According to the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz, a study published last week entitled New Colonial Israel indicates that Israel is at the forefront of countries taken by the phenomenon of ‘land control’ in which governments and private companies around the world control agricultural areas in poorer countries for economic benefit. The number of countries involved in this kind of land control has risen to 60 in recent years. Meanwhile, experts warn that the phenomenon has dangerous environmental and economic effects on poorer countries.
The new study into the phenomenon called “land grabbing” was conducted by researchers in the United States and Italy, and was published in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
According to the study, private governments and companies control land in different countries, mainly for the purpose of agricultural and food development or to grow plants for the production of biofuels. The process is usually done without any negotiations or cooperation with the locals, including those working on the land, and without taking into consideration the environmental and economic effects.
Moreover, based on the study, the amount of land taken over by foreign countries has reached over 400 million acres (according to Haaretz, this is the equivalent to 20 times the area of Israel). Moreover, a significant portion of this land was taken control of in the last four years.
The study pointed out that 90% of this land takes place in 24 countries most of which are located in Africa and Asia. In some cases, a substantial proportion of land in a single country is taken over as in the Philippines where the proportion is 17.2% of the total area of agricultural lands. Similarly is Sierra Leone where the proportion has reached 6.9%.
The study indicated that Israel is at the forefront of countries controlling land along with the United States, Britain, and China. The study also points out that Israel took control of extensive agricultural land in Columbia for the cultivation of sugar cane for the production of biofuels and in the Democratic Republic of Congo to cultivate jatropha to do the same.
The researchers for the study stress that this phenomenon may have many effects on the environment and the food production of poor countries. In addition to this, researchers also point out that in some countries the new crops come at the expense of jungles and other areas of environmental importance. In some cases, the land is exploited for the consumption of large amounts of water which benefits rich countries and has a negative impact on the people of the poorer countries.
According to the study, “the process of land control is a new form of colonialism that has grown in the last four years.”