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By Samuel Gebreselassie

Land is a public property in Ethiopia. It has been administered by the government since the 1975 radical land reform. The reform brought to an end the exploitative type of relationship that existed between tenants and landlords. Tenants became own operators with use rights, but with no rights to sell, mortgage or exchange of land. The change of government in 1991 has brought not much change in terms of land policy. The EPRDF-led government that overthrew the Military government (Derg) in 1991 has inherited the land policy of its predecessor. Even though the new government adopted a free market economic policy, it has decided to maintain all rural and urban land under public ownership. The December 1994 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia proclaimed that ‘Land is a common property of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of transfer’. Since the 1975 land reform, which made all rural land public property, the possession of land plots has been conditional upon residence in a village. The transfer of land through long-term lease or sales has been forbidden1, and government sponsored periodic redistribution, though, discouraged administratively since the early 1990s, has not been outlawed (Mulat, 1999).

By Samuel Gebreselassie

Land and land tenure is a hot policy issue in Ethiopia. Three key issues are raised – farm size and fragmentation and the question of what is a ‘viable’ farm unit; tenure security and whether lack of land registration/certification or titling undermines investment in productivity improvements; and finally the issue land markets and whether imperfectly functioning markets constrain opportunities for land consolidation, investment and agricultural growth.

Policy Brief 41

by Ruth Hall

'Africa is for sale’ is how some characterise it: there is a ‘land grab’ underway. Others are more cautious, speaking of ‘large-scale land acquisitions’, while the World Bank notes euphemistically the ‘rising global interest in farmland’. Whatever the prevailing terminology and ideologies, there is now ample evidence that large swathes of African farmland are being allocated to investors, usually on long-term leases, at a rate not seen for decades—indeed, not since the colonial period. The fact that much of this land is being acquired to provide for the future food and fuel needs of foreign nations has, not surprisingly, led to allegations that a neo-colonial push by more wealthy and powerful nations is underway to annex the continent’s key natural resources.

Journal of Peasant StudiesVolume 39, Issue 2, 2012

This Journal of Peasant Studies issue draws new theorisation together with 17 cases from African, Asian and Latin American settings, and links critical studies of nature with critical agrarian studies, to ask:

To what extent and in what ways do 'green grabs' constitute new forms of appropriation of nature? How and when do circulations of green capital become manifest in actual appropriations on the ground – through what political and discursive dynamics? What are the implications for ecologies, landscapes and livelihoods? And who is gaining and who is losing – how are agrarian social relations, rights and authority being restructured, and in whose interests?

Free articles:

Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? by James Fairhead, Melissa Leach and Ian Scoones Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing by Catherine Corson & Kenneth Iain MacDonald Green grabs and biochar: Revaluing African soils and farming in the new carbon economy by Melissa Leach, James Fairhead & James Fraser


Journal of Peasant StudiesIssue 39, Vol 3-4

This collection explores the complex dynamics of corporate land deals in a broad agrarian political economy perspective, with a special focus on the implications for property and labour regimes, labour processes and structures of accumulation. Among other things this can involve looking at ways in which existing patterns of rural social differentiation – in terms of class and gender, perhaps also ethnicity and generation – are being shaped by changes in land use and property relations, as well as by the re-organization of production and exchange as rural communities and resources are incorporated in global commodity chains.

It goes further than the descriptive ‘what?’ and ‘who?’ questions, in order to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of these patterns. It is empirically solid and theoretically sophisticated, making it a robust and knowledge boundary-changing work. Contributors come from various scholarly disciplines. Covering nearly all regions of the world, the collection will be of interest to scholars from various disciplines, policymakers and activists.

The collection builds on two years of collaboration through the Land Deal Politics Initiative, of which Future Agricultures Consortium is a member.

Register for free access to selected articles: http://www.tandfonline.com/r/fjps3934

FAC Policy Brief 55by Blessings Chinsinga and Michael Chasukwa

There is often a mismatch between the apparent benevolent intents and the practical manifestations of the large scale land deals. The empirical realities of the large-scale land deals call for critical scrutiny and interrogation of the underlying interests of the stakeholders involved to assess the extent to which they genuinely prioritize win-win scenarios. As the experiences of the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) in Malawi demonstrated, the smallholder farmer is almost always the loser.

