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Land grabbing

Used in earlier times, the notion of land grabbing has had mainly political connotations, referring to the aggressive taking of land, often by military force, for the expansion of territorial holdings or broadening of power. More recently, however, the term has been applied to the global rush of corporations or countries to buy up or lease farmland abroad in order to secure basic food or agrofuels and/or water supplies or simply for profit speculation. The report by GRAIN, ‘Seized: The 2008 land grab for food and financial security’, issued in October of that year documents land-grabbing activities and the seriousness of threats to local communities across the globe.

Today’s food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab. On the one hand, ‘food insecure’ governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.


Grain (2008) Seized: The 2008 landgrab for food and financial fecurity,

For further reading:

Borras Jr, S. M., Hall, R., Scoones, I., White, B., and Wolford, W. (2011) Towards a better understanding of global land grabbing: an editorial introduction. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(2), 209-216.

Borras Jr, S. M., and Franco, J. C. (2012) Global land grabbing and trajectories of agrarian change: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Agrarian Change, 12(1), 34-59.

Fairhead, J., Leach, M., and Scoones, I. (2012) Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(2), 237-261.

Zoomers, A. (2010) Globalisation and the foreignisation of space: seven processes driving the current global land grab. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(2), 429-447.

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Leah Temper

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

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