List of panels

(P006)

Large-scale land acquisitions and related resource conflicts in Africa

Location C6.02
Date and Start Time 27 June, 2013 at 11:30

Convenors

Bettina Engels (Freie Universität Berlin) email
Myra Posluschny (swisspeace) email
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Short Abstract

Contributions to this panel discuss confrontational socioeconomic and political processes related to current trends in the expansion of large-scale commercial agriculture for the purpose of biofuels and food production for export, or the like.

Long Abstract

Within the current rush for available, affordable and arable agricultural land, Africa is perceived as an attractive destination. The rapid expansion of large-scale commercial agriculture mainly in order to produce food-crops and biofuels for export does not only cause land use changes but may also stimulate or result in new conflict constellations on the local, national, and transnational level. Contributions to this panel discuss confrontational socioeconomic and political processes related to changing land use patterns in Africa. In how far do developments like the so-called "land grabbing" relate to conflicts over resources and other socioeconomic challenges (e.g. labour migration and security, adequate wage payment or conflicts on territorial politics)? How can these struggles be explained from a perspective linking political power to the societal use of nature? Paper propositions are welcome that focus on transnational dynamics as well as local analysis of resource conflicts related to current large-scale land transformation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

In the eyes of the beholder: investigating research bias in 'land grab' literature

Author: Sandra J.T.M. Evers (VU University Amsterdam)  email
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Short Abstract

Critical paper on 'land grab' literature and researcher overreach in assessments of resource conflict and valuation.

Long Abstract

Social scientists labelling conservation projects in developing countries as 'land grabbing' tend to focus on livelihood shifts, economic changes, dislocation from land and changed human-environment relations. Such research often depicts local people as a unified, victimized, and powerless group, losing out in resource conflicts. Conservationists simultaneously argue that biodiversity is under severe threat, portraying local groups as the main threat to 'world heritage' due to slash and burn practices. Such stereotypical images of local people do a disservice to both these groups and the cause of science. It might be useful to ask ourselves whether some commentators haven't made undue concessions to ideology and political correctness in the rush to jump on the land-grab bandwagon or to meet the pressures of 'publish or perish'. Are we, as researchers, vigilantly investigating data that contradicts our own preconceptions? Rather than comfort our positions, perhaps a brief recollection of the Popper falsification theory might be in order, i.e., an examination of data that goes directly against our own assumptions.

The author proposes an analytical model to analyze conceptual similarities and differences between and within stakeholder groups in land projects. Just as local 'communities' are composed of people with varied social realities, economies, political relations, knowledge and perceptions, so are other stakeholder groups. Researchers are not immune to such realities. The subjectivity and epistemological rooting of the researcher impact on what he or she sees in the field and what is eventually reported in research publications.

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Mapping out the conflicts involved in large-scale land investments in Africa

Author: Rannveig Formo (UNEP/GRID-Arendal)  email
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Short Abstract

The presentation will map out the main issues of concern related to large-scale land acquisition in Africa. Using a few case studies accompanied by analytical maps and illustrative graphics, it will examine the cause and consequence of conflicts related to land investments.

Long Abstract

Large-scale land investments is not a new phenomenon in Africa, but the speed and scale to which it is occurring today makes it one of the most pressing issues on the continent. These land investments are promoted by its advocates as "win-win" solutions - benefiting national economies, rural development and ensuring food security at the same time. Critics on the other hand view large-scale land acquisitions as "land grabbing", a process that undermines local land rights and that disproportionately affects the socially and economically vulnerable who bear the bulk of the costs while reaping few of the benefits of the transactions.

This presentation will give an overview of some of the main issues of concern related to large-scale land acquisition and will in particular highlight examples of conflicts between local groups and land investors. The analysis will be based on ongoing work on large-scale land investment currently undertaken by the Norwegian institution GRID-Arendal, and will include a handful of case studies focusing in particular, although not exclusively, on biofuel production in Africa. The presentation aims to shed light to the particular kind of conflict that arise in these land transactions and how they are dealt with, and will be accompanied by unique maps and graphics that visualize the topic in a clear and comprehensive way.

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Adapting to private acquisition of communal land in Ethiopia

Author: Alemmaya Mulugeta (JACS horn of Africa )  email
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Short Abstract

no short abstract

Long Abstract

In the lowlands of Ethiopia, it is argued that private acquisition of land by outsiders has the potential to cause conflict over resources. However, case studies in the area have shown that conflicts due to private land acquisitions are rarely been violent, and remained at a low level. In an attempt to find out why, the research looked into how local people in lowland pastoralist areas are adapting to the wave of private land acquisition. Preliminary results from the study show that local people living in an extremely variable environment developed their own mechanisms for adapting to land acquisition and related factors causing land use changes: pastoralists are responding by changing the ways they group themselves, and by rapidly engaging in transforming their land use. For instance, clan leadership which assumed in principle the entire responsibility for land distribution, is gradually including local state authorities in dealing with land distribution and governance and changing its views on restrictive communal property ownership. This element of local people's' agency has so far been neglected in policy and scholarly debate. Such changes and social adaptation do not apply to all lowlands but are becoming a trend that requires attention particularly because of its relevance for the mitigation of conflicts in the lowlands.

