Drivers and actors in large-scale farmland acquisitions in Sudan

LDPI Working Paper 10
by 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.