The Stop Harvard Land Grabs Coalition reiterated calls for the University to provide reparations to residents impacted by former holdings in Brazilian farmlands at an annual hybrid panel Wednesday.
The Stop Harvard Land Grabs Coalition, which partners with 17 Harvard and global organizations, seeks to end the school’s natural resources investments and demand regenerative solutions to damages inflicted from such holdings. The organization has long criticized Harvard for its former ownership of Brazilian farmland, which activists say were environmentally and socially harmful to the region.
The annual event, which started in 2015, aims to raise awareness of farmland holdings in many university endowment and pension funds.
According to Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at GRAIN — a farming activist group focusing on the Global South — Harvard began buying large swaths of farmland after the 2007-08 financial crisis.
“This was part of a larger trend — a larger wave of land grabbing that emerged at that time — where companies were scouring the planet, looking for places to acquire large areas of farmland and to produce agricultural commodities for export,” Kuyek said.
Research from GRAIN showed that in the period between 2008 and 2016, Harvard conducted nearly 500 land deals across 78 countries. In 2016, 10 percent of Harvard’s endowment was allocated toward natural resources investments, which encompass farmland and timberland holdings.
Harvard Management Company, the entity that stewards the University’s endowment has since spun out its natural resources investments — including all farmland holdings — to Solum Partners, an investment management firm, and decreased the endowment’s natural resources allocation to one percent.
HMC remains invested in Solum Partners — meaning that any of Solum’s land holdings are indirectly part of Harvard’s endowment — but retains little involvement in its day-to-day operations.