Contested Global Landscapes

A Multidisciplinary Initiative of the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences


Q: You said during the opening session: ‘How much more information is necessary for us to know that this land grabbing needs to stop’. Could you elaborate on what you meant?

Shalmali Guttal:  A few years ago when the term land grabbing exploded on the world scene, many of us who’ve been working on various rights to do with land and resource, had been using the word land grabbing for a very very long time. Then 4 or 5 years ago it becomes this big thing: oh, land grabbing is happening.  And we thought: that’s fine, at least the term is now going all over the world, and the impacts of these large scale land expropriations are going to finally be discussed.

One of the things we were always asked about is: where is the evidence?  And when the land grabbing craze hit the media, people started doing research frantically—and now, if you just Google “land grabbing” and see how much comes up, there have been so many studies in every country where there have been large scale land deals, and all of them show that this model is not working, and that this is a destructive model.

Nobody, even the World Bank, one of the biggest supporters of large scale land expropriations, is able to say that this kind of system works: that’s why they’re coming out with their own version of principles for agricultural investment—because they know that they cannot justify this.

So I guess my question now is that if we know all this, then how much more evidence is needed? Why are we still being asked to produce more evidence? How many details on the ground and how many details of the mechanics do we need to interrogate to put an end to this?

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