'Grabbing' Land for Solving the Global Food Problem: What are the Implications for 'Local' Food Security?

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issueAcademicpeer-review


The challenge of doubling global food supplies to feed a projected 9 billion people by 2050 has triggered a strong influx of foreign investments in land and agribusiness in various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the wake of the 2007-2008 food crisis, and exacerbated by the rush for biofuels and a growing world population to be fed by finite natural resources, the search for a global food system that can deliver sustainable and equitable global food security (i.e., ensuring that every man, woman and child enjoy their ‘Right to Adequate Food’) is high on international business and policy agendas. While this has spurred foreign investments in resource-abundant developing countries to boost food production for global markets, little is known about how these investments affect local food insecurity in the recipient countries. This conflict in levels of scale is particularly relevant in Africa, where (foreign) investments in agribusiness have recently increased significantly and vie for natural resources used for local livelihoods and food security.

This special issue aims to better understand how these investments in global food supply affect food security at the local level in recipient countries. We aim to assess the interface between ‘global’ investments in agribusiness and ‘local’ food security by (following a value chain approach) comparing investments in different business models engaged in the production of a variety of food crops along the local – export market continuum. It will generate in-depth and comparative knowledge on the global-local nexus of different foreign-induced business models, their level of inclusiveness and how and to what extent they can contribute to local food security. We are interested to receive contributions analyzing a variety of foreign investment cases in various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America: how ‘responsible’ and ‘inclusive’ are current business practices. The insertion of local populations—particularly smallholders—into global and domestic agricultural value chains is expected to offer opportunities for linking local development with increasing food production. Nonetheless, the impacts of new private agribusiness investments on local livelihoods and food security are poorly understood, especially in terms of indirect effects through chain reorganization and food market changes. The impact pathway is complex and not automatic, particularly with respect to women and young/elderly generations.

A direct pathway towards food security is assumed through either employment (wages) or smallholder inclusion in supply chains, but this claim has not been supported by evidence. In reality, much more complex dynamics can take place, including displacement of local food supplies when land is converted for non-local cash crops, crowding out of subsistence farming that is not always compensated by income from wages, and indirect effects of chain reorganization and changes in local (urban) food markets. We will consider both these direct and indirect impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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