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Why it makes more sense to invest in farmers than in farmland

Lorenzo Cotula

Opinion paper, 2 pages

Two years since the media spotlight turned on the so-called ‘land grab’ – whereby agribusiness, investment funds and government agencies acquire farmland in Africa, Latin America and Asia – the debate rages on. And rightly so. Private sector expectations of higher food and commodity prices and government concerns about longer-term food and energy security have made land a more attractive asset. But land is central to livelihoods, culture and identity for millions across the developing world. And large-scale land acquisitions can have lasting repercussions for the future of agriculture, including both agribusiness and family farming. Rather than rushing into land deals, governments and investors should properly consider the wider range of options to invest in agriculture. In many parts of the world, family farmers have proved efficient and dynamic. Working with them can generate healthy returns, avoid the risks associated with land acquisitions, and improve farmers’ livelihoods.

This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

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