The report was prepared by a team led by Klaus Deininger, World Bank. Support was provided by PROFOR , the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC), the Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (TF-ESSD), the Hewlett Foundation, the Bank Netherlands Partnership Program (BNPP) and the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
Large-scale land acquisition and investments in agriculture attracted considerable interest in the wake of the 2007-08 commodity boom and the subsequent financial crisis. Some countries were concerned about their inability to provide food security from domestic resources. Other investors sought land as a hedge against inflation or for speculative gain. Agro-industrial investors had an incentive to increase the scale of their operations.
This global 'land rush' is unlikely to slow given volatile global commodity prices, demand for biofuels, rising incomes, urbanization and population increases. However, opinions about the social and environmental implications of this phenomenon are divided in the absence of solid empirical data. Some have saluted the rediscovery of agriculture by different investors as an opportunity for yield increases and rural development. Others focused on highly publicized cases where land acquisition by outsiders for speculative purposes at very low prices were detrimental to local welfare, trampled basic rights and resulted in irreversible environmental damage including water pollution and deforestation.
Released in draft form in September 2010 and in hard copy in January 2011, the study Rising Global Interest in Farmland --Can it yield sustainable and equitable benefits? compiles country inventories of large land transfers during 2004-09 in 14 countries, identifies global drivers of land supply and demand and highlights how country policies affect land use, household welfare and distributional outcomes at the local level. It establishes a typology, classifying countries by the size of suitable available land and yield gaps and proposes paths for responsible agricultural investments that would contribute to positive social, economic and environmental outcomes.
What emerged is a mixed picture.