Land Grabbing: Journeys in the New Colonialism


stefano libertiA widely travelled investigative Italian journalist, Stefano Liberti, has recorded what he found on journeys in several countries, meeting landowners, displaced local people and commodity traders.

He visited a high tech Dutch-owned model farm in Ethiopia; a conference in Riyadh, where representatives of Third World governments compete to attract Saudi investors; meetings in Rome where the fate of nations is decided; Latin America’s “united republic of soya”, the ethanol-obsessed US farm state of Iowa and the headquarters of the Movement of Landless Workers in São Paulo.

The book in which he recorded all this is called Land Grabbing: Journeys in the New Colonialism, translated by Enda Flannelly and published by Verso.

landgrabbing coverIt exposes how modern-day corporations and governments are raiding the Third World. They refer to buying up vast tracts of the Third World as ‘land leasing’; their critics see it as ‘land grabbing’ – a new era of colonialism, stealing millions of hectares of fertile soil to feed wealthy westerners.

The FT’s review by its world trade editor Shawn Donnan points out that: “For all the advances in the business of food, the central fact of our age is that we by and large still need land to grow our maize and graze our cattle. Which is why – spying both vulnerability and opportunity – governments and corporations set about buying up acreage around the globe in the wake of the 2007-08 food price crisis”.

Shawn wryly comments that Liberti’s answers to his own questions are unlikely to be the same as those the Financial Times might offer in its editorials but admits that his questions are worth posing and certainly worth our time.

After some defensive remarks about financial naivety and so on, Donnan admits there has been “at least the whiff of exploitation about some of the deals made by governments and corporations in recent years. And you do not have to be a hoodie-wearing anti-capitalist to raise your eyebrows when Liberti details the control of the big five global commodities trading houses and a small clutch of landowners over the soya fields of Brazil’s Matto Grosso state”.

Citing predicted world population growth, he ends: “Technology has so far saved us from a Malthusian disaster. But add the predicted impact of climate change to the mix and there is plenty of reason for governments to be concerned and investors to pay attention. Land grabbing will undoubtedly be with us for many years to come”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s