Grabbed land: the socio-demographic determinants

Anna Paterno, Università degli Studi di Bari
Laura Terzera, Università degli Studi di Milano - Bicocca

The term “land grabbing” indicates large-scale land acquisitions by countries and corporations, that cause a concentration of huge agricultural territories, located mainly in developing countries, but owned and managed by few public or private entities. Its new form began in the second half of the nineties, and rapidly grew due to the rise in food prices in 2007-2008, and to the expected increase of the world population, with the consequent demand for food and agricultural resources. Scholars focused mainly on the impact of land grabbing on the countries that cede land; in the rare cases in which the determinants of the phenomenon have been observed, they have been considered mainly with reference to the countries that buy land. Little attention has so far dedicated on the factors that “push” countries to cede land. Bearing in mind the scarce literature available on this issue, we aim to identify some of the main determinants of land grabbing, especially with regard to socio-demographic factors, in addition to political, environmental and economic ones. To this purpose, we analyze available data referred to transnational contracts signed in 173 countries up to March 2014, and collected by Land Matrix, that is considered the most complete and consistent source on this topic. After performing descriptive analyses, we apply a factor analysis and implement an ordinal regression model. Obtained results show firstly that the countries most “backward” in the process of socio-demographic development are the most “at risk” to give up their lands. Moreover, the countries having the lowest levels of democratic and economic progress are also the most prone to cede their land. Lastly, being a buyer in the land market increases the probability to sell soil, supporting the hypothesis that countries give up land aiming to enter in the international financial markets.

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Presented in Session 65: Population, development and environment interactions