The portfolio, once considered a crown jewel in the endowment, is vast with assets including timberland plantations in Central and South America, a dairy farm in New Zealand, and vineyards in California.
Canada's Public Sector Pension Investment Board is looking to capitalise on favourable growing conditions and access to Asian markets having taken a 30 percent stake in the central North Island's Kaingaroa forestry estate.
Since Jane Mendillo took over the endowment in July 2008, Harvard’s holdings of forests, farms and other natural resources in Brazil as well as in New Zealand and Romania have grown to about 10 percent of the portfolio -- more than $3 billion -- and she wants to add more.
The chief of Harvard University’s $32 billion endowment said the fund has been eyeing timberland, farmland, infrastructure, energy and water-related investments in anticipation of growing global demand.
US groups call on Harvard to reconsider its institutional participation in agricultural land investments and to look for more just and sustainable ways to support its educational and research missions.
A new report published this week claims farmers in Africa are being driven off their traditional lands to make way for vast new industrial farming projects backed by European hedge funds seeking profits and foreign countries looking for cheap food.