Politics of Land

Politics of Land in sub-Saharan Africa

Main funding organisations: Sida and Formas

Project coordinator: Lennart Olsson

Large scale land acquisitions (LLA) are rapidly becoming a controversial political and policy issue, often allegedly driven by anticipations of climate change and as an unintended effect of climate change policies. The current understanding of both drivers and implications are insufficient and there is an urgent need to understand if LLA is detrimental or beneficial to local communities affected by land deals. Such understanding is urgently needed to inform development and environmental policies.

Based on a critical realism approach and political ecology, we will seek to understand LLA at multiple levels.  We will make use of new comprehensive datasets on global LLA in order to unravel the emerging patterns and to explore the drivers. We will also make an in-depth study of one of some of the prime targets of LLA in sub-Saharan Africa. Here we will analyse the role of relevant stakeholders such as investors as well as public and private actors at the national and local levels. In particular we will focus on the implications for local communities affected by LLA, especially in terms of gender.

We will use a variety of methods, from the GIS-based analysis of spatial data to discourse analysis of policy documents. In the field, we will apply both quantitative and qualitative methods to construct data. We will also implement a form of household economic modeling (bio-economic models) to compare different forms of work such as wage labor in agriculture and self-owning peasants. At the regional level, it will be interesting to investigate how jobs can be created in various forms of agricultural development.

Research progress will be shared with local stakeholders in a continuous dialogue to create legitimacy for our work and also inspire new research questions. We aim at increasing the understanding of large-scale trading of agricultural land affecting local people and how we should relate to the phenomenon as such –  is it a form of neocolonialism or development-friendly investment?



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