Comprendre les enjeux de l'agriculture

Land is the essential element of food security. However, a series of converging factors are leading to a scarcity of agricultural lands worldwide. The causes include intensive exploitation, environmental demands, urbanization, and mining and industrial expansion. These factors promote land grabbing by large institutional groups to the detriment of small farmers. This scarcity exacerbates land inequalities, rural poverty, and food insecurity. It could lead to a tipping point for peasant economies. This is the conclusion of the latest report from IPES-Food, or the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

Land Grabbing

Vast expanses of land change hands every year. Land ownership is transferred from farmers to financial actors. Land grabbing is progressing rapidly. The spikes in food prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have fueled a narrative that the concentration of ownership is necessary to “feed the world.” This was followed by a policy of securing land for the production of export crops. The main beneficiaries of this grabbing are agribusinesses, financial investors, and foreign governments.
The IPES report gives the following breakdown of the nature of the buyers of arable land :

– Large unlisted companies: 40%
– Listed companies: 21.5%
– Buyers of unknown nature: 18%
– Individual entrepreneurs: 9%
– State-owned companies: 5%
– Investment funds: 4%
– The rest: 2%

Green Grabbing

The land is an essential carbon sink and a habitat for biodiversity. The contradictory demands of food production, green energy production, soil conservation, and carbon sequestration exacerbate shortages of arable land, risking the seeds of future conflicts.

Environmental goals, involving a policy of soil conservation, carbon removal provoke a new wave of “green acquisitions,” which, according to IPES, represents a fifth of land transactions.
Soil erosion due to intensive cultivation practices and the excessive use of chemical inputs means that, according to the FAO, one-third of the world’s arable land is degraded.


Industrial Grabbing

Vast expanses of land are also removed—often coercively—from agriculture and reassigned to extractive industries and mega urban development projects in an environment of rapid and often unsustainable economic growth. A cycle of increasing demand for mining products, especially for rare earths or high-demand metals like copper, intensifies pressures on agricultural land.


Toward a Dangerous Tipping Point

This scarcity of land nearly prohibits access to agricultural property for small farmers and small ranchers, including those from indigenous peoples. These pressures severely compromise the livelihoods of small producers and threaten them with dangerous marginalization for food security.
These phenomena particularly impact sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. The global price of land doubled between 2008 and 2022 and tripled in Central and Eastern Europe.

The increasing financialization of the agricultural land market creates a severe divide between small farmers and institutional investors, between those who live from working the land and those who live off their dividends.
To curb the scarcity of land, restore fair access to land, and improve the plight of smallholders, it is necessary to stem land grabs and lead bold social and agrarian reforms. Public policies could take inspiration from innovative initiatives that many communities are taking to defend their rights, including new forms of collective ownership and cooperatives and original financing methods.

For more information :
IPES FOOD : Land Squeeze /