This raises doubt as to whether the international initiatives such the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources; the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment; and the Africa Union’s (AU) framework and guidelines on land policy shall make any significant difference on the actual outcomes of the large-scale land deals across the continent.

Full title: Agricultural land acquisition by foreign investors in Pakistan: Government policy and community responses

LDPI Working Paper 7by Antonia Settle

This paper explores the Pakistani government’s 2009 agricultural investment policy package — a response to increasing foreign investor interest in agricultural land — and considers the likely implications for local communities. By analysing the policy pertaining to the categories of cultivated and uncultivated land, the paper explores possible consequences that peasant farming communities and grazing communities face. The policy’s dependence on arbitrary and anti-poor colonial-era laws and processes places the policy squarely in established centre–periphery relations rooted by colonial-era politics of land ownership. Thus, the offer of agricultural land to foreign investors is both an unprecedented international land grab and a development in ongoing land appropriation by influential people through state apparatuses, continuous with colonial practices. This in turn has spurred community responses within the same dynamic of colonially rooted centre–periphery conflict; community responses revolve around various ethnic separatist movements that originated in earlier colonial politics. Apart from the precarious balance of social and economic power in Pakistan — evident in the making and implications of the agricultural investment policy — the findings point to an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address environmental and food security issues.

Full title: Commercial Biofuel Land Deals & Environment and Social Impact Assessments in Africa: Three case studies in Mozambique and Sierra Leone

LDPI Working Paper 1by Andrew M; van Vlaenderen H

This paper examines three case studies of proposed biofuel developments in Mozambique and Sierra Leone in terms of their social displacement impacts and the extent to which such impacts can be avoided or minimised. The case studies show that even in areas with low population densities and settlements concentrated in villages where it is easier to minimise displacement impacts, livelihood displacement impacts still cannot be entirely avoided due to communal and scattered land use in most rural areas. Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) processes have changed the location, size and boundaries of developments to reduce displacement impacts, but more mitigation measures — such as outgrower schemes and land dedicated to food production — can provide further livelihood restitution and avoid food security impacts. The three biofuel ventures also highlight the influence of tenure security for local land right holders in determining the nature of the land deals and the consultation processes: cases where land leases are made with central government seem to provide fewer incentives for developers to negotiate directly with local communities and provide them with lower levels of compensation.

Full title: Conservation and ecotourism on privatised land in the Mara, Kenya: The case of conservancy land leases

LDPI Working Paper 9by Claire Bedelian

This paper investigates private sector investment in conservation and ecotourism through conservancy land leases in the Mara region of Kenya. In a recent and growing tourism development, groups of Maasai landowners are leasing their parcels of land to tourism investors and forming wildlife conservancies. The paper examines this new conservation and ecotourism model and the implications it has for Maasai livelihoods and the environment. The subdivision of Kenya’s rangelands has tended to benefit elites, and as a consequence this trend is reinforced in land-based schemes such as these. Given the large extent and recent change in ownership in these areas, land leases do however keep the lands they cover together and are potentially an optimistic outlook for such open rangeland areas. Consideration however must be given to adjacent areas and communities that may face the negative knock on effects of such schemes. The Mara is a unique area in terms of its tourism and wildlife, so land leases may not be able to offer as much to landowners in other areas, or be financially sustainable across vast areas. However, within the Mara, land leases have been rapidly expanded upon, implying that similar schemes might be of interest to both investors and communities alike in other wildlife areas.

LDPI Working Paper 10by Martin Keulertz

This study analyses the political, economic and social impacts of the land and ‘virtual water’ grab in Southern Sudan. The ‘virtual water’ concept, which explains the absence of water wars through water embedded in agricultural imports, has been a major breakthrough in the study of the Middle Eastern water question. This paper shows how agricultural commodities in the form of virtual water are at the heart of Middle Eastern investors’ interests. The paper sheds light on investments in Southern Sudan, which are a form of water arbitrage by investing countries. The virtual extension of the investing countries’ Lebensraum into the recipient countries is part of a ‘new scramble’ over African resources — namely water resources. However, the risks of such investment activities lie in the social and environmental sphere with tribal conflicts and poor soil quality.

