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Land Grabbing Grows As Agricultural Resources Dwindle

Posted By: Matt Hopkins | October 6, 2015

Since 2000, more than 36 million hectares — an area about the size of Japan — has been purchased or leased by foreign entities, mostly for agricultural use. Today, nearly 15 million hectares more is under negotiation, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

About half of grabbed land is intended exclusively for use in agriculture, while another 25% is intended for a mix of agricultural and other uses. Land grabbing has surged since 2005 in response to a food price crisis and the growing demand for biofuels in the U.S. and the European Union. Droughts in the United States, Argentina, and Australia, has further driven interest in land overseas.

Over half of the global grabbed land is in Africa. Asia comes second, contributing over 6 million hectares, mainly from Indonesia. The largest area acquired from a single country is in Papua New Guinea, with nearly 4 million hectares (over 8% of the country’s total land cover) sold or leased out.

The largest investor country is the United States, a country already rich in agricultural land. The U.S. alone has acquired about 7 million hectares worldwide. Malaysia comes in a distant second, with just over 3.5 million hectares acquired.

Globally, some 20% of aquifers are being pumped faster than they are recharged by rainfall, stressing many key food-producing areas. By preventing food waste, increasing water efficiency, conserving agricultural land, and decreasing production of meat and biofuels (both of which require large quantities of land and water for grain or crops), Gardner believes that the stress on food systems can be reduced.

 

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Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, click here

 

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