Protestors say London summit pushing global land grabs and hunger

26 June 2012 - 10:17am
Press release

WHAT?    Campaigners demonstrate outside the Agricultural Investment summit which starts today in London
WHEN?    5.30-6.30 pm BST, Tuesday 26 June 2012
WHERE?  Park Plaza Hotel, Wilton Road, Victoria, SW1V 1EQ

‘Do you realise what your pension funds?' they ask public

A coalition of environmental, development and farming groups today criticise the Agricultural Investment summit opening in London for spearheading a global land grab.

They say that City investors and pension funds are taking land from countries and vulnerable communities who need it to grow food. 

The coalition, including the anti-poverty charity War on Want, this afternoon will demonstrate against the summit and have released a statement, signed by over 60 European and international organisations, calling for pension funds and other financial institutions to stop land grabbing.

Graciela Romero, international programmes director at War on Want, said: “Hedge funds and private equity funds are misusing Britons' pension funds to recklessly acquire land and water in developing countries, escalating hunger, destitution and conflict. Despite these harmful practices, there is no binding regulation in the UK or globally to enforce transparency. International financial institutions, such as the World Bank, promote voluntary codes of conduct to minimise the negative impact on communities. But these codes appear more a front to avoid legal controls than any effective means that can protect people's right to land.”

According to the organisation Grain, “pension funds are said to be the biggest institutional investors in both commodities in general and farmland in particular.”

A briefing from Grain says: “Pension funds currently juggle US$23 trillion in assets, of which some US$100 billion are believed to be invested in commodities. Of this money in commodities, some US$5–15 billion are reportedly going into farmland acquisitions. By 2015, these commodity and farmland investments are expected to double.”

“Africa, Asia and Latin America are seeing an acceleration of land grabbing at a rate not seen since colonial times,” says Nyikaw Ochalla, of the Anuak people from Ethiopia, whose livelihoods are threatened by the land grabs of foreign companies. “Land is the lifeline of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, fishing and farming communities in the Ethiopian lands targeted by land grabbing policy.  It is a myth that our lands are ‘wastelands', only suitable for commercial agricultural development.” 

The coalition points to millions of hectares grabbed by this kind of investment in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, Kenya, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Brazil and many more. 

British companies alone have acquired the rights to more than three million hectares in poor countries. [1] - equivalent to almost two thirds of the UK's total cropland.

[1] International Land Coalition

“The summit organisers cheerily call this devastating trend an ‘emerging and expanding asset class', and bill the summit as an opportunity to ‘overcome the perceived obstacles to investment',” adds Tim Rice, biofuels policy advisor at ActionAid. “But they are glossing over the true impact on the ground. They are displacing farmers, uprooting communities and food production, and destroying ecosystems on a massive scale.  They are increasing hunger and poverty globally.  In a world where one billion people already go hungry, land must stay in the hands of local communities so that they can feed themselves.”

“It's about time the actions of pension fund investors in London's Square Mile are put in the public spotlight – they must be held responsible for the role they play in the land-grabbing scandal,” said Kenneth Richter, of Friends of the Earth. “The lack of transparency in the pension investment world means anyone's pension fund could be used to wreck the livelihoods of farming communities' around the world – without their knowledge. The Government must take action by forcing pension funds to come clean about their land-grabbing activities and making sure these companies are above board about major land purchases abroad.”

The groups' statement declares: “Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped.” 

It says: “Pension funds are reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors' in farmland worldwide.  Millions of hectares have been leased or bought up in recent years.  As a result, peasants, herders, fishers and other rural households are being dispossessed of their means to feed themselves and their communities, sometimes through promises of jobs, sometimes at gunpoint.”


  1. The Agriculture Investment Summit – Europe 2012 takes place from today (Tuesday, 26 June) to Thursday (28 June) at the Park Plaza Hotel in London's Victoria.  Titles of talks at the summit include “Agriculture in Africa: ‘land grab' or untapped opportunity?” and call farmland “one of the greatest investments in the world”. Information about the event can be found at:
  2. The alliance of civil society groups includes War on Want, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, Biofuelwatch, Global Witness, The Land Is Ours, the Gaia Foundation, Reclaim the Fields UK and Re:Common  It will hold a demonstration outside the hotel at 5.30pm BST today. 
  3. The joint civil society statement - “Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped” - has been signed by over 60 European and international organisations and can be found online at
    The statement gives notice to pension funds, private and public financial institutions, and states that can regulate them, that speculation on land must be stopped.  Financial actors must be compelled to publicly disclose complete information about any direct or indirect financing of land acquisitions, and be subject to mandatory, prior and independent assessment of the potential impacts of investments and products.  Contact Rachel Tansey for more information.
  4. Case studies of land grabbing include:
    2. “Land, Life and Justice: how land grabbing in Uganda is affecting the environment, livelihoods and food sovereignty of communities” Friends of the Earth International, April 2012.
    3. “Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab” GRAIN report, June 2012
    6. 1,000 farmers in Karnataka, India, have done a Jail bharo (a peaceful protest strategy, in which protestors volunteer to be arrested, and a popular strategy used by Gandhi) to protest against the Agricultural Investment summit in Bangalore. N.B. Some protestors at the Agricultural Investment summit in London will be wearing green scarves to express solidarity with the Karnataka Farmers' Union (KRRS), the Rajya Ryota Sangha.
  5. For an online public database of large-scale land deals please visit the Land Matrix at  The matrix shows that almost five per cent of Africa's land has been bought up since 2000, roughly the size of Kenya, with little evidence of job creation or benefits to local communities. The data shows that poorer countries, with high rates of hunger, have been targeted.
  6.  For more information on the ties between financial institutes and land grabbing, please see:
    1. “Pension Funds: key players in the global farmland grab” GRAIN, June 2011
    2. Table of pension funds involved in global largescale farmland acquisitions as of June 2012 (GRAIN)
    3.  “Farming Money: how European banks and private finance profit from food speculation and land grabs” Friends of the Earth report, January 2012
  7. For more information and interviews, please contact: Paul Collins (+44) (0)7983 550728. Kenneth Richter, (+44) (0)20 7566 1671. Tim Rice, (+44) (0)20 3122 0561. Josie Cohen  (+44) (0)7956 250 260.


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