Recently, worldwide investments in land have increased. Key triggers of the recent wave in large-scale land investments are the 2007-8 food and financial crises, with equity investors and pension funds now seeking new asset classes for investment. This is leading to land being regarded as just another commodity to be bought and sold by international investors and leads to landgrabbing. The term ‘land grabbing’ applies when land that was previously used by local communities is leased or sold to outside investors, including corporations and governments, which leads to local farmers and communities losing their land and access to livelihoods and environmental degradation. Landgrabbing occurs for the production of palmoil, but also for extractive industries like oil, gas and mining.

Many financers of large scale land acquisitions or agribusiness companies have adopted environmental and social financing policies that refer to international norms such as RSPO, UN Global Compact or the OECD principles. However, in reality it is difficult to see how these policies are being implemented.

Several organisations, including Friends of the Earth Europe, are campaigning to ensure that these landgrabs are stopped and are addressing investors to ensure they use their influence on the company to solve the problems of the landgrabbing companies and consider divesting if this is not done. Also the financers should develop and implement policies to ensure that investments in land do not contribute to conflicts with communities, deforestation or violations of the law in host or home countries;

European funded palm oil expansion in Liberia linked to social and environmental damage

European banks, pension funds and private equity funds have given financial assistance worth more than €450 million to Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby, responsible for environmental degradation and violations of national regulations in Liberia, according to new research from Friends of the Earth Europe [1].

European banks fuel land-grabs in Uganda

Palm oil giant Wilmar International linked to community displacement and deforestation

European banks and pension funds continue to finance one of the largest and most destructive palm oil giants Wilmar International, according to new research released today by Friends of the Earth Europe [1]. Well known banks including HSBC, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Rabobank offer financial assistance to Wilmar valuing over one billion euro, and European and American financial institutions own shares in the company worth €621 million [2].

Wilmar International owns oil palm plantation and refiners in Indonesia and Malaysia [3]. New research from Friends of the Earth Europe links Wilmar’s subsidiaries on Kalangala Island, Uganda to land-grabs and violations of both national laws and environmental legislation [4].

The project has led to the deforestation of around 3,600 hectares in Kalangala and displaced farmers and their families with no compensation or alternative livelihood options, robbing a large number of islanders of their food, medicine, and livelihood.