Land Squeeze

Posted on May 12, 2024
SUMMARY | Global land prices have doubled in 15 years, squeezing farmers. Carbon schemes & finance are spurring land grabs. This report unpacks soaring land inequality & transformative actions for equitable land access.

Land is critical to the lives, livelihoods, and food security of millions of people across the world. But a series of unprecedented pressures on global farmland are driving a "land squeeze" that is worsening land inequality, rural poverty, and food insecurity.

Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, peasants, and pastoralists are losing their land, and losing their culture, livelihoods, and rural traditions, while young farmers face huge barriers to access farmland.

The financial crash and food price crisis of 2007-2008 unleashed a huge wave of land grabs. Investors, agri-food companies, and sovereign wealth funds succeeded in appropriating large swathes of farmland around the world. The ‘land rush’ slowed down after a few years, but the pressures never went away. 

Just over a decade later, the world is now facing a multi-dimensional land squeeze, affecting every region worldwide, with land inequality growing fastest in central-Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. Land prices have nearly doubled globally since 2008, and tripled in Central Europe. Globally, 1% of the world's largest farms control 70% of the world's farmland. 

This time, the threats are even greater, as land grabs proliferate into new and obscure forms, and farmers and communities are squeezed from all sides.

IPES-Food identifies four trends driving this land squeeze and exacerbating land inequality around the world: 

1. Land Grabbing 2.0:

2. Green Grabbing:

3. Expansion and Encroachment:

4. Food System Reconfiguration:

The global land squeeze is threatening millions of livelihoods, food security, and biodiversity. If left unaddressed, current trends could push this crisis to a tipping point for food systems – deepening land inequality, exacerbating rural poverty and rural exodus, and squeezing more sustainable forms of small and medium scale farming permanently out of business. This could push agriculture irrevocably towards unsustainable and polluting industrial models. 

Addressing this crisis requires bold and transformative action by policymakers.

The IPES-Food panel calls for: