How Much of the World's Urbanization is Being Driven by Overseas Land Acquisitions?

Since 2006, agro-businesses, hedge-funds, financial firms, and government agencies have splurged on an overseas land-buying binge. As Saskia Sassen explains, such purchases disrupt the status quo, forcing local residents to migrate to cities.

"The sharp change in the post-2006 level of acquisitions concerns me," says Sassen. "It points to a specific structural transformation in an old practice: the massive expulsion of small farms, rural factories and whole villages from land they may have held or occupied for many generations."

"When a foreign government acquires 2.8m hectares of land in Congo and another such tract in Zambia to grow palm for biofuels, it expels faunas and floras, and all other uses of that land. It creates a tabula rasa, where once there were smallholder economies generating livelihoods for local people," she explains. "In all these diverse situations, survival has become a major challenge for local residents, even for the relatively small proportion able to get a job in the plantations and mines."

"Migrating to the cities is one major option," she observes. "When politicians drone on mindlessly about more than half the world's population becoming urbanised, they rarely bring up the diverse ways in which people are being pushed off their land. Where else can they go but cities?"

"The generic term 'migration' tends to obscure the fact that our firms and government agencies, and those of our allies, may have contributed to expulsions."

Full Story: Migration is expulsion by another name in world of foreign land deals

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