Petition to stop Harvard’s land grabs

The Harvard Corporation

Sign our petition to demand Harvard stops its destructive land grabs and makes reparations to those it has harmed!

Harvard, which boasts the world’s biggest university endowment, has reportedly invested over $1 billion in land investments globally since 2008. These investments have led to vast harm to people and the environment. We believe that Harvard must take direction from those it has harmed and implement regenerative solutions to address the harm and return resources and wealth to those it has stolen from.

This petition will mobilize the Harvard community to pressure the Harvard Corporation, the 13 person governing body of the university, to implement reparations and stop all land investing. Furthermore, we aim to stigmatize all extractive land speculation by hedge funds, private equity, university endowments, pension funds, and other financial institutions, and provide a model for how financial institutions can repair harms that they have already done.

Harvard organizing partners:

Stop Harvard Land Grabs

Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard

Harvard Alliance Against Campus Cops

Harvard Human Rights Working Group

Harvard Kennedy School Equity Coalition

Harvard Kennedy School Human Rights Professional Interest Council

Harvard Kennedy School International Development PIC Leadership Team

Harvard Kennedy School Progressive Caucus

Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign

Harvard Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM)

Harvard Task Force For Asian American Progressive Advocacy and Studies (TAPAS)

La Alianza at Harvard Law School

Natives at Harvard College

Our Harvard Can Do Better

United States Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB) at Harvard

Global partners:

ActionAid USA

National Family Farm Coalition

Network for Social Justice and Human Rights (Rede Social)

We welcome additional organizational sign-ons! To co-sign the petition, please email us at

To: The Harvard Corporation
From: [Your Name]

To the Harvard Corporation:

We, the undersigned Harvard affiliates and concerned community members, demand that you immediately stop investing in new farmland, return the lands already acquired to affected communities, and pay reparations for the undeniable harm of Harvard’s global land business.

We are ashamed that Harvard University – an institution that prides itself on helping to create a more just world – makes speculative investments with farmland that so directly harm rural communities’ health, safety, and livelihoods. According to investigative reporting, Harvard has spent nearly $1 billion acquiring farmland globally since 2008, making it a leading institution operating in farmland markets. These land deals, which span from California to Brazil to Russia, have failed miserably.

Foremost, we are troubled that Harvard’s disregard for the social impact of its business. According to reporting compiled by the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights and GRAIN, Harvard-owned companies have displaced and harassed traditional communities — at times sending in armed security guards, bribing locals, and turning neighbors against each other. Harvard-owned agribusiness ventures have been linked to the pollution of waterways, destroying biodiversity and the livelihoods of local people.

We are deeply concerned that Harvard’s business in biodiverse regions like the Brazilian Cerrado will contribute to rising greenhouse gas emissions, habitat loss, and critical environmental harms. As of 2019, Harvard owned at least 1 million acres of land in the Cerrado region in an effort to profit from the agribusiness industry and other speculative exploits. Much of Harvard’s land in Brazil is believed to have been affected by massive wildfires linked to agribusiness expansion driven by companies like Harvard.

Furthermore, we recognize that these land investments, especially those in the Brazilian Cerrado, have reportedly lost Harvard large amounts of money. According to Bloomberg, auditors wrote down one of Harvard’s Brazilian farmland projects by $200 million in 2017. Not only have Harvard’s land holdings put a moral stain on its reputation, but they have also failed to benefit the university financially.

The Harvard Corporation’s silence on these matters is alarming. The Harvard community deserves full transparency, rather than relying on third-party investigative reports to uncover the extent of its harm.

Altamiran Lopes Ribeiro, an organizer from the Brazilian state of Piaui, visited Harvard in 2019 to call on the university to address its land holdings. Sitting in front of Memorial hall, he said,

“We cannot allow [Harvard] to say they’re investing there to guarantee the future of the University and those who will have their pensions and investments, because that’s a big lie. The profit that comes from those investments is a profit that is tainted with blood, pain, and suffering from those communities.”

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with land activists and impacted communities around the globe who have been calling on Harvard for years to redress the harms of its investments. We demand that:

Harvard Management Company (HMC) give full transparency about the scope and impacts of the endowment’s land holdings and those held by companies or funds it is invested in

Harvard immediately begin to return land back to affected communities

Harvard pay reparations to affected communities for the harms of its investments

HMC adopt a policy of making no new farmland investments