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Large-Scale Agricultural Investments under Poor Land Governance Systems: Actors and Institutions in the Case of Zambia


  • Kerstin Nolte

    () (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies)


This paper reveals how the outcomes of large-scale land acquisitions made by foreign investors in Zambia are determined by the characteristics of the country’s land governance system. 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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:221

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Berdegue, Julio A. & Balsevich, Fernando & Flores, Luis & Reardon, Thomas, 2005. "Central American supermarkets' private standards of quality and safety in procurement of fresh fruits and vegetables," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 254-269, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Baumgartner, Philipp & von Braun, Joachim & Abebaw, Degnet & Müller, Marc, 2015. "Impacts of Large-scale Land Investments on Income, Prices, and Employment: Empirical Analyses in Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 175-190.
    2. Kleemann, Linda & Lay, Jann & Nolte, Kerstin & Ott, Konrad & Thiele, Rainer & Voget-Kleschin, Lieske, 2013. "Economic and ethical challenges of "land grabs" in sub-Saharan Africa," Kiel Policy Brief 67, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    3. Augustine Mulolwa, 2016. "Land Governance Assessment," World Bank Other Operational Studies 28503, The World Bank.
    4. Kerstin Nolte & Susanne Vaeth, 2013. "Interplay of Land Governance and Large-Scale Agricultural Investment: Evidence from Ghana and Kenya," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201350, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

    More about this item


    Large-scale land acquisitions; Zambia; land governance; institutions; land grab;

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