Gendered Dimensions of Land and Rural Livelihoods: The Case of New Settler Farmer Displacement at Nuanetsi Ranch, Mwenezi District, Zimbabwe

LDPI Working Paper 8by Patience Mutopo

Nuanetsi Ranch had been invaded by villagers from different parts of Mwenezi, Chiredzi and Chivi communal areas since 2000. In February 2010, the government announced that the settlers had to be removed and resettled in other ’uncontested lands’ in the area, compromising their rights to sustainable livelihoods, human development and land acquisition. The perceptions of the men and women resident at Chigwizi has had a bearing on understanding the nature of gendered land and rural livelihoods in the context of biofuel production in Zimbabwe, after fast track land reform.

LDPI Working Paper 12by Sèdagban Hygin F. Kakai

This paper tries to explain the land problem in terms of the corruption of the urban elites, the policy brokers and, more generally, the players in the political arena. Indeed, in the context of democratising African States such as Benin, corruption has become a social phenomenon, as has the exercise of political power. There is almost no political system that is free from corruption scandals, where the economy in general and the rural economy in particular has not been pillaged. Land corruption is equally well organised in the corridors of power at local, intermediate and central level. Indeed we could talk about a ‘chain of corruption’ for land. From the viewpoint of public action, this paper offers an empirical definition of land corruption and a typology of players. It studies the major trends and the critical uncertainties surrounding this phenomenon, i.e. using land as an object of political clientelism. It also explores the future prospects for land in the face of land corruption, and the possible mechanisms for escaping the crisis.

LDPI Working Paper 3by Bliss J; Guillozet K

Foreign investment in Ethiopia’s forestry sector is currently limited, but agricultural investments that affect forests — largely through forest clearing — are commonplace, but there are challenges and opportunities in implementing them. Given the key role forests play in rural livelihoods, new tenure arrangements will have significant implications for communities located at the forest–farm interface. We use evidence from a case study in the Arsi Forest area of Oromia Regional State to examine historic and contemporary forest benefit distributions and investigate the potential for conflict over competing forest access claims associated with new investments.

Full title: The mining-conservation nexus: Rio Tinto, development ‘gifts’ and contested compensation in Madagascar

LDPI Working Paper 11by Caroline Seagle

his paper traces a genealogy of land access and legitimisation strategies culminating in the recent convergence of multinational mining and conservation in southeast Madagascar. Drawing on empirical research carried out on the Rio Tinto/QMM ilmenite mine in Fort Dauphin, it focuses on how local Malagasy land users are incorporated into new forms of inclusion (into the neoliberal capitalist economy) and exclusion (from land-based, subsistence activities) resulting from private sector engagement in conservation. Various material impacts of the mine were inverted and remediated to global audiences as necessary to sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. By financing, partnering with and participating in the same land access markets as international conservation NGOs, and setting aside small ‘conservation enclaves’ in each mining site, Rio Tinto/QMM legitimise mining in situ despite the negative socio-environmental consequences for the Malagasy. Mining–conservation partnerships may fail to adequately address — and ultimately exclude — the needs of people affected by the mines.

LDPI Working Paper 2by Lavers, T.

Recent foreign agricultural investment in Africa has generated a great deal of interest and criticism, with western media warning of a neo-colonial ‘land grab’. This paper moves beyond this narrow assessment by examining the political and social dynamics of foreign agricultural investment in Ethiopia, a country that has figured prominently in recent debates. The paper links macro-level analysis regarding the types of projects and their role in the Ethiopian economy to case studies of investments at the micro-level, which examine changing patterns of land use and implications for displacement, employment and technology transfer. The paper concludes that the expansion of foreign investment in Ethiopia is part of a government move towards an export-led development strategy. As such, macro-benefits in terms of increased foreign exchange earnings come at the cost of increased micro-level risks to those living near new investments, in particular, politically marginalised pastoral populations in remote regions.

LDPI Working Paper 6by Christopher PI Mahonge

This study aimed to gain insight into how land deals have affected traditional Tanzanian land-based interactions and networks, and what coping mechanisms those affected have deployed. Case studies of land deal transactions — in both the Kisarawe district, in the Coast region and the Same district in the Kilimanjaro region —show the impact of cultivating bio-energy crops on traditional land. While the Same district employed an out-grower model to cultivate biofuel, Kisarawe district adopted the plantation approach. Traditional land governance systems and actors are affected differently by out-grower and plantation biofuel production models; the plantation model leads to traditional land governance frameworks being totally dismantled, while the out-grower model has insignificant impact on traditional land governance systems. For both models, laws and guidelines governing biofuel cultivation are ineffective: plantation and out-grower biofuel cultivation exacerbates a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation. More research in other socio-ecological environments is necessary to understand broader interactions between land deals and traditional governance systems, and then to develop concrete, sound guidelines to govern foreign, national and local institutional actors involved in land deals.

