Up for Grabs: addressing the impacts of land grabbing on women


Kim Jessen Roberson


Kim Jessen Roberson

Land grabbing threatens women’s rights across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Two grassroots activists, two grantmakers and a well-known research organization shared their strategies for tackling this injustice at all levels.

On 25 January, Global Greengrants Fund presented a session at the International Human Rights Funders Group conference in San Francisco entitled Up for Grabs – Impacts of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Women’. The session was moderated by Peter Kostishack (Director of Programs at Global Greengrants Fund), and speakers were Miriam Miranda (General Coordinator of OFRANEH – the National Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), Fred Nelson (Executive Director of Maliasili Initiatives) and Ruth Meinzen-Dick (Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute). The purpose of the session was to explore the issue of land grabbing throughout the global South, particularly its impacts on women. Since the audience primarily consisted of fellow grantmakers, the goal was to focus on tangible funding strategies that have proven effective in addressing the human rights implications of large-scale land acquisitions.

Our discussion highlighted a number of philanthropic strategies that can be used by funders, regardless of a donor’s size or location. For example:

  • Funding research to document the negative impacts of land grabs
  • Funding community-level projects to educate and mobilize grassroots groups
  • Strengthening communal land rights and other land tenure and consultation tools
  • Funding policy advocacy with government agencies, development banks, and corporations
  • Funding collective civil society action and helping groups to network with each other

We also discussed the need for individuals and foundations alike to examine their investments and endowments closely. Many publicly traded companies are at least partially responsible for the recent spike in land investments throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Corporations are buying up large tracts of land to produce food, biofuels and cash crops, or to pursue tourism and mining operations. By participating in shareholder activism, foundations and individual donors can send a clear message to companies about their land acquisition practices in developing countries.

What struck me the most during this session was the need for interventions at all levels – from a group of indigenous women learning about their land rights, to an NGO bringing a case to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, to a large foundation engaging in shareholder resolutions and divestment campaigns.

With such a wide range of solutions, it is clear that we need to communicate and collaborate with our peers in the philanthropic world.

Kim Jessen Roberson is director of philanthropic partnerships at Global Greengrants Fund

Tagged in: Collaboration Developing societies human rights IHRFG conference Land grabbing Up for Grabs

Comments (2)

kevin otieno

thank you for a new intres in land issues. i consider this a relief since so many injustices are done under the watch of our government in kenya leaving the poor helpless and hopeless as they struggle to cope with difficult life after their land is grabbed and to make it worse such victims are denied justice due to bribery that judges accept to intefere with justice. R.E.D H.E.L.P youth organization would want to partner with internatonal human rights funders group to address the same locally in kenya.


Thanks for an interesting post, and great to see some philanthropic attention paid to this major trend, including the investment angle. We all have a responsibility when investment managers (even in the mission-related investment space) are talking about the opportunities in providing basic services like food, water and education, to test what that means in terms of companies on the ground and prices for the poor. On 17th April in London, Bernice Lee from Chatham House will be presenting findings from a major forthcoming report on global economic trends and how they impact the opportunities and threats to sustainable development. The event is open to all funders. If you would like to attend, do please get in touch: nick@greenfunders.org

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