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Land-grabbing in Africa

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Abstract

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.
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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.
simonpjb@unimelb.edu.au www.simonbatterbury.net
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.
Abstract:
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.
Introduction
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
development.
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
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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
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(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).
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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;
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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.
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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
low-paid.
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).
Conclusion
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).
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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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... It is possible to see that both transitional and national economic actors from different sectors have put their efforts into acquiring large land areas to build, maintain, and extend large-scale extractive (e.g., oil) and agro-industrial (e.g., food and bioenergy) enterprises [9]. Since the 2000s, among other regions, the African continent has become a hotspot for land acquisitions by various actors or land grabbers [10]. Figure 1 presents all the global land deals that have been concluded, and it is possible to see that most deals are made in developing regions including Africa. ...
... In Africa, more land grabbing incidences occur in countries where governance is weak. These African governments take advantage of weak land tenure systems in their own countries and reallocate land to foreign government and investors, particularly for agricultural development in order to balance their budgets [10]. ...
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Ordinary Malawians who live in customary land have been suffering from land grabbing due to their weak and ill-defined land rights. Although Malawi has experienced a number of land reforms that should have contributed to strengthening customary land rights, many people in customary land still suffer from land grabbing. Accordingly, it is important to understand the factors that lead to land grabbing in customary land in Malawi. Thus, by looking at the overview of land laws and policies throughout history, this study has two aims: (1) to analyze the historical changes in the meaning and position of customary land in Malawi and (2) to analyze the land grabbers in Malawi before, during, and after the colonial era. In order to achieve the main goals, this research mainly analyzes land laws and policies connected to customary land in Malawi. The main findings of this research are that (1) the meaning of customary land changed before and after the colonial period, but little has changed between the colonial period and the present. Since the creation of land laws during the colonial period, the land rights of the people who live in customary land have not been secured, and (2) the land grabbers changed from the British colonial rulers and European settlers to the Government of Malawi. Further, with the recent land laws, such as Land Act 2016 and Customary Land Act 2016, wealthy Malawians may become new land grabbers who can afford to obtain the customary estate grants. By examining the main results, it was found that from the colonial period until the present, customary land has been vulnerable to land grabbing as its weak position still resembles that of the colonial era. Thus, Malawi appears to face significant challenges in amending its customary land laws for the benefit of the poor.
... Ancak gıda politikalarının belirlenmesini toplumsal güç odakları ve çatışan çıkarlar, ideoloji ve etik ilkelerden de bağımsız olarak düşünemeyiz. Gıda politikalarının belirlenmesinde kamu yararı, insan hakları, çalışma adaleti, sosyal refah ve çevre sağlığını gözeten etik değerlerin yerine, serbest piyasa ve ucuz gıda politikaları öne geçtiğinde göçmen tarım işçilerini (Haley et al., veya kendi toprakları boş dururken başka ülkelerden arazi kiralayarak küresel pazarlar için üretimi (Batterbury ve Ndi, 2018), iç talep yetmediğinde ithal gıda ile sorunu çözme kolaycılığını (Clapp, 2017), sağlıksız gıdalardan kaynaklanan obeziteyi, şeker hastalığını (Satman et al., 2013), kanserleri görürüz. Yani gıda politikalarından amaçlanan günü kurtarmak, neoliberalizmin toplumsal çöküntüsüne yama yapmak olursa çok daha ciddi krizlerin kapıda olduğunu söyleyebiliriz. ...
... Thirdly, they can more adequately account for the global structural processes, both historical and ongoing, that underpin current patterns of poverty, inequality, and extractive resource use (Robbins, 2012;Moore, 2015). Global structures affect local communities and large carnivores in multiple ways, for example, driving the conversion of land with high value to biodiversity and pastoral communities for more intensive activities like agriculture or mining (Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). They can result in lasting changes to rural economies and agrarian practices, impacting the sustainability and resilience of community livelihoods and resource use strategies, for example by changing patterns of livestock predation and human-carnivore interactions (Lescureux and Linnell, 2013;Margulies and Karanth, 2018). ...