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Biofuels, commercialisation and contract farming in Ethiopia: the case of Wolaita

Author: Davide Chinigo' (Stellenbosch University)  email
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Short Abstract

By taking a case of castor beans production through out-grower schemes in Wolaita (Southern Ethiopia), this paper critically discusses the role of biofuels - and commercialisation of agriculture - in shaping the relation between land administration and political power in Ethiopia.

Long Abstract

The paper discusses a case of biofuels production in Wolaita started in 2009 by an Israeli company operating in three different districts. The programme encountered a number of problems and it was interrupted after three seasons (2012). Reasons behind its failure include poor planning, low productivity of castor beans, and top-down implementation. For instance, local communities were informed only once the deal was agreed upon, and the programme generated conflicts over communal land. The paper draws on the case of Wolaita to discuss the broader relation between commercialisation of agriculture, land administration and political power in Ethiopia. I argue that land policy in Ethiopia is characterised by a growing emphasis on commercial agriculture whereby smallholders are increasingly required to link their production to the market. Biofuels are presented both as a high value crop for export and as a potential source for improving local energy security. Nonetheless the shift from subsistence-oriented to commercial agriculture does not follow a neoliberal model, but it is driven by a strong 'developmental state', which aims to plan and control every aspect of rural development. Prominent features of this project are deconcentration of decision-making from upper to lower bodies of government (through decentralisation); establishment of an elite of 'model farmers'; and a comprehensive project of social engineering in the countryside. As commercialisation of agriculture is a fundamental aspect of the overall rural development strategy in Ethiopia, its implementation on the field has relevant impacts on livelihood generation, food security and poverty reduction.

Socio-economic effects of large-scale agricultural land investments in Ethiopia

Author: Myra Posluschny (swisspeace)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will explore international large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia by illustrating to what extend large-scale agricultural land investments affect local populations and serve as an essential strategy to reduce poverty.

Long Abstract

Ethiopia suffers from food insecurity and depends on international aid. Its economy is mainly based on small-scale, rain-fed subsistence agriculture, accounting for almost 45 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 85 percent of total employment. Thus, agriculture is a key source of employment, growth, and revenue, as well as a long-standing source of food security. Accordingly, the Ethiopian government has stated that poverty reduction is impossible without significant diversification and commercialization of the agricultural sector and has developed several strategies and policies to achieve this aim. Here, especially, large-scale agriculture is defined as an essential key to initiate development.

Conducted studies highlight that first effects of large-scale agricultural land investments are very likely to have diverse consequences for the environment and for local populations, such as, on the one hand, agricultural intensification, forest degradation, displacement of local populations, expropriation of land, increasing local food insecurity and increasing poverty as well as, on the other hand, related investments in new technologies, roads, hospitals and schools. Moreover, large-scale agricultural land investments shall generate knowledge transfer and employment opportunities which, in turn, provide living wages.

Based on those various illustrated consequences this paper analyzes and discusses actual socio-economic effects and potential trade-offs of large-scale agricultural land investments in Ethiopia, putting special emphasis on the Oromia region. Further, the author's own empirical research findings facilitate a more detailed picture of perceptions of all stakeholders involved and thus enhance its comprehensibility.

Large-Scale Agricultural Investments under Poor Land Governance in Zambia

Author: Kerstin Nolte (GIGA - German Institute of Global and Area Studies)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper scrutinizes the Zambian land governance system and its evolution, the process an investor has to go through in order to acquire land, and the actors shaping the process.

Long Abstract

This paper reveals how the outcomes of the large-scale land acquisitions made by foreign investors in Zambia are determined by the characteristics of the land governance system there. Proposing a conceptual framework adapted from Williamson (1998), and using evidence constituted by expert interviews and focus group discussions, we scrutinize the nature and evolution of the Zambian land governance system, the steps that an investor has to go through in order to attain land and the actors shaping the acquisition process.

Shedding light on the acquisition process for land, we find that enforcement of formal rules is currently weak. Depending on how the actors "play the game," land acquisitions can feature aspects of both "land grabs" and of "development opportunities." If customary land is targeted, consultation, displacements and compensations become especially problematic issues. Moreover, we find that the power balance between actors has been altered by the presence of these investors. In particular, local authorities have gained greater power and influence.

