Kenyans who live on disputed land at the Mau forest stand by the roadside at a makeshift village. Photograph: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
Almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, according to an international coalition of researchers and NGOs that has released the world's largest public database of international land deals.
The database, launched on Thursday, lifts the lid on a decade of secretive deals struck by governments, investors and speculators seeking large tracts of fertile land in developing countries around the world.
The past five years have seen a flood of reports of investors snapping up land at rock-bottom prices in some of the world's poorest countries. But, despite growing concern about the local impacts of so-called "land grabs", the lack of reliable data has made it difficult to pin down the real extent and nature of the global rush for land.
Researchers estimate that more than 200m hectares (495m acres) of land – roughly eight times the size of the UK – were sold or leased between 2000 and 2010. Details of 1,006 deals covering 70.2m hectares mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America were published by the Land Matrix project, an international partnership involving five major European research centres and 40 civil society and research groups from around the world.