The so-called "land grabs" are when emerging countries such as China are buying up farmland from African nations to provide a lower cost food for their own people. This practice has drawn much criticism as it leaves Africa with even less land to feed themselves and less land for Africans to own.
From the IPS, writer Hilaire Avril provides some quotes from the report.
The World Bank report, titled "Rising Global Interest in Farmland. Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?" and released on Sep 8, cautions that "an astonishing lack of awareness of what is happening on the ground" exists -- even by the public sector institutions mandated to control this phenomenon.
It estimates that 2009 saw 45 million hectares of farmland deals going through and predicts that, "given commodity price volatility, growing human and environmental pressures, and worries about food security, this interest will increase, especially in the developing world".
At the beginning of Sep 2010, riots over steep increases in the price of bread left seven people dead and hundreds injured in Maputo, the capital of the southern African country Mozambique, sparking fears of another food crisis like the one that affected several African countries two years ago.
That same week, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation announced that, "surging wheat prices drove international food prices up five percent (in Aug 2010) in the biggest month-on-month increase since November 2009."
Several huge farmland investment deals have been decried for bringing uncertain benefits to recipient countries, and sometime for leading to smallholders’ eviction from their land and adversely affecting local livelihoods.
The World Bank report reckons that "one of the highest development priorities in the world must be to improve smallholder agricultural productivity, especially in Africa".
But the report deems that "when done right, larger scale farming systems can also have a place as one of many tools to promote sustainable agricultural and rural development". It then proceeds to detail many conditions for these deals to benefit developing countries.