WASHINGTON, US, April 27, 2010 – Friends of the Earth International warned today that voluntary principles on land acquisitions announced by the World Bank and supported by the UN will legitimize and promote land grabbing in Asia, Africa and Latin America. [1]

The warning was issued as the World Bank released at an April 26-27 Washington meeting its voluntary principles to protect rights, livelihoods and resources during large scale land acquisitions by foreign investors in these continents.

These principles have been supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the International Fund for Agricultural Development .

Millions of people’s livelihoods are being destroyed by land grabbing, especially those of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and fisherfolk. Land grabbing takes place when states and the private sector buy up millions of hectares of land in Asia, Africa and Latin America to produce food and fuel mainly for export.

The World Bank claims that these acquisitions will promote agricultural investment. In reality they will further entrench corporate agriculture for profit and destroy local livelihoods. Land grabbing is also proven to further marginalize small food producers, and local communities who already make up the largest part of the 1 billion people suffering most from hunger and poverty. [2]

Despite years of declining investment in peasant agriculture and the promotion of free trade policies that prioritise industrial agriculture instead, most of the world is still fed by small scale agriculture. Land grabbing undermines small scale agriculture, which jeopardizes our ability to feed the world now and in the future. [3]

Friends of the Earth International Chair Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria said:

“The UN has shown that the best way to feed our population is through existing, peasant based ecological agriculture. Yet the World Bank and UN agencies support principles which legitimize a new form of colonialism with grave dangers for millions of local livelihoods and the environment. If the UN is serious about ending hunger then it must heed its own advice, stop the advance of agribusiness in Africa and implement food sovereignty immediately.”

Large scale corporate agriculture is one of the leading causes of environmental damage, responsible for about half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction from land clearance and huge use of fossil fuels and natural resources.

The focus of industrial agriculture on producing commodities such as animal feeds and agrofuels for export to rich countries rather than food for local populations means it has led to widespread inequality and malnutrition. [4]

Friends of the Earth Uruguay Director Karin Nansen said:

“Industrial production of soy, meat and agrofuels in South America means land grabbing is already taking place. Local communities are violently evicted from their land while agribusiness report record profits by taking control of local resources. More grabbing of farmland will intensify this violence against people’s sovereignty and also condemn us to ever rising deforestation and climate emissions.”

Friends of the Earth International is demanding an end to all forms of land grabbing, which governments and international institutions can achieve by :

Equitable access to land and natural resources – keeping land in the hands of local communities and implementing genuine agrarian reform

Supporting agro-ecological peasant, smallholder farming, fishing and pastoralism, including participatory research and training programmes so that small-scale food providers can produce ample, healthy and safe food for everybody.

Overhauling farm and trade policies to embrace food sovereignty and supporting local and regional markets

Promoting community-oriented food and farming systems hinged on local people’s control over land, water and biodiversity

Enforce strict mandatory regulations that curb the access of corporations and other powerful actors (state and private) to agricultural, coastal and grazing lands, forests, and wetlands

Halting the expansion of industrial corporate led agriculture and ensure food sovereignty – peoples’ right to control their own seeds, lands, water and food production through just and ecological systems; which ensures enough, diverse, nutritious, locally produced and culturally appropriate food for all.


For more information contact

In English

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, FoEI Food Sovereignty Program Co-coordinator Tel: +44 (0) 20 7566 1669 and +44 (0) 79619 86956 (UK mobile)

In Spanish

Martin Drago, FoEI Food Sovereignty Program Co-coordinator Tel: (+ 5982) 9022355 – 9082730 and Uruguayan Mobile: (+ 598 99) 138559



[1] The principles were announced at the World Bank conference detailed at http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture

See a copy of the principles at  http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/214574-1111138388661/22453321/Principles_Extended.pdf

[2] See “Seized: The 2008 land grab for food and financial security” GRAIN Oct 2008 http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212 and

“The Great Land Grab” Oakland Institute, 2009.

[3] Peasant farming feeds at least 70% of the world’s population see “Who feeds us?” ETC group Dec 2009 http://www.etcgroup.org/

[4] According to the FAO 1 billion people mostly in the poorest countries suffer from hunger while the same number suffer from obesity in the industrialized world