NGO warns of land grab by multinationals in Colombia

Colombia’s land is being stockpiled by multinational companies, which could lead to greater rural poverty, claims NGO Oxfam.

A report by British non-governmental organization Oxfam describes the aggressive land acquisition taking place in the world’s poorer countries as a “modern-day land rush.”

Head report writer Asier Hernando told Caracol Radio, “Colombia is one of the countries in the world with the most inequality in the access to land. There are few countries more unequal than Colombia, and this leads to massive rural poverty, contributes to conflict and limits the country’s development.”

Instead of being used to grow food for Colombians, land is being bought up by multinationals for investment or speculation purposes, or increasingly for growing bio-fuels. Colombian land acquisition for bio-fuel production has been increasing since 2001 and is becoming an acute problem, according to Oxfam.

Hernando, who is also co-ordinator of the campaign Crecer para Sudamerica (Grow for South America), said if the land grabbing is not stopped, it could lead to a very serious situation within five years, with poverty increasing at an accelerated pace.

He told Spanish news agency EFE, “Colombia is one of the most attractive countries to foreign investors, as much for the quality of its land as for its water.”

The report, Land and Power, which was presented in Bogota Wednesday, also highlights the lack of regulations for buying and selling land in Colombia. Along with Peru it has the least regulation in the region. “The legal framework does not consider the prohibition or regulation of the purchase of land by foreigners,” said Hernando.

Problems are also caused by national governments which buy and lease land for 30 or 40 years.

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