GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Investments in Foreign Agricultural Land as Food Security Policy: Risks and Alternatives
Paper Proposal Text :
Large-scale foreign investments in agricultural land are becoming an increasingly important part of the food security policy mix for some GCC member states. The investment projects are usually made by corporate enterprises but supported diplomatically, and often financially, by the GCC member government.

Fieldwork by the author in Cambodia, the Philippines and Ethiopia has produced evidence that land-leasing investment projects are proving to be a far from ideal mechanism for increasing 'food security'. Few projects in these countries are showing signs of providing reliable, long-term supplies of food staples for export back to the investing country. Further, if food security is understood in terms of reducing hunger, some projects are actually increasing food insecurity: they are dispossessing and impoverishing local communities, even in areas already affected by poverty and hunger. Governments in some of these host countries appear to find enforcement of eviction orders against their own people easier to enforce than proper regulation of foreign investors' activities. Forcible evictions of the rural poor are adding risk to the investment environment.

This paper argues that GCC state policy-makers who are facilitating foreign agricultural investments as part of their food security policy mix need to regulate their investor-enterprises much more closely if they wish to see successful 'food security' outcomes.

One important strategy explored is the opportunity to invest in the host countries' farmers instead of in their farmlands. So, instead of projects which remove the productive capital of the land from access by the rural poor, investments can be structured to leverage the capacity of rural farmers to increase their production yields. By providing these farmers with the financial and technical support to achieve greater productivity and by granting them access to the important GCC markets for their surpluses, there is the possibility to deliver positive food security outcomes. These can be measured both in terms of food availability--reliable sources of staple food supplies--and in terms of reducing poverty and hunger in the developing country.