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Economic and ethical challenges of "land grabs" in sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Kleemann, Linda
  • Lay, Jann
  • Nolte, Kerstin
  • Ott, Konrad
  • Thiele, Rainer
  • Voget-Kleschin, Lieske

Abstract

For local people in sub-Saharan Africa, large land investment projects currently imply many risks and few benefits. Drawing on own ethical and economic research and using evidence from the authors' case studies in Kenya, Mali and Zambia and a new database of large-scale land acquisitions worldwide, this brief offers policy recommendations for host governments, investors and the international community so as to achieve a more favourable balance of risks and benefits in land investment projects. Our research suggests that the land governance systems of sub-Saharan African countries, comprising a multitude of sometimes contradictory laws derived from colonial and customary systems, privilege powerful actors and lead to violation of human rights. Legal uncertainty and an acquisition process that gives no voice to local land users can lead to displacements of farmers without compensation. Poorly enforced formal laws, neglect of built-in checks and balances, and power and information asymmetries between investors and local people can give rise to coalitions of investors and powerful rent-seekers. Displaced farmers and those unable to find jobs on the land investment projects migrate to other rural areas or the cities, and few and only low-skilled jobs are available to those who remain. We found limited evidence of positive spillovers from improved infrastructure and knowledge and technology transfer. Local food prices are likely to rise, as most of the production on investment farms is for export. Overall, when many farmers are displaced and investment projects are capital intensive the net welfare effect for the local population can be expected to be negative. Against this background, we propose a set of policy changes for promoting benefits for the local population and avoiding human rights violations. In contrast to proposals made by international guidelines and codes of conduct, we emphasize in particular the responsibilities of host country governments. --

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) in its series Kiel Policy Brief with number 67.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifwkpb:67

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  1. Deininger, Klaus & Byerlee, Derek, 2012. "The Rise of Large Farms in Land Abundant Countries: Do They Have a Future?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 701-714.
  2. Rabah Arezki & Klaus Deininger & Harris Selod, 2011. "What Drives the Global Land Rush?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3666, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Kerstin Nolte, 2013. "Large-Scale Agricultural Investments under Poor Land Governance Systems: Actors and Institutions in the Case of Zambia," GIGA Working Paper Series 221, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  4. Maros Ivanic & Will Martin, 2008. "Implications of higher global food prices for poverty in low-income countries-super-1," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 405-416, November.
  5. Ivanic, Maros & Martin, Will, 2008. "Implications of higher global food prices for poverty in low-income countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4594, The World Bank.
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