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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

contributions: 62

HLPE Consultation on Land Tenure and International Investments in Agriculture

In October 2010 the newly reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS) requested its High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) to conduct a study on land tenure and international investments in agriculture and to present the findings at its next session in October 2011. You are hereby invited by the Steering Committee (StC) of the HLPE to give your views to finalize the Terms of Reference for the HLPE Project Team (the team of experts that will be established immediately after the TOR is finalised by the StC following this online consultation) that will prepare the study and policy recommendations. HLPE studies are intended to facilitate and inform the policy decision-making of CFS members.


There are many drivers of the increased interest in investing in land and agriculture over the past several years. The global increase in demand for food, due to population increase and more importantly diet change will affect the need for land and other resources. During the last century the increase in agricultural production has been mainly achieved through increased productivity per ha and for less than 30% through expansion of agricultural areas. Future necessary increase in agricultural production will however require to produce “more with less” but also an expansion of agricultural areas.

Sustainable intensification needs to bridge the yield gap between potential and attainable yields and the gap between present and attainable yields. Future food needs may also consider the waste in food, as well as the impacts of changing diets, such as obesity.

The expansion of agricultural land is a reality in many places around the world. Not only food and feed production but also the increase of the bio-based economy and in various places the government policy-driven production of bio-fuel (first and second generation) require substantial increase of land and other resources for agricultural activities. The way that it is done may depend on the context where it takes place: differences between continents and countries are very large and the role of governments may vary considerably. Food and feed needs of countries with relatively low availability of agricultural land, for example China (with less than 10% of world’s land and 20% of world’s population) could require investments and development of agricultural land use in other countries. Investments of land in other continents such as Africa and Latin America are already taking place.

Other drivers of the increased investments in land and agriculture include – but may not be limited to – speculation in land and the volatility of commodity prices which has prompted many food-importing countries to seek to replace the purchasing of food on global markets with securing agricultural land in other countries.

While the foreseen future magnitude of foreign contracting in third parties’ lands and agricultural sectors is still uncertain and needs to be assessed, the current trend has raised considerable public attention, political debate and controversies. Calls were made for everything from a moratorium on “land-grabbing” to the regulation of “large-scale land acquisitions” through responsible investment principles and codes of conduct to make investments in land profitable for local development and performance of local agriculture, be it small or large scale farmers.

Governments stand at this crossroads where on the one hand, as many studies and analysis demonstrate, appropriate investments, efficient and effective use of natural resources and land may have both economic and ecological advantages under certain conditions but where, on the other hand, there are also typical examples of land grabbing with very negative effects for sustainable development, including social effects on small scale farmers, ecological effects such as decreased efficiency and effectiveness of the use of natural resources and the mining of soils.
In the study, various elements will be considered in an analysis and diagnosis to pave the way for recommendations.

Feedback sought

The study of the HLPE is bound by the mandate received from the CFS in October 2010, and its purpose is therefore to undertake analysis and formulate policy recommendations in the following three areas:

  • Roles of large-scale plantations and of small-scale farming, including economic, social, gender and environmental impacts
  • Tools allowing the mapping of available land
  • Tools to align large scale investments with country food security strategies

Through the present online consultation, and within this mandate, the HLPE seeks feedback on the following first draft of a detailed scope of the study.

  • In particular, do you think the scope is appropriate?
  • Have important elements been omitted?
  • Should any of the elements, below, be left out?
  • In your opinion, what would be the main points to emphasize in the report?

Please be as specific as possible

The HLPE intends to take into account the very wide variety of models of agricultural production and marketing, and to address the diversity of social, economic, political and environmental contexts, not restricting the analysis to large scale agricultural investments, but trying to assess what kind of investments are needed to achieve development objectives, giving particular attention to poor farmers, women, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, forest-dwellers, and other marginalized groups etc.

We look forward to your kind response.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the HLPE