New Frontiers Of Land And Water Commodification Socio‐Environmental Controversies Of Large Scale Land Acquistions

Paolo D'Odorico, Maria Cristina Rulli, J. Dell'Angelo, Kyle Frankel Davis

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A growing number of regions in the developing world are targeted by transnational investors who are acquiring large amounts of land and natural resources. Driven by the increasing global demand for agricultural products, such investments are often considered an opportunity for economic development in the target country. However, there are concerns about the social and environmental impacts on local commu- nities. In this brief review, we discuss some key socio‐environmental controversies surrounding large‐scale land acquisitions (LSLAs). LSLAs often target common property systems and lead to privatization and commodification of land through long‐term land concessions. There is a debate between supporters of foreign land investments as a means to attract modern agricultural technology that would decrease the yield gap in underperforming agricultural land and those who question such a development model because it is seldom coupled with pol- icy instruments that would ensure that the benefits improve food security in local populations. Large‐scale land investments displace a variety of systems of production ranging from small‐scale farming to (arguably) “unused” land such as forests and savannas on which local commu- nities often depend. Moreover, LSLAs entail an appropriation of water resources that may negatively impact local farmers or downstream human and natural systems. In most cases, investors keep the land fallow but, when they put it under productive use, they typically change land cover and land use to start intensified commercial farming, often for nonfood crops
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2234-2244
Number of pages11
JournalLand Degradation & Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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