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Coexistence with large carnivores poses challenges to human well-being, livelihoods, development, resource management, and policy. Even where people and carnivores have historically coexisted, traditional patterns of behavior toward large carnivores may be disrupted by wider processes of economic, social, political, and climate change. Conservation interventions have typically focused on changing behaviors of those living alongside large carnivores to promote sustainable practices. While these interventions remain important, their success is inextricably linked to broader socio-political contexts, including natural resource governance and equitable distribution of conservation-linked costs and benefits. In this context we propose a Theory of Change to identify logical pathways of action through which coexistence with large carnivores can be enhanced. We focus on Africa's dryland landscapes, known for their diverse guild of large carnivores that remain relatively widespread across the continent. We review the literature to understand coexistence and its challenges; explain our Theory of Change, including expected outcomes and pathways to impact; and discuss how our model could be implemented and operationalized. Our analysis draws on the experience of coauthors, who are scientists and practitioners, and on literature from conservation, political ecology, and anthropology to explore the challenges, local realities, and place-based conditions under which expected outcomes succeed or fail. Three pathways to impact were identified: (a) putting in place good governance harmonized across geographic scales; (b) addressing coexistence at the landscape level; and (c) reducing costs and increasing benefits of sharing a landscape with large carnivores. Coordinated conservation across the extensive, and potentially transboundary, landscapes needed by large carnivores requires harmonization of top-down approaches with bottom-up community-based conservation. We propose adaptive co-management approaches combined with processes for active community engagement and informed consent as useful dynamic mechanisms for navigating through this contested space, while enabling adaptation to climate change. Success depends on strengthening underlying enabling conditions, including governance, capacity, local empowerment, effective monitoring, and sustainable financial support. Implementing the Theory of Change requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation to inform adaptation and build confidence in the model. Overall, the model provides a flexible and practical framework that can be adapted to dynamic local socio-ecological contexts.
... Ancak gıda politikalarının belirlenmesini toplumsal güç odakları ve çatışan çıkarlar, ideoloji ve etik ilkelerden de bağımsız olarak düşünemeyiz. Gıda politikalarının belirlenmesinde kamu yararı, insan hakları, çalışma adaleti, sosyal refah ve çevre sağlığını gözeten etik değerlerin yerine, serbest piyasa ve ucuz gıda politikaları öne geçtiğinde göçmen tarım işçilerini (Haley et al., veya kendi toprakları boş dururken başka ülkelerden arazi kiralayarak küresel pazarlar için üretimi (Batterbury ve Ndi, 2018), iç talep yetmediğinde ithal gıda ile sorunu çözme kolaycılığını (Clapp, 2017), sağlıksız gıdalardan kaynaklanan obeziteyi, şeker hastalığını (Satman et al., 2013), kanserleri görürüz. Yani gıda politikalarından amaçlanan günü kurtarmak, neoliberalizmin toplumsal çöküntüsüne yama yapmak olursa çok daha ciddi krizlerin kapıda olduğunu söyleyebiliriz. ...
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... 10 Land degradation and soil nutrient depletion have also resulted from so-called "land grabbing", where land, with its available water potential, is acquired by private and public actors, including sovereign governments, often with a view to securing their own national food security and biofuel needs. These acquisitions often occur in areas with weak land tenure regulations and with local governments in need of fiscal revenues, accompanied by little compensation for dispossessed local communities and little consideration for sustainable land use (e.g., Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). 11 The continued divergence of structural transformation in Africa from experiences in East Asia is clearly related to a broad set of reasons that also include macroeconomic and institutional factors. ...
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Potentially threatening phenomena on the way to stabilizing and overcoming depressive trends in the global economy in the medium and long term in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic have been identified and systematized, taking into account the identification of areas of global risk. The reformatting of the global socio-economic landscape is substantiated, which is determined by the course of the pandemic, the different rates of decline and recovery of the economic growth in general and in individual industries, the destabilization of public finances, the exacerbation of social protection problems. This is confirmed by the dynamics of international trade in goods and services, the aggravation of the global debt problem. Emphasis is placed on the need to form in each country the anti-crisis potential on a scientifically sound basis in order to counter external and internal threats and stimulate sustainable socio-economic development.
... By focusing instead on the Bodi agro-pastoral group located in Ethiopia's lower Omo valley (an area that opened for market engagement only in the late 2000s), this article presents a case of increasing marketization of livestock not as a response to 'development' but by conditions of high insecurity accompanying aggressive state interventions. The literature on land investments and large-scale state-driven development projects in Africa mainly focuses on strains on food security and livelihoods (Batterbury and Ndi 2018;Davis et al. 2014;Matondi et al. 2011). This article takes a new angle by paying special attention to Bodi's emerging livestock marketing behaviour due to increasing insecurity associated with state extraction interests. ...