Full title: Who Gets the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production?: Biomass Distribution & the ‘Sugar Economy’ in the Tana Delta, Kenya

LDPI Working Paper 5by Leah Temper

In this article we focus on the connection between purchases of land and the emerging ‘biomass-economy’, analysing biomass distribution in a region targeted for land-grabbing in order to understand the process from both bio-physical and political ecological perspectives. We narrow the focus down to a case study in the Tana Delta, Kenya, one of the new commodity frontiers in the recent large-scale land acquisitions, employing an indicator derived from social metabolism analysis — the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production (HANPP). This allows us to examine biomass flows in the Delta, combining a biophysical perspective with a political-ecology analysis of the interests, stakes and power politics in the delta. The first section introduces the conceptual tools and theoretical framework, expanding on the concept of the ‘sugar economy’ as a socio-metabolic transition, and material and energy flow analysis (MEFA) as valuable instruments in gauging sustainability and potential sites of conflict over biomass. The second section contextualises the case study of the Tana Delta in Kenya as a site of conflict over biological resources through an analysis of property rights and historical dynamics. The third section presents the results of the analysis of biomass distribution. The fourth and fifth sections offer discussion of the results and the conclusions.

LDPI Working Paper 4by David K Deng

Sudan is among the global ‘hotspots’ for large-scale land acquisitions. Although most of this investment activity was thought to be focused in the Northern part of the country, recent research indicates that a surprising number of large-scale land acquisitions have also taken place in the South in recent years. Now that the Southern Sudanese have opted for independence in the 2011 referendum on self-determination, investment activity will likely increase further. This paper presents preliminary data concerning large-scale land acquisitions in two of the ‘Green Belt’ states of Southern Sudan: Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria. It explores the concept ‘land belongs to the community’; a statement communities have take up in their demand for greater involvement in decision-making regarding community lands. It also examines processes of company–community engagement and the extent to which rural communities are being involved in investment projects. Finally, the paper presents a number of case studies that illustrate the complex interplay between cultural sovereignty, conflict, and post-war reconstruction in Southern Sudan. It concludes with recommendations for the government moving forward.

FAC Working Paper 55Rebecca Smalley

There is uncertainty and no small controversy surrounding the potential impacts of commercial agricultural developments that are being proposed for sub-Saharan Africa by domestic governments and foreign investors. Much of the debate concerns how Africa’s rural poor could be affected. One response is to look back and review what the outcomes have been from earlier such developments. This should include consideration of the institutional setting to help us understand how institutions influence the character and outcome of commercial agricultural schemes.

This working paper assesses the historical experience of three farming models that have figured in recent investments in sub-Saharan Africa: plantations, contract farming and commercial farming areas. Based on a literature review, the paper concentrates on the involvement of, and effects on, rural societies in and around the area where the schemes were located. It looks mainly at sub-Saharan Africa but also considers case studies from Latin America and Asia.

This paper was produced as part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project.

Walter ChambatiApril 2013

This paper begins highlights some key features that shape agrarian labour relations in Zimbabwe, illustrated through the setting of Goromonzi district. The new agrarian structure that forms the basis of the reconfigured agricultural production systems and labour relations is then analysed. This allows for the examination of the labour mobilisation patterns among the different classes of producers resulting from agrarian restructuring. The assessment of the material conditions that farm labourers derive from selling labour in various ways and their responses to the challenges they face precede the conclusions.

The new agrarian labour relations are explored using empirical research in Goromonzi district. Research undertaken by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) since 2002, including a baseline survey in 2006 of 695 landholders and 173 farm workers in Goromonzi is used to illustrate the outcomes prior to economic stabilisation in 2009.iii The analysis draws from the results of the survey reported in Moyo et al. (2009) and the data referenced as AIAS (2007). Qualitative surveys in Goromonzi in 2012 are used to trace the dynamic changes to agrarian labour relations as further land redistribution occurred and the macro-economic context and agrarian policies shifted. Data was collected through interviews and observations from farm labourers, landholders, farm compounds, traditional authorities and state officials.

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