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Grabbing land for upscale safari tourism in South Africa: the social dimension of conflicts over changed land use

Author: Nancy Andrew (Les Afriques dans le Monde/Université de Bordeaux)  email
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Short Abstract

The repercussions on black farm dwellers of the changed use of large tracts of private farmland for luxury wildlife-based tourism have intensified existing conflicts over resources, jobs, failed land reform and the state’s growth path that prioritises large-scale production and large landholdings.

Long Abstract

The concentration of private farmland for expanded wildlife production - for animal sales and for hunting and private game reserves aimed at mainly wealthy international clients -- has had significant repercussions on land usages and local farm labour communities. This aspect of the 'land grab' and land consolidation in South Africa results primarily from commercial farmers converting to game farming, partly because of greater global pressures on agriculture since market deregulation. Based on research in the Eastern Cape, this paper discusses the conflicts surrounding the change in land use for the purpose of private luxury safari tourism. Black farm dweller families are commonly removed or compelled to leave the commercial farms by one means or another in order to make way for big game animals and the creation of a 'wilderness' territory without humans. Usually migrating only short distances, they often lose access to farmland and must compete for a shrinking number of increasingly casualised agricultural jobs. These conflicts exemplify the societal question of how nature - and land -- should be developed and for whose use. But they also reflect sharper political frictions over failed land reform and the apartheid ownership system with its deeply-rooted inequalities in the countryside, over control of related resources such as water, as well as the state's plans for rural development. While the state still promises to redistribute white-owned farmland to the black rural population and accelerate land restitution, its 'new growth' path prioritising large-scale production and large landowners (including game farmers) may fuel these tensions..

Forestry companies as partners for rural development? Conflicts and power relations in the case of two European investors in Tanzania

Authors: Martina Locher (University of Zurich)  email
Ulrike Müller-Böker (University of Zurich)  email
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Short Abstract

Forestry companies often present themselves as socially responsible and promote long-term partnerships with local communities. Two case studies from Tanzania with complex land tenure situations reveal unequal power positions between local landholders and investors that lead to a number of conflicts.

Long Abstract

Large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors in the Global South, often termed 'land grabbing', have been widely discussed as potentially supportive, but often rather harmful for local populations. Among the transnational investors, companies operating large-scale forestry plantations can be assumed to have potentially more positive impacts on rural development than others: they depend on the local people's acceptance in order to protect their long-term investment without excessive costs for fire prevention. Such companies tend to announce broad benefits to the local population and promote comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility strategies.

This presentation focuses on two European companies, which have acquired land in Tanzania in order to grow wood products and generate carbon credits. Both investors present themselves as socially responsible and sustainable enterprises, and promote a long-term partnership with the local communities for rural development. However, empirical research reveals that the promoted cooperative relationship is highly ambivalent and characterized by unequal power relations. Combining a livelihoods approach with elements of the 'theory of access' (Ribot and Peluso 2003), this study analyzes the strands of powers that influence negotiations over land and presents related conflicts.

Thus, by engaging with a critical livelihoods perspective, this study contributes to a differentiated analysis of the contested role of large-scale land acquisitions in contemporary rural development and draws preliminary conclusions regarding the long-term consequences for smallholders.

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'Land grabbing' by mining companies, local contentions and state reconfiguration in South-Kivu (DRC)

Authors: Jana Hönke (University of Groningen)  email
Sara Geenen  email
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Short Abstract

This paper deals with large-scale land use by mining companies and the multiple politics of contention around this, using the case of an MNC in South-Kivu, eastern DRC.

Long Abstract

Our paper deals with large-scale land use by mining companies in the case of South-Kivu, eastern DRC. A very large part of the territory in eastern DRC has been given into concession to larger mining companies. Inevitably this creates cohabitation challenges, as is the case in the concession of the Canada-based multinational Banro. Based on the Banro case, this paper makes three arguments. First, we argue that the commercialization of land by selling it to international investors is related to a reconfiguration of national politics. For the Congolese state it is a strategy to extend its governance into areas previously out of state control. Second, we argue that Banro's arrival implies a negotiation with local elites, including customary chiefs. As such, giving large parts of land into concession to companies is also connected to a reconfiguration of local politics. Third, transnational norms and regulations shape these reconfigurations at the local level. However, reference to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and voluntary standards remains a discourse, whereas in the local arena different practices prevail. For the case of multinational company Banro we demonstrate how its presence affects communities, how strategic alliances between the company and local elites are formed and how these are contested by parts of the local population.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.