New Book | The Global Farms Race

Global Farms Race
Land Grabs, Agricultural Investment, and the Scramble for Food Security


With populations exploding and droughts touching many corners of the globe, not least the American Midwest, rising food prices are on everyone’s mind. Food security concerns and an increased interest in biofuels as an energy source are prompting corporations and governments to buy or lease large amounts of agricultural land in foreign countries. In the past decade, these agricultural investments have gobbled up 230 million hectares, an area equivalent to the size of Western Europe.


While some of these deals offer developing countries better infrastructure and agricultural technology, they can also threaten local livelihoods and damage the environment. To date, there has been no comprehensive overview of this growing trend’s social, economic, and environmental effects. The Global Farms Race: Land Grabs, Agricultural Investment, and the Scramble for Food Security offers the first global perspective on large-scale agricultural land sales and leases.


Contributors come from diverse backgrounds that include agricultural consulting, academia, farmers’ advocacy groups, and international organizations. The book begins with thematic chapters that examine the historic rise of large-scale land deals, as well as contributions focusing on their impacts. It then offers regional perspectives from practitioners on the ground in the parts of the world hosting the majority of the farmland investments—Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.


Although “land grabs” can be a divisive issue, the contributors are careful to look at the nuances of the practice. Different crops, regions, and specific agreements offer different lessons for successful future land deals. By avoiding oversimplified values statements that are so commonly applied to this issue, The Global Farms Race’s contributors offer actionable steps to design agreements with better developmental, social, and environmental outcomes.


As land deals continue to be a popular avenue for assuring food security, it is imperative to understand their consequences and how to maximize their benefits to all parties involved. The Global Farms Race is a critical resource for developing that understanding.



Michael Kugelman is Senior Program Associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Susan L. Levenstein is Program Specialist with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.