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Who can grow more food, agribusiness or small farmers? The answer might surprise you

land-grabs2Land. A plot of it to call our own. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?

On this week’s podcast, we talk to Darryl Vhugen from Landesa, a rural development think tank. Vhugen has been studying land in the developing world for five years, since the financial collapse in 2008 precipitated a surge in land grabs by investors around the world.

In fact, he just returned from Tanzania, where he was helping the government deal with large investors. Vhugen says that smallholder and peasant farmers are often victimized as officials rush to sell off parcels of land for meager prices. Huge projects – “supersize farms” and the like –  in Ethopia and elsewhere, that sound great on paper, have failed.

So who’s buying up all this land? The answer will probably surprise you. How should governments respond to promises of jobs by investors? Again, the answer’s not so simple. How does climate change affect land value and agriculture?

Can small farmers be as productive as large agribusiness? This is counter-intuitive, but the answer is yes, Vhugen says. And he’s done the research to prove they can even be more productive than large farms, which is important, since we need to feed a growing population. Vhugen’s been from Mozambique to Burma, and he explains how some farmers are earning more than ever before.

Before the interview, Tom Murphy and I discuss this week’s headlines, including transparency in the mineral trade and how the World Food Program is using Facebook to feed the hungry.

Listen below. (And please subscribe and rate the Humanosphere podcast on iTunes – thanks!)


About Author

Ansel Herz

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz[at] or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.