Land Grabbing

How the world’s poorest people are losing everything to “feed” western lifestyles

Every day, some of the world’s poorest people are turned off their land losing their homes, jobs and livelihoods. But behind the scandal of this “daylight robbery” are the demands of Western nations for food, fuel and other commodities.

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This global “rush” for land has gone largely unnoticed by those whose nations are largely responsible. An estimated 200 million hectares (23 times the size of Ireland) has been taken away from individuals and communities in the developing world over recent years.

With little legal protection, people who traditionally supported themselves and their families by growing crops or raising livestock, are now left without a home or the ability to provide for themselves.  Corrupt governments frequently collude with the corporations to hand over land and even using militias to evict people by force.

This scandal has echoes in Irish history when evictions and “land grabbing” was common. In the 18th century, William T Thornton wrote, “To an Irish cottier a writ of ejectment [eviction] is equivalent to a sentence of starvation.”

Rachel Ibreck is a lecturer in Peace and Conflict in the University of Limerick who is researching how communities in developing countries can fight against land-grabbing.

She spoke with VOX magazine about her research and about the implications for us in Ireland.

“The communities I encountered had not been properly informed about the contents of their lease and its implications,” Rachel said. “They were dealing with big power structures and felt unable to challenge the acquisition of their land.”

Some non-profit groups were working to mobilise the communities to fight the corporations by providing them with information and support. But without help from outside, few groups can match the power and influence of the corporations.

“We are the consumers of some of these products and to imagine that we are not all involved is an illusion,” Rachel explained. “European development finance has been used to fund bio-fuel products. It is being touted as a development strategy but it affects the most vulnerable.The Irish understand the importance of land. We need to challenge and hold to account these organisations.”

Christian Aid Ireland is one of the charities that is seeking to help and protect communities at risk from land-gabbing.  Find out more about what they are doing and how you can get involved at