The most recent ‘land rush’ precipitated by the convergent ‘crises’ of fuel, feed and food
in 2007–2008 has heightened the debate on the consequences of land investments, with
widespread media coverage, policy commentary and civil society engagement. This
‘land rush’ has been accompanied by a ‘literature rush’, with a fast-growing body of
reports, articles, tables and books with varied purposes, metrics and methods. Land
grabbing, as it is popularly called, is now a hot political topic around the world,
discussed amongst the highest circles. This is why getting the facts right is very
important and having effective methodologies for doing so is crucial. Several global
initiatives have been created to aggregate information on land deals, and to describe
their scale, character and distribution. All have contributed to building a bigger (if not
always better) picture of the phenomenon, but all have struggled with methodology.
This JPS Forum identifies a profound uncertainty about what it is that is being
counted, questions the methods used to collate and aggregate ‘land grabs’, and calls
for a second phase of land grab research which abandons the aim of deriving total
numbers of hectares in favour of more specific, grounded and transparent methods.