through large scale land acquisitions” Environmental Research Letters. 9: 064030 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/6/06403
Timothy Wise has posted a reply on the tripple crisis blog: “Land grabs” and Responsible Agricultural Investment in Africa
Here are some snippets:
In this case, these seemingly well-intentioned Italian economists came up with the dramatic but useless estimate that global land grabs could feed 190-550 million people in developing countries. The heroic assumptions they needed to get there should have stranded them on a deserted island, because they make no sense in the real world.
• Assume land grabs produce staple food. (Mostly, they don’t.)
• Assume such assumed food is consumed domestically. (Overwhelmingly it’s exported.)
• Assume the calories they might produce go to hungry people. (They don’t, they go to people who can afford them.)
• Assume calories are all that’s needed to nourish someone. (They aren’t.)
• Assume productivity-enhancing investments on such land would be made for an assumed market of hungry consumers. (They wouldn’t, the hungry are no real market at all because they have no effective buying power.)
• Assume the grabbed land didn’t displace anyone from producing food. (According to the same data relied on by these economists, most projects have displaced farmers.)
Perhaps the most absurd assumption, though, is that the governance mechanisms exist, at the national, international, or corporate levels, to manage the surge of investment we’ve seen since the food price spikes of 2007-8. Trust me, they don’t, which is why the UN’s Committee on World Food Security is meeting in Rome this week to negotiate the RAI guidelines.
Early work published by these authors on the topic has been critiqued, for example:
- Ian Scoones, Ruth Hall, Saturnino M. Borras Jr, Ben White & Wendy Wolford (2013) The politics of evidence: methodologies for understanding the global land rush, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:3, 469-483, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2013.801341 Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2013.801341
Ian Scoones, Ruth Hall, Saturnino M. Borras Jr, Ben White & Wendy Wolford (2013) The politics of evidence: A response to Rulli and D’Odorico, The Journal of Peasant Studies,40:5, 911-912, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2013.853045
The authors replied here:
Maria Cristina Rulli & Paolo D’Odorico (2013) The science of evidence:the value of global studies on land rush, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:5, 907-909, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2013.853044
Maria Cristina Rulli & Paolo D’Odorico (2013) Reply to ‘The politics of evidence: a response to Rulli and D’Odorico’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:5, 913-914, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2013.853046