Since the financial crisis of 2008, farmland is once again in demand. Governments, corporations and speculators are laying claim to vast tracts of land in Africa and South America for export-oriented industrial agriculture – with often tragic consequences for local communities and the environment.
Spiraling food prices in the wake of the financial crisis and heavy subsidies for biofuels since 2007 have made agricultural land in Southeast Asia, South America – and above all Africa – an attractive proposition for the international financial market. Twelve million people were threatened by starvation in East Africa in late 2011. At the same time, however, foreign investors were growing vegetables in state-of-the-art greenhouses in Ethiopia for Saudi Arabia, and roses and green beans for the European market in Kenya. Worldwide, 203 million hectares are affected by such dubious land investments – an area the size of Brazil. Indigenous communities are hard-hit by these developments, as are tropical forests – roughly one quarter of all land grabs involve forested regions.