Major challenges to food production – competing for land use

After more than 2 decades Oxfam’s school program has closed. Our commitment to tackling poverty and empowering communities continues. The resources on these pages will no longer be updated.
– September 2019.


1: What is a ‘Land Grab’?

2: Land Grabs in Asia

3: Land grabs around the globe

4: Behind the Brands

5: Land grabs and Australia

6: Extension activity


Since the food price increases that occurred in 2008 during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), large food-producing companies have expanded their farming practises across the world in an attempt to make greater profit from growing food.

In some cases, the way this has been done has resulted in small-scale farmers being forcibly removed from their land.

This often results in people losing their homes and finding it difficult to feed their families, and can also impact on the ability to educate children and have access to health care.

Watch these videos to find out more:

1: What is a ‘Land Grab’?

Read this article and answer the following questions.

It’s not necessarily a problem when wealthy companies invest in agricultural land in poor countries for commercial use. But when families are kicked off the land or less food is grown as a result, that’s a very big problem indeed.

And since the food price spikes of 2008, that’s been happening more and more.

Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, or to grow biofuels, or simply to gain in value.

But in many cases, land sold as ‘unused’ or ‘undeveloped’ is actually being used by poor families to grow food. These families are often forcibly kicked off the land. Promises of compensation are broken. And then, to add insult to injury, the land is left idle, despite promises to the contrary.

Source: Oxfam Australia website

1. In your own words, write an explanation of what youGeography F4T_Worksheet 4 Pie chart think the term “land grab” refers to.

2.  Research three types of plants grown for the production of biofuels.

3.  Study the pie graph, right, of land areas that have been “grabbed”.

  • On which continents do 75 per cent of the land grabs occur?
  • Suggest why fewer land grabs occur in Europe.
  • North America is not shown on this graph indicating that no land is grabbed on that continent. What does this say about land ownership in America? Do you think American companies are involved in land grabs in other countries?

2: Land Grabs in Asia

Study the following map of South-East Asia to get a sense of the scale of the issue of land grabs.

Figure 2:  Land grabs in Asia

Geography F4T_Worksheet 4_Bankingimage_v2a

Source: Oxfam Australia

  1. What is the total number of land grabs that had occurred in south-east Asia by the 10 April, 2014?
  2. Rank the countries from highest to lowest number of land grabs.
  3. Read the red circles, and make a list of the uses being made of the land. What do you think will be the impact of changing this land on the local communities?
  4. Which country has the greatest issue with land grabs? Give reasons for your answer.
  5. “Land grab” is an emotive term – why do you think it is used? What other terms could be used to describe what is happening?

3: Land grabs around the globe

By January 2013, fifteen African countries had a total of 34,686,027 hectares grabbed by overseas countries and others within Africa. Agricultural products dominate the use made of the land. These countries are shown in the following table.
Geography F4T_Worksheer 4_ table_v2a

Source: All Africa

  1. Use the data in the table, and this blank map of the world, create a choropleth map of the land grabs taking place in African countries.
  2. Rule lines from each African country to make a connection to the country that is “grabbing” land.
  3. For each of the countries that are “grabbing” the land, draw symbols to show the agricultural products that are moving from one country to another.
  4. Describe the distribution of the countries in Africa where land has been grabbed. The use of latitude may help.
  5. List the main products being grown using these large-scale commercial agricultural practices.
  6. The countries undertaking the land grabs are scattered across the world. Refer to the atlas or research on the Internet to describe the economic level of development of these countries. How do they compare with the economic development of the countries whose land is being “grabbed”?

4: Behind the Brands

blog260213_btb2Behind the Brands looks at some of the major food brands that you may recognise and buy and have in your pantry.

It creates a Company Scorecard, that ranks each company according to a scale out of ten on a number of criteria, like their performance on water usage, pollution and equal pay, treatment and rights for women.

Begin by focussing on the “Land” button and then explore these international companies further.

  1. Name the major countries that are aware of the implications of land grabs.
  2. Name the companies that have a policy in place to address this issue.
  3. How effective is this type of action in influencing the foods that you eat or buy now and in the future. Explain your answer.

5: Land grabs and Australia

workshop 4Is Australia involved in land grabs? Oxfam research shows that the answer is “yes”.

Read this article.

Using the information in it and your knowledge about land grabs, using this template draw a flow diagram to show how Australia is assisting global food security while also adding to food insecurity.

6: Extension activity

Undertake some further research into a country where land grabs are occurring. Here are some sites to get you started.

Brazil – sugar and coffee plantations

 Cambodia – sugar plantations



Your research should include the following information:

  1. A location map.
  2. An explanation of the causes of the land grab in the country of your study.
  3. Where possible, some images to show the land grown for food before and after the land grab.
  4. Some possible solutions to the issues.

Present your findings using one of the following digital formats: