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Land-grabbing in Africa



Large-scale land acquisitions are widespread in Africa. In the 2000s, Africa became a 'grabbers’ hotspot', following global concerns over food security and fuel supplies. Land, with its available water potential, was acquired by a wide range of private and public actors, including sovereign governments, on African soil. Ineffective legal, political and institutional processes have permitted large-scale land acquisition to the detriment of local communities. There are increasing tensions with local communities who suffer from dispossession of land and natural resources and lack power, made worse where there are no mechanisms for relocation or compensation. Rural populations do, however, mobilize grass-roots agency to contest ‘dispossession’. In Cameroon, corporate accumulation of land is supported for its national-level benefits, but this pits government against local communities with women often being the biggest losers from loss of farmland. 'Green grabbing', justified on environmental grounds, also affects local livelihoods. Communities are not necessarily adverse to commercial agriculture if they are able to exercise more control over it.
Submitted version - published as Batterbury S.P.J. and
F. Ndi. 2018. Land grabbing in Africa. In Binns J.A., K. Lynch
and E. Nel (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of African
Development. London: Routledge. PP 573-582. (page
numbers approx.. correct)
Land-grabbing in Africa
Simon Batterbury and Frankline Ndi
Simon Batterbury is Professor of Political Ecology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster
University UK and Principal Fellow, School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Australia. He has
worked on rural development and soil and water conservation in rural Burkina Faso and Niger since the
early 1990s, and on land tenure and mining in East Timor and New Caledonia.
Frankline Ndi has submitted his PhD, School of Geography, University of Melbourne on the effects of
oil palm plantation establishment and the politics of land tenure in SW Cameroon.
Large-scale land acquisitions are widespread in Africa. In the 2000s, Africa became a 'grabbers’
hotspot', following global concerns over food security and fuel supplies. Land, with its available water
potential, was acquired by a wide range of private and public actors, including sovereign governments,
on African soil. Ineffective legal, political and institutional processes have permitted large-scale land
acquisition to the detriment of local communities. There are increasing tensions with local
communities who suffer from dispossession of land and natural resources and lack power, made worse
where there are no mechanisms for relocation or compensation. Rural populations do, however,
mobilize grass-roots agency to contest ‘dispossession’. In Cameroon, corporate accumulation of land
is supported for its national-level benefits, but this pits government against local communities with
women often being the biggest losers from loss of farmland. 'Green grabbing', justified on
environmental grounds, also affects local livelihoods. Communities are not necessarily adverse to
commercial agriculture if they are able to exercise more control over it.
Land grabbing in Africa refers to the purchase or acquisition of use rights to produce food, biofuels, or
animal feed. Over the last twenty years private, foreign investors and governments have often secured
African land as investments, or to help meet their own national food security and biofuel needs (Daniel
& Mittal, 2009). Although widely acknowledged as a global phenomenon, land grabbing is particularly
prevalent in Africa given the continent's favourable biophysical resources and its lack of existing large-
scale, industrialised agriculture and plantations compared to other continents (Anseeuw, 2013; Cotula
et al., 2014). Many Africa governments, some with weak land tenure regulations and others needing to
balance their budgets, breach existing customary and communal land tenure arrangements to reallocate
land and forests to firms, foreign governments, and speculative investors - particularly for agricultural
Land users in regions where commercial agriculture is not yet significant, or where water is abundant,
have proven to be particularly vulnerable to land grabbing (Allan et al, 2013). Firms and other actors
promise jobs and technological transfer to local populations in exchange for access to their land
through purchase or leases, but as the chapter will show, the gains are often fleeting or absent, and in
many cases, they do not ‘trickle down’ to the local communities (Anseeuw, 2013; O’Brien, 2011). The
greatest impacts are felt by the poorest of the poor those forest-dependent, farmer and herder
populations who are dispossessed and who lack other options to farm or graze their livestock (Mope
Simo, 2011; De Schutter, 2012; Cotula, 2014). They rarely receive adequate compensation for their
losses, or any significant opportunities in the new operations that exploit the land. We explore the
definitions and workings of land grabbing in Africa, providing some examples of the process.
Definitions and characteristics
According to Borras and Franco (2012) a land grabis the power to control large quantities of land
and landed resources for capital accumulation in response to food security crises, short- or long-term
climate change impacts, and financial exigencies. A 'land grab' does not include acquisition for
subsurface mining or infrastructure, but is often situated to benefit from adequate water supply (Allan
et al, 2013). 'Large-scale land acquisition' or LSLA is a more accurate term and we will use it here, but
it has proven less appealing in media reporting. In 2008, journalist John Vidal identified a related
phenomenon: 'green grabbing'. It involves a similar transfer of rights of ownership, use, and control of
resources, but on the basis of ‘green’ credentials (Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones, 2012). Thus,
environmental projects are also used to justify appropriations or acquisition of land for biodiversity
conservation, by organisations like the African Wildlife Foundation. Aside from private and public
efforts to preserve habitat, there is strong interest in ecotourism, and in securing forest land for carbon
offsetting, energy and sequestration schemes (Borras and Franco, 2010, 2012; Borras et al., 2011;
Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones, 2012).
So, in all cases, the term 'grab' signals a loss in access, because it occurs in productive regions of
tropical Africa and often where governance is weak. It is generally poorer and marginalized
communities that lose land, rather than richer farmers with greater power and influence. The process is,
therefore, a form of privatization (Green and Adams, 2015) or ‘accumulation by dispossession’
(Harvey, 2005). It involves the separation of labour from its means of production. Some of the
processes Harvey describes include: displacement of peasant farmers in favour of large-scale
producers; acquisition of land meant for food crop production to cultivate cash crops; and the
privatization of common resources (such as land and forests). Land deals are therefore part of the
'marginalization of the African peasantry' (Bernstein, 1996). 'Simple capital accumulation' occurs
where profits accrued elsewhere are reinvested in land for commercial speculation, because it is a good
investment. But from the early stages of African grabbing in the 2000s, 'primitive accumulation' has
also occurred land was not purchased at its true value, but gifted or transferred to new owners,
excluding local existing claimants' rights to what they believed to be a common resource. Primitive
accumulation harks back to colonial times, when settlers allocated land to themselves at no cost.
The FAO suggests LSLAs involve more than 1,000 ha of land changing hands in a single deal; the
direct involvement of governments or foreign investors; and negative impacts on local food security
(Borras and Franco, 2012). Governments or formal state bodies are complicit in justifying and enabling
the process of obtaining access to land that is said to be idle or sparsely populated; but the evidence is
that most deals involve some form of dispossession (Daniel & Mittal, 2009). This includes land deals
that involve national, urban-based elites and firms that also seek to grow food and biofuel for profit
or simply to reserve land for the future - in productive, but sometimes lowly populated, regions (Hall,
2011). Acquisitions can also involve amalgamation of smaller parcels that add up to a significant 'grab'
and which may still displace existing land users and land uses (Zoomers and Kaag, 2014). In some
cases transferred land is held as a 'reserve' and its use is unaltered for years or even decades; in others,
eviction occurs quickly. In the heavily forested tropics, a long lease to permit oil palm plantations
means first cutting and selling the gallery rainforest (a lucrative business) to then plant oil palm.
Data on the scale, geographical distribution, trends, and players (both national and foreign) in large-
scale land deals is generally unreliable (Vermeulen and Cotula, 2010). Acquisitions for conservation,
tourism and logging are also hard to quantify (Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones, 2012; also see Zoomers,
2013). Even where data is available, the figures differ. For example: Oxfam (2011) states that Africa’s
land under acquisition is about 34 million hectares, about the size of Germany (see also Answeeuw et
al., 2012). According to the Oakland Institute in 2009 alone, about 60 million hectares was leased or
purchased in Africa (2011). More recently, Aubry et al. (2012: 3) claim that between 50 to 80 million
hectares were acquired in the past few years’. Large land deals are not transparent and contracts are
often kept secret (Holmen, 2015). Information often ‘cannot be compared due to variations in
methodology, timescale and differing criteria for what makes a land deal’ (IIED, 2012:1) or is simply
not available to researchers. Thus there is great uncertainty about how extensive land grabbing is
(Scoones et al., 2013). Oya (2013) argues that most estimations are based on speculation, coming from
media reports and a few more accurate investigations (Holmen, 2015). The most commonly used
sources on large land deals are from the Land Matrix (an independent land monitoring initiative) and
GRAIN, a small NGO supporting farmers. The Land Matrix crosschecks from a variety of sources. The
latter is based on media reports. But this still does not guarantee that a deal is realbecause ‘activists
and campaigning civil society organisations circulate a great deal of information among themselves
and the same deal can be mentioned many times, thus making the risk of double counting obvious’
(Holmen, 2015:461). Anseeuw et al. (2012) discovered that, although 134 million hectares has been
reported as land grabbing, only 34 million hectares had been cross-referenced.
Not all of these investments have succeeded in the claims they make about what they will provide.
Monoculture crops dominate most land under acquisition, and land most suitable for food crop
production has been diverted to plantation tree crop production, including oil palm (Cotula and
Vermeulen, 2009). Davis et al. (2014) estimated 8.2 million Africans were affected through lost
income, and "poverty reduction is an unlikely result of large-scale land acquisitions". Job creation is
minimal on mechanized plantations with a few wage laborers. In tropical Africa, large-scale land
acquisitions survive at the expense of forest ecologies, and to the detriment of forest-dependent
communities (De Schutter, 2012), who unwillingly lose all or part of their land to investors.
The global drivers of land acquisition
The driving forces of African land grabs are global. Over the last three decades, rising global demand
for food, biofuel and fibre and concerns over water supplies in richer arid and semi-arid nations have
combined with the liberalization of trade and investment regimes (Cotula et al., 2009; Deininger &
Byerlee, 2011). Foreign and commercial interests have long held assets in Africa, stretching back
centuries, notably to the colonial period when much land was appropriated by foreign interests.
Examples are in southern Nigeria where palm oil demand helped to fuel Britain's Industrial Revolution,
in Algeria (where poor French farmers were resettled, without compensating the existing population)
and Kenya (where British interests created large tea plantations, farms and ranches on the best land,
some still in existence). In Cameroon, for example, the German colonial administration, prior to World
War I pursued agro-industrial development, growing oil palm, bananas, pepper and other crops in large
quantities (Bederman, 1966; see also Mope Simo, 2011). The tradition continued under French and
British rule (cf. Konings, 2008). A variety of outgrower and contractor relationships and taxation
demands also forced Africans to meet production targets for crops like cotton and cocoa on their own
land (Peluso and Lund, 2011; White et al., 2012).
The politico-economic context of contemporary market-driven valuation of natural resources is
different to these earlier colonial ventures (Peluso and Lund, 2011). The sharp increase in world food
prices in 2007-8 and again in 2011 led to bans on food exports by large producer countries, to aid their
own populations. Increases in the prices of basic commodities such as cereals was an impetus for
resource-poor, but cash-rich countries to acquire land to secure more reliable food supplies (Lisk,
2013). Agribusiness interests also sought to profit from this same insecurity through African
investments. Agrofuel production (biodiesel and bioethanol) received a boost when the European
Union required an increase in its use from the early 2000s (however in 2015, it mandated a reduction of
crop-based biofuels). Since the mid 2000s rich industrialized countries, including their investors from
North America, Europe, China, India, the Middle East, Brazil and South Africa embarked on the
purchase and/or lease of millions of hectares of arable land in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mozambique,
Tanzania, Zambia, and Ghana, and also in countries emerging from conflict like the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sudan (Anseeuw, 2013; Borras et al., 2011; Von Braun and Meinzen-
Dick, 2009; Zoomers, 2013).
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Bank have expressed
concern that food production in developing countries needs to double by 2050 in order to feed the
projected world population (Zoomers, 2013). Consequently, they argue that large-scale land deals have
the potential to stimulate growth and technological advancement in agriculture, which has been
neglected since the 1960s (cf. Anseeuw, 2013), and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (De Schutter,
2009). They hold that large-scale investments in agriculture will lead to growth in food production,
create avenues for the use of new technology, contribute to employment creation, and increase the
GNP of most developing countries (Deininger & Byerlee, 2011; De Schutter, 2009).
Research has found the effectiveness of large-scale land acquisition in fostering the livelihood chances
of local communities is low (Davis et al., 2014). For instance, the former UN Special Rapporteur on
the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, famously argued that investments of this kind threaten the social
and economic livelihood of rural agrarian populations, particularly rural farmers without land titles (De
Schutter, 2009, 2011, 2012). His reports contend that the process of large-scale land acquisitions will
almost inevitably lead to social fragmentation, exclusion, displacement and property enclosure (De
Schutter, 2009).
Lorenzo Cotula from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a UK based
organisation, which runs a research programme on land acquisitions, has argued that transnational land
deals are part of emerging African ‘national strategies’ to effect development and especially in the
commercial agricultural sector (Cotula et al., 2014; see also Answeeuw, 2013). Investors have argued
that they predominantly acquire marginal and 'unused' land. But ‘vacant land’, ‘empty land’ or 'unused
land' is a fiction in most parts of Africa (Borras, et al., 2011). Depending on the farming system, land
may already be cultivated, in fallow to regain soil fertility, grazed, used for traditional rituals, be used
for gathering fuelwood, or be part of an important water catchment (Zoomers, 2013).
Dispossessing local groups in favour of large-scale plantation agriculture would appear to be an
unsound development pathway for these reasons (Vermeulen and Cotula, 2010; De Schutter, 2012).
Foreign investors naturally focus their attention on land with market proximity, higher rainfall, fertile
soils, or with access to irrigation (Cotula and Vermeulen, 2009). For example in Mali, Cotula and
Vermeulen (2010) found all recorded land deals are concentrated in the country’s highest potential
agricultural zones. The land that was most attractive to investors was also claimed and used by local
people (Cotula and Vermeulen, 2010). Uncontrolled land leases and purchases alienate small producers
from their land with little benefit, despite claims that their labour is required on plantations and arable
estates (Davis et al., 2014). Land is turned towards satisfying the demands of international markets
(Oakland Institute, 2011; see also De Schutter, 2012). In most instances local communities’ lands are
appropriated without alternative sources of livelihoods being available, or at best, they are reduced to
wage laborers, elsewhere in rural areas, or after migration to cities and towns. Where 'accumulation by
dispossession' occurs (Harvey, 2004), compensation packages are rarely delivered; rural people lack
power to demand their rights.
Current status
There is some evidence that the pressure from new investment deals has eased in the last few years.
The Land Matrix site lists substantial land allocations that have now been cancelled, or scaled back. In
2015 local farmers in Gassol returned to land seized by Dominion Farms but abandoned in Tabara
state, Nigeria (Chow, 2016). Some failures are due to practicalities; a lack of access and infrastructure,
or a lack of sufficient financing to prepare and cultivate land. An example is the failed Daewoo project
in Madagascar, which lost its license to operate (Cotula and Vermeulen, 2011). Protests against non-
consultative land grabs are also having an impact (Cotula 2013). Some multinational agencies have
begun re-directing their attention to improving the fairness of the agreements and contracts binding
global land deals (Kandel, 2015), and in 2016 European MEPs challenged the Group of Eight's New
Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), arguing for a halt to land grabbing. Others have
also pushed for the strengthening of land rights for local communities (Wolford et al., 2013). So too
have new government requirements set in place to deny land to under-capitalised and exploitative
foreign companies. Land grabbing is clearly linked to the long-term insecurity of land rights in Africa -
indeed this is the prime reason that many deals have been able to go ahead in the first place, without
protection of rights, or social and environmental safeguards. A fairer future for agricultural
development would not involve losing land to multinational entities at all, but using it for local and
individual benefit. This involves local control of commercial production, while retaining tenure and
satisfying local subsistence requirements the opposite of 'dispossession'.
An example from Cameroon
Despite the slowdown in new deals, certain countries continue to attract commercial interest.
Cameroon is among them, with fertile soils and high rainfall in its tropical southern regions. The UN
revealed in 2012 that the government had concluded agreements for the transfer of almost 800,000
hectares of arable land, of which almost half was for the development of industrial oil palm plantations;
in addition 300,000 hectares of rainforest was reallocated over a decade (De Schutter, 2012). It is
alleged that additional foreign companies are on the way, depending on the fortunes of the oil palm
sector (Hoyle & Levang, 2012; see also De Schutter, 2012). The US-based Herakles Farms land
acquisition was an early case and shows how a lack of transparency can lead to accusations of
'grabbing'. Oil palm (Elaeis Guineensis) is endemic to West Africa. Plantations grew in colonial times,
and its oil is widely used in food products, for cooking, and for biofuels. A modern plantation
monocrop can yield 3.9 tonnes of crude oil/ha. The initial request by Herakles for land in the
Southwest region of the country totalled 73,086 ha on a 99-year lease; following protests, this was
reduced to 19,843 hectares, but still on land that is claimed by and in use by local villagers.
LSLAs in Cameroon have been facilitated almost coincidentally, as a result of changes to the country’s
land laws that took place in the 1970s in favour of private ownership. From 1974 the government
passed decrees that nationalized all land, except private land with valid registration documents. These
laws shifted management rights from the hands of traditional leaders to the state - the management
went to Land Consultative Boards (LCBs), presided over by the Divisional Officers (D.O.s). Chiefs
and two notables serve as community representatives, identifying boundaries and cultural and sacred
sites during social and environmental impact assessments (cf. Fonjong et al., 2016). However, in
reality, their roles have been passive, and private individuals or corporate entities have been able to
acquire land certificates. The government is happy to promote private sector development and to
ensure a constant source of revenue through tax. Nationals can acquire land titles for at least US$800-
US$1000 (Fombe et al., 2013), and more depending on the size and location. Applicants pay
1000FCFA/100m2 (about $2) for urban land and 300FCFA/100m2 (about $0.5) in rural areas. In
addition they are required to pay other costs, transportation for surveyors and the cost of placing
boundary markers on their land (Firmin-Sellers and Sellers, 1999). These costs are negotiated, in
practice, and the process involved is not entirely above-board (cf. Fombe et al., 2013). Foreign
investors (individual or corporate), pay more, but documents or procedures are rarely made known to
the public. It is alleged that the process of land acquisition is corrupt, and requires networking with
those occupying higher political positions in the government. The government is seeking both tax
income and agricultural modernisation.
The sheer scale of the Herakles proposal cut into land already claimed by communities. Interviews held
in Nguti sub-division (in 2015) confirmed that local populations were never consulted; rather, they
were merely informed that the national government in Yaounde has already repossessed part of their
land for palm plantations, and that they should offer their full collaboration and participation. Apart
from knowing the total land allocation, local communities were unaware of what would happen in their
community. They were not told the details of the agreement; neither were they informed of any safety
nets to provide alternative sources of livelihood, or to mitigate risk. The concession boundaries were
not entered into the National Land Cadastre (Potter, 2015). Amidst this confusion, local communities
have argued that all agreements completed without their consent have to be renegotiated.
Unsurprisingly, deals like this are heavily contested, and investors have been accused of not abiding by
national regulations or by international agreements (WWF, 2012; Greenpeace-Cameroon, 2013;
Fonjong et al., 2015, 2016). From its inception, the Herakles project was controversial. Local
communities, in alliance with international and national NGOs (especially Greenpeace-Cameroon and
The Oakland Institute) appealed to the government to reverse it, outlining the actual and potential
socio-economic and environmental impacts. In December 2013 the concession was downscaled to
19,843 ha (Centre for Environment and Development (CED), 2012; WWF, 2012; Greenpeace, 2013).
Communities still resist actively and passively through strikes and demonstrations, legal complaints,
petition letters, and meetings. For example, in 2014, the people of Babensi II village staged a street
protest against the illegal occupation of their ancestral land, demanding the company to quit, but also to
compensate those whose farms had been destroyed. Other strikes took place from 2010 to 2013 in the
sub-division; e.g. blocking access to the company’s oil palm nursery in Nguti. In 2011, a youth
organization, the Bassosi Cultural and Development Association, wrote to the President, refusing a deal
to establish an agro-plantation on their ancestral land since it was against local interests. They blamed
the government. Also in 2011, the CEO of Nature Cameroon wrote to the Minister, castigating the
results of an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) undertaken by the company. He
argued that the lives of 25,000 villagers were being compromised.
Resistance in this case, and in many others across the continent, is spontaneous and uncoordinated (cf.
Fonjong et al., 2015). But it led to project downsizing; the company’s activities have been slowed, and
in practical terms the company is now trying to renegotiate with the communities concerned, especially
with women who are most disadvantaged given their strong involvement in farming. Some people want
merely to sell palm oil from their own plantations and trees, and without wholesale forest loss resulting
from commercial palm plantations. In some concession sites like Toko and Mundenba, the company
has abandoned its operations, although promising to return.
These different forms of resistance are not necessarily against foreign investment in commercial
agriculture per se, nor are they intended to challenge the legitimacy of the state or overthrow it, but
rather they seek to engage with large-scale land acquisition projects in ways that are appropriate and
beneficial to the communities concerned. Nonetheless, local communities whose farmland falls within
the reduced concession boundaries, still protest. Tropical forests adjacent to the Korup National parks
and forest reserves are clearly threatened. Agreements with locals have not been honoured. In general
there is an absence of free, prior and informed consent. Even where plantation jobs are offered, they are
Land acquisition is caught up in the fate of rural livelihoods more generally (Ndi, 2017). Where the
government exerts legal provision to allocate land to others, customary norms are challenged. Claims
to ownership over parcels of land, or even use-rights following an LSLA, inevitably provoke complex
social changes that result in conflict.
An example of Green Grabbing
Hamouchene (2016) argues that green grabbing in Africa is also beginning to have serious local
implications, citing the case of a concentrated solar power (CSP) array installed in Ouarzazate,
Morocco. The opening of the first phase of this electricity plant in 2016 was publicised widely in the
local and global media for its contribution to renewable energy targets, but the controversy surrounding
its construction was not.
Communal land ownership by herders in this arid region did not prevent the sale of 3,000 ha to a
private solar energy company, which went ahead because communities are represented by agents, and
they struck a deal in 2010 with the national electricity provider to sell the land they managed at a tenth
of its real market value (Rignall, 2012). The Noor-Ouarzazate plant is being built by ACWA Power
International, a Saudi Arabian company, in partnership with the government and supported by the
Moroccan royal family, and Phase One is now operational. Money from the land sale was not even
transferred directly to communities, but was held 'in trust' at the Ministry of the Interior for future
development projects. An unrepresentative local 'consultation' and presentation of an environmental
impact study was only held after the details of the sale had been agreed. The solar technology uses
hundreds of mirrors to concentrate solar radiation, heating salts to produce steam for turbines. Cooling
is required too, but water is scarce in this desert environment. It is sourced from a reservoir also used
for irrigation and drinking water. Finance totalling US$9Billion was offered as loans from the
European Investment Bank, the World Bank and other international agencies; relatively expensive
electricity will be sold back to the national electricity company and, allegedly, some will be exported to
Europe. The Noor-Ouarzazate project is registered with the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, and
thus may receive carbon offsetting payments from developed countries.
As with other land acquisitions, the plateau selected for the plant was deemed to be marginal and
'degraded' by the government, and thus available for other uses. A progressive concentration of wealth
in Morocco's rangelands disadvantaging small herd owners in favour of larger ones, also made the land
sale easier. The form of accumulation by dispossessionhere was the enclosure of public assets by
private interests for profit, resulting in greater social inequity’ (Hamouchene, 2016).
Too many LSLAs have allowed investors to seek the permission of government to obtain the leases and
concessions they need, with little or no effort needed to seek the consent of the local population
concerned (Polack, Cotula and Cote, 2013). This is now recognised as a major failing of national land
laws and regulation (Oakland Institute, 2012; Greenpeace, 2013; WWF, 2012).
One World Bank report argues that corporate investors in land specifically target Third World
economies with very weak and porous governance systems (Deininger and Byerlee, 2011; cf. Evers et
al., 2013). This explains the negative consequences associated with many land deals in Africa, and
indeed some 'green grabs' as well (Anseeuw et al., 2012; Deininger and Byerlee, 2011).
Irrespective of whether large-scale land deals produce positive and/or negative socio-economic
outcomes, it is important to note that rural people in Africa are largely unable to participate in the
decision-making process for projects that profoundly impact their lives (Cotula et al., 2014; see also
Von Braun and Meinzen-Dick, 2009). Communities suffer the brunt of large-scale land acquisitions
where they are trapped in a web of competing claims, coupled with inadequate access to traditionally
accessed land and forest resources, or worst still, dispossession - to give way to monoculture
plantations, timber extraction and mining (WWF, 2012; Greenpeace, 2014). At least within the context
of most rural societies, dispossession or denial of access literally means ruin. Livelihoods, homes and
histories are effaced, creating new patterns of migration, resettlement, and employment between land
users and land occupiers (Lund, 2014).
Fifty years ago, with Africa largely independent from the colonial powers, it would have seemed
unlikely that foreign interests would again gain de facto control of productive African land. The plan
for Africa's Green Revolution in the 1960s also missed this possibility: its efforts were directed to
enhancing Africa's agricultural output through scientific means, primarily to boost the continent's own
food security, and perhaps with the production of some fuel and fiber to meet continental and some
international demand. Instead, more recently, poor governance, and the might of overseas interests,
have been diverting the potential of African land and reoriented its productive potential to meet other
interests. This is the tragedy of the African land grab. What is needed is greater coherence in national
land allocations policies, buttressed by legal controls on accumulation strategies for individuals, states
and corporations, and support for African farmers to retain control of productive assets.
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... Ownership, control, distribution and access (including the utilization of land) have historically been used to dominate and empower different nations, races, genders and classes in Africa (Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). Even during the pre-colonial era, land was used to create or destroy empires and nations. ...
... Secondly, in line with the new socio-economic dispensation, agitation for land was driven by the need to access an economic resource for selfsustenance. Successive colonial laws and policies had driven Africans to poor soils in the reserves (Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). Due to population increase of both humans and livestock, the land lost its fertility and was overgrazed. ...
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This study examined strategies of redressing colonial land imbalances in Southern Africa, paying particular attention to lessons from Zimbabwe’s “Fast Track Land Reform Programme” (FTLRP). The objectives of this study were: to identify critical areas of concern in the Zimbabwe’s land reform as a strategy for redressing colonial imbalances; to evaluate whether land reform is a panacea for poverty reduction in Zimbabwe; to assess the level of empowerment on resettled farmers brought by the land reform programme in Zimbabwe and to analyse lessons learnt from the FTLRP. The study was anchored on the self-determination, dependency, poverty alleviation and empowerment theoretical approaches as explained and explored by scholars such as Legault (2017), Ferraro (1996) and Kabeer (1999). Literature from various leading scholars such as Moyo (2005), Mashizha and Mapuva (2018) and Moyana (2002) was analysed in relation to the land question and colonial land imbalances. The study also made relevant references to some major Legislative Acts, policies related to land such as the Lancaster House Constitution, Communal Land Settlement Act (1982), the Land Acquisition Act 1985 and 1992, National Land Policy (1990), Constitutional Amendments No. 30 of 1990, No. 17 Act, 2005 and, No. 20 Act, 2013, Agricultural Land Settlement Act (Chapter 20:01) of 2004, the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (2007) (Chapter 14:33), amongst others. In order to come up with a comprehensive examination of the subject matter, data was gathered from eight of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces and two districts from each of the identified provinces which were purposively chosen. Issues related to redressing colonial land imbalances through the FTLRP were thoroughly examined using predominantly qualitative research approach where key informant interviews, direct observation, documentary analysis and focus group discussions were used as the data generation techniques. Participants were selected using purposive and snowball sampling methods and these were drawn from beneficiaries of the FTLRP, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, relevant local regional embassy officials, the academia, traditional leaders, Government officials, District Administrator’s office, War veterans, Civic organizations, local dominant political parties and policy formulators. The collected data was then analysed through content and thematic analyses. The study findings showed that several policies and strategies were coined by the GOZ in an attempt to redress colonial imbalances, however such efforts could not achieve the desired positive impact in a significant way. As a result, land reform, as a tool for redressing colonial imbalances in Zimbabwe and also in Southern Africa in general, remains an incomplete, yet important issue. Through accessing land, the majority of the beneficiaries from Zimbabwe’s FTLRP managed to escape poverty at household level and became better positioned in society as they gained the ability to be self-sufficient and better their lives through working on the land and/ utilisation of various opportunities brought about by having access to the land capital. Therefore, a number of lessons were drawn from Zimbabwe’s FTLRP. The land reform initiative resulted in a number of negative implications such as sanctions, decline in productivity, inequalities in the access to land, multiple farm ownership and a lack of agriculture financing. Nevertheless, there were also several positives that came with the FTLRP such as poverty reduction and economic empowerment. The negatives can be addressed by implementation of recommendations from the land audit, having a robust continuous land reform monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place.
... Since the 2000s, the African continent has become a hotspot for global land deals, which are often characterized as land grabbing [3][4][5]. As the land in Africa provides important export-earning sources for fiscal revenue, such as food, energy, and mineral sources, land grabbing has become a major issue in the continent's economy. ...
... Many large-scale land deals are made globally to produce food, energy, and minerals, and Africa seems to be a hotspot, in this regard [3]. Table 1 shows the number of largescale land deals concluded by transnational companies in different continents during the periods of 1970-1999 and 2000-2020, from which it is possible to see that the number of land deals dramatically increased during the latter period. ...
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Since the global crises in the 2000s, many foreign and domestic actors have acquired large tracts of land for food and biofuel crop cultivation and other purposes in Africa, often leading to the displacement of the African people living on customary land. The weak customary land rights of ordinary African people have been viewed as one of the main factors making it possible for various land-grabbers to exploit customary land with different purposes. However, it would be insufficient to conclude that the weak customary land rights are the only factor leading to land grabbing in Africa as such land rights give the inheritors the rights to use the land permanently. Therefore, the main objective of this research is to identify a more specific factor leading to land grabbing in Africa, which this article refers to as a ‘land-grabbing-friendly legal environment’. To achieve the main goal, by considering the case of Zambia, this research aims to: (1) analyze the main areas and regions where land grabbing occurs in Zambia and the land-grabbers involved; and (2) analyze the main uses of customary land and changes in tenure systems applied to customary land from the colonial era up to the present day, through a legal history research approach. The main findings of this research are as follows: (1) land-grabbing incidences have often been linked to the government-led agricultural program, involving both internal and external land-grabbers, and (2) the creation of the dual-tenure system during the colonial era and its continuation to the present day have led to the poor financial status of ordinary Zambians living on customary land, contributing to their weak customary land rights. By examining the main results, this research concludes that it is crucial for the Zambian government to bring about reasonable fees for land-titling registration for the ordinary Zambians living on customary land, as well as to separate development aspects from land laws. These steps will strengthen the land rights of the ordinary Zambians and prevent land grabbing.
... Another side of the coin is land grabbing by foreigners. There has been the purchase of large tracts of land in Africa as well as the takeover of land rights of local people by foreigners who mainly exploit the produce -food and crops to be used as a source for energy - (Batterbury & Ndi, 2018;Patnaik & Moyo, 2011) for sending it back to their home countries. This widely contradicts that access to land and other natural resources from the land are particularly very essential to the people of Africa (Ra ee and Stenberg, 2018;Lisk, 2013). ...
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Increase in multiple demands for land in Africa has been affected by increased global food and energy requirements together with population growth. This has in turn led to large-scale acquisition of lands for agriculture by foreigners and wealthy local investors. Small holder farmers are at risk of losing their lands to the investors even if they receive government support. What the African indigenous tradition has seen to be a gift of God to man is now commoditized. This often marginalizes the local people, undermines their livelihood. Information on the factors and actors in land commoditization is inadequate and often withheld. The paper sets out to identify these actors and factors. The Bolga Municipality is used as an example because the area carries all the characteristics that can be found throughout most of Africa. Data was gathered using key informant interviews, focus discussion and secondary sources. The findings of the study reveal the following factors which urge people to sell their lands: The need to pay school fees, people’s desire to build and live in decent houses, the need to expense money to uphold the tradition of resplendently celebrating funerals or to raise funds for the dowry of a bride, the fact that owners of small land parcels are often unemployed. To solve the issues better information on the issue is needed as well as purposeful job-creation to decrease unemployment and socially adequate mortgages. If the government does not take up the problem, social cohesion will fall apart.
... Although direct involvement of these firms in agricultural production is relatively rare, some operate large farms or estates producing tea, sugar or biofuel-crops. In SSA, due to the land tenure regimes, direct foreign investment in large-scale agricultural production is less common than in Latin America, but may be on the rise (Havnevik et al, 2011;Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). These firms may combine some in-house production with an outgrower scheme (see Modality 5). ...
... Although direct involvement of these firms in agricultural production is relatively rare, some operate large farms or estates producing tea, sugar or biofuel-crops. In SSA, due to the land tenure regimes, direct foreign investment in large-scale agricultural production is less common than in Latin America, but may be on the rise (Havnevik et al, 2011;Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). These firms may combine some in-house production with an outgrower scheme (see Modality 5). ...
In most African countries, few social work interventions with older people are deliberately, culturally, and locally relevant. Moreover, in instances in which locally and culturally relevant interventions have been applied, it has mostly been with children and women. Therefore, there is an urgent need for social work in Africa to indigenize social work with older people to counteract these modern challenges. This chapter explores the relevance of indigenizing social work with older people in the Global South. It is based on document analysis and the recent studies the first author has engaged in with both older people and social workers, especially concerning elder abuse. It is also based on the second author’s vast experience of over 15 years of teaching social work at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The chapter briefly interrogates the concept of “indigenous” as it relates to older people in Africa, contemporary issues of aging in Africa, current social work practices with older people, and indigenizing social work with older people. It concludes with practice implications for future culturally relevant gerontological social work practice in Africa.
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ContextExploring ways to maintain a biophysically functioning environment while improving human welfare based on competing stakeholder land uses is critical for sustainable development, especially under the context of a surging “global land rush”.Objectives This research (1) integrates different stakeholders’ perceptions of human-environmental conditions and dynamics in the “sisal belt” of Kilosa, Tanzania, in terms of three alternative development visions or scenarios of land uses and covers, and (2) demonstrates the trade-offs and synergies among several ecosystem and economic outcomes at a landscape level.Methods Two spatially explicit modeling tools, Future Land Use Simulation (FLUS) and Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs (InVEST), are combined to assess future land-use and -cover patterns and project changes in four ecosystem services, including provisioning commodity production, under the three stakeholder-defined scenarios for the study area up to 2030.ResultsEach scenario had higher commodity production values relative to the baseline conditions of 2018 but lower levels of ecosystem services addressed at the level of the Kilosa sisal belt landscape. Carbon and water services may generate synergistic effects provided specific mitigation and payment mechanisms are installed. The spatial distribution of the changes in these services is projected.Conclusions Our approach provides an empirical-based platform to inform landscape management and planning. It provides a co-designed means to address possible futures of human-environmental conditions affecting sustainability, in this case for food production, resource use, poverty alleviation, and environmental conservation.
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This article examines why peasant communities in South West Cameroon have contested a U.S.-based company’s intentions to establish an agro-industrial palm oil plantation in their region. Land investments in the form of agro plantations, if not properly conceived, negotiated, and implemented, pose a series of threats to the ecological, cultural, and economic stability among peasant farming communities, who depend on land and forest resources for their livelihood. Using Nguti as a case study, this article argues that local communities do not oppose investment in land but they contest projects that attempt to alienate them from their sources of livelihood without providing alternatives. The study also demonstrates how local communities, despite being critical of the project, struggle with the company through their relations with government, to demand new social contracts and/or memoranda that could offer them greater opportunities as economic partners. The article concludes that for palm oil plantations to be economically equitable, local communities’ incorporation is necessary to safeguard rural livelihoods and to ensure that provisions are made for adequate compensation and alternative sources of livelihood.
Conference Paper
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This paper examines the processes used by investors to acquire large-scale land for agriculture in Cameroon, and reasons for popular oppositions in affected areas. It focuses on women who feed their families and the nation, and the activities of multinational agro-companies in two regions (Littoral and South West) dominated by plantation agriculture. The study involves a critical analysis of documentations and primary data from interviews conducted with communities, investors, administrative and traditional authorities on how investors have acquired land. Findings indicate that many local communities are gradually losing what was hitherto considered as ancestral land, without their informed consent and the provision of alternative sustainable sources of livelihood. The failure to include communities and women in a land-leasing process that displaces them from land; their nonpareil source of livelihood has generated local opposition in the form of demonstrations, protests/petitions, and non-cooperation. Although these resistances are spontaneous, they have either delayed or frustrated some projects, forcing investors to renegotiate with these communities. The paper concludes that instead of using bribes and empty promises to lure local support, investors should mainstream local interests and communities in land deals irrespective of whether they have statutory rights to the land or not.
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This paper analyzes the politics and struggles ongoing within wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Tanzania to discuss the dynamics of neoliberalization of the wildlife sector. We discuss neoliberalization as a new political-economic context within which the ongoing politics of natural resource management are played out, and focus on green grabbing as an expression of these politics. We discuss how local-level actors are engaged in these processes, often in strategic ways, to negotiate their roles within WMAs and address green grabbing by the state. Secondly, we discuss an example of the politics of land control and local-level actors’ enactment of accumulation by dispossession within a WMA.
This report assesses the state of evidence on pathways to accountability in the global land rush, with a focus on Africa, and identifies areas for a new research agenda that places accountability at its centre. The report takes a twin-track approach of exploring how the legal frameworks regulating the land rush shape opportunities and constraints in formal pathways to accountability; and how people who feel wronged by land deals are responding to seek justice. These two perspectives broadly reflect the complementarity and convergence of two common ways of conceptualising accountability: ‘accountability as rights’, which focuses on the substantive rights and transparency of process established by legal and regulatory frameworks, and ‘accountability as power’, which emphasises the importance of citizen action, power and politics in public accountability. The report draws on an analysis of legal frameworks relating to 12 African countries, and on a review of 16 cases of LSLAs for which citizen responses were most extensively documented in the literature.
This article identifies and examines the role of actors involved in the process of large-scale land acquisitions in Cameroon. It is based on primary data from interviews conducted among principal actors. Findings reveal that government, chiefs, and to some extent elites, play key roles in formal and informal processes that grant land to investors. However, both processes neglect women and affected communities because there are no mechanisms to hold actors accountable to them, especially to women who depend on land for their livelihood. The article concludes that a legal framework that makes the process transparent and promotes accountability and gender inclusiveness is indispensable.
While processes of land dispossession - or ‘land grabbing' - have garnered significant attention from researchers in recent years, local reactions to instances of land alienation have received insufficient scrutiny. This paper focuses on small-, mid- and large-scale land dispossession in the post-conflict Teso region in Uganda, and considers how people assert their agency when their tenure rights are infringed upon. I argue that those who lose tenure rights through small-scale land dispossession are primarily focused on reacquiring tenure rights and meeting the demands of their basic social reproduction. In these cases, there is little resistance that is definitively ‘political'. In contrast, a ‘politics from below’ more clearly emerges in the cases of mid- and large-scale land alienation, which I attribute to particular structural conditions.
The term ‘land grabbing’ has recently attracted widespread, and sometimes agitated, attention, and its literature grows at exponential speed. At the same time, the concept remains little understood concerning both its meaning, magnitude and consequences and even who the grabbers are. Different attempts to define land grabbing appear to reflect ideological lenses and pre-defined positions rather than a genuine ambition to find out what is actually going on. Based on a comprehensive literature review, this article aims at presenting a more nuanced understanding of this disputed topic and therefore a less biased account of what land-grabbing and/or private investments in land represent.
The article details features and implications of the global land rush, with particular focus on Africa. Data and analyses of the ‘Land Matrix’ project help to provide an overview of these land-based investments, while locally implemented case studies in the framework of the ‘Commercial Pressures on Land’ project facilitate the assessment of implications related (or not) to the question of Africa's green revolution. By emphasising the need to go beyond the land acquisition phenomenon and its direct consequences, it re-contextualises the rush for land and relates it to broader dynamics of agrarian transformation in Africa. While the present rush for land may represent a revitalisation of Africa's agricultural sector, it is doubtful that this revolution benefits the continent overall.