Apr. 24 (GIN) – Some 86 million acres of fertile farm lands in Africa have been leased or acquired by foreign investors in a growing trend that leaves Africans more food insecure.

Most of the land ‘grabbed’ by investors is used to produce inputs for so-called biofuels.

Release of a score of disturbing land use studies coincides with the annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington, DC, this week.

Critics blame the current wave of land grabs on World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies and on ‘accomplice’ governments.

Stefano Liberti, author of ‘Land Grabbing: How the market for land is creating a new colonialism’, remarked that the most spectacular cases of land grabbing were in Ethiopia. “This country has been suffering from famine for decades… And yet, it has been leasing or selling its best land to foreign investors for almost nothing at all to produce food or inputs for biofuels to be consumed abroad.”

Foreign companies pay extremely low salaries to their Ethiopian workers, almost nothing for the land, enjoys tax breaks for the import of technology, and on top of that uses the country’s water for free, he said.

Joan Baxter, with the Oakland Institute, a land policy thinktank, disputed the invitation to hedge-fund managers and ‘land grabbers’ at the World Bank Conference.

“Instead why don’t they invite some rural women to talk about how the loss of their land to rich investors has robbed them of their livelihoods?” she asked. w/pix of displaced farmer