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This article, based on long-term fieldwork, argues that the Bodi, a small agro-pastoral community in Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley, are experiencing distress selling of livestock and are undergoing collective impoverishment. These processes are a result of the rapid comprehensive transformations unfolding in the valley, which are themselves a product of the state’s aggressive resource extraction interests. These interests mainly relate to the building of the Gilgel Gibe III dam on the Omo River and the establishment of large-scale sugar estates. Increased insecurity in the valley followed these interventions. When combined, these changes resulted in the deterioration of the food security and livelihood situations of the Bodi, and the community attempted to cope by selling animals from their herds. Hence, the main reasons for market engagement relate to (1) coping with hunger, (2) coping with a high incidence of animal diseases and (3) coping with high rates of imprisonment of men. The Bodi also engage in three constrained livelihood alternatives: rain-fed farming, irrigated farming and wage employment. This article recommends that resolving the Bodi’s erosion of livelihoods necessitates addressing insecurity and the related socio-political outcomes, which lie at the heart of the Bodi’s dwindling livelihood situation and impoverishment.
... Projects across the continent have increasingly shifted from wildlife conservation and rehabilitation to an FLR focus. However, where poaching was (and remains) a huge problem in Africa, land grabbing and human encroachment have increased dramatically in the last few decades and are currently seen as the most important threat to Africa's natural landscapes (Batterbury and Ndi, 2018). This presents risks to ecosystems and to human society at large. ...
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Africa has been a hotspot for the development of food and bioenergy crop cultivation since the 2000s, leading to systematic challenges towards its ability to become a bioeconomy. To reduce land-use conflicts with food crop cultivation, marginal African drylands (MADs) are proposed for sustainable bioenergy cropping systems (BCSs). This study reviews the foremost socio-economic and environmental challenges for BCSs on MADs, and the development of key principles for minimizing adverse outcomes towards a sustainable bioeconomy. Socio-economic prosperity in Africa depends on several systematic solutions, and BCSs that are based on perennial bioenergy crops are promising strategies as they provide a renewable and sustainable energy source for rural areas. However, critical multidimensional challenges such as poverty, food security, gender equality, access to energy, and environmental impact must also be considered to ensure long-term sustainability. This review argues for more transparent land sales/usage (considering the agricultural work of women) and more perennial bioenergy crops. In this context, key principles were derived for a people-centered bottom-up approach that is considered fundamental to ensure the sustainable development of BCSs on MADs in the future.
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Despite the proliferation of literature on large-scale land acquisitions (LSLA) in Africa, few empirical studies exist on how patronage networks combine with socio-cultural stratification to determine the livelihood outcomes for African agrarian-based communities. This article draws from ethnographic research on Cameroon to contribute to bridging this gap. We argue that lineage and patronage considerations intersect to determine beneficiaries and losers during LSLA. Second, we show that LSLA tend to re-entrench existing inequalities in power relations that exist within communities in favour of people with traceable ancestral lineage. Concomitantly, non-indigenous groups especially migrants, bear the brunt of exclusion and are unfortunately exposed to severe livelihood stresses due to their inability to leverage patronage networks and political power to defend their interests. We submit that empirical examination of the impacts of land acquisitions should consider the centrality of power and patronage networks between indigenes and non-indigenes, and how this socio-cultural dichotomy restricts and/or mediates land acquisition outcomes in Cameroon.
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We are living in a time of crisis on planet Earth. Urgent calls for transformational change are getting louder. Technical solutions have an important role to play in addressing pressing global challenges, but alone they are not enough. After all, who decides what kind of transformation is needed, of what, and for whom? What principles guide those decisions, and how are decision-makers held accountable? This commentary article argues that these governance questions are central in any solution, in order to simultaneously address the planetary crises of forest and biodiversity loss and degradation and growing inequality. To this end, we examine governance in forests and around trees, in landscapes and on farms, through the lens of power and social justice. For applied research aimed at actionable solutions to these global problems, we propose a governance research agenda for the next decade that is both transformative and just.
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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.
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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.
Research
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.
Article
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.
Article
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.
Article
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.
Article
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.