français | español | english
Online Knowledge Base
Natural Resource Governance around the World

Uneven Ground. Land Inequality at the Heart of Unequal Societies. Research Findings from the Land Inequality Initiative

Full Report



In most countries, land inequality is growing. Worse, new measures and analysis published in this synthesis report show that land inequality is significantly higher than previously reported. This trend directly threatens the livelihoods of an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide involved in smallholder agriculture.

Land inequality is also central to many other forms of inequality related to wealth, power, gender, health, and environment and is fundamentally linked to contemporary global crises of democratic decline, climate change, global health security and pandemics,

mass migration, unemployment, and intergenerational injustice. Beyond its direct effects on smallholder agriculture, it is clear that land inequality undermines stability and the development of sustainable societies, affecting all of us in almost every aspect of our lives.

Land is a common good, providing water, food, and natural resources that sustain all life. It is the guarantor of biodiversity, health, resilience, and equitable and sustainable livelihoods. It is immovable, non-renewable, and inextricably connected to people and societies.

How we manage and control land has shaped our economies, political structures,communities, cultures, and beliefs for thousands of years.

Despite the centrality of land inequality to so many global challenges, and despite global recognition of the fundamental importance of secure and equitable land rights in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs), inequalities in rights to land and the distribution of benefits from it are on the increase, while unsustainable land use is placing a huge burden on those least able to bear it.

The “uneven ground” alluded to in the title of this synthesis report is where the majority of rural people are increasingly finding themselves. They are the focus of this report and of the work of the International Land Coalition. Smallholders and family farms, indigenous peoples, rural women, youth, and landless rural communities are being squeezed into smaller parcels of land or forced off the land altogether, while more and more land is concentrated in fewer hands, mainly serving the interests of corporate agribusiness and distant investors, utilising industrial models of production that employ fewer and fewer people.

This report sheds new light on the scale and speed of this growing land inequality. It provides the most comprehensive picture available today, informed by 17 specially commissioned research papers as well as analysis of existing data and literature. It lays out in detail the causes and consequences of land inequality, analyses potential solutions, and offers a potential pathway to change.

While there are still significant gaps in our knowledge, not least about the extent of corporate and financial interests in the world’s land, it is clear that land inequality is greater and is increasing much more rapidly than we thought. The need to address this is urgent, and it is in all our interests to do so.


For more information, see

Download the document