Large-scale land acquisitions: What's the big deal?

As the demand for land and natural resources accelerates – driven by rapid population growth and rising consumption of food, fuel, feed, and fibre – so too does competition for different land use. At the same time, the resource base is progressively shrinking, exacerbated by environmental factors such as land degradation and desertification. In the ensuing “rush for land”, large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) play an increasingly important role, with far-reaching implications as they transform rural landscapes, economies, and societies. Given that access to land is closely linked to food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable livelihoods, and that LSLAs can hinder such access, careful monitoring of these deals is therefore important.

However, the controversial context and complex realities of LSLAs, as well as their potential for creating conflict, mean land deals often take place behind closed doors and information on land tenure is not always available or accessible. In many countries, this is compounded by the absence of proper and context-sensitive land registries and land planning tools. The secrecy around land deals can provide powerful actors (private investors, host country governments, or local authorities) with the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of local populations, who are often not adequately consulted or compensated.

The Land Matrix was established to address the lack of transparency and information, and, in so doing, contribute to strengthening the positions of more vulnerable stakeholders in the political and administrative processes that govern access to land.

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