Implications of Foreign Land Acquisitions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Grey Literatures

Implications of Foreign Land Acquisitions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Grey Literatures

Andrew Onwuemele (Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7405-9.ch002
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Abstract

The acquisition of vast tracts of land by private investors now referred to as land grabbing became a widespread phenomenon after 2007. The nature and magnitude of these acquisitions have led to widespread debate about its positive and negative impacts on local communities. This chapter provides recent empirical thinking on the implications of foreign land acquisitions in Africa. The chapter, among others, reveals that foreign land acquisitions have both positive and negative consequences for Africa. For instance, while it was widely demonstrated that it improves access to capital and technology for increased agricultural production, it was also noted by several scholars that the practice is denying peasants access to strategic resources in many local communities in Africa.
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Introduction

Land is one of the most fundamental gifts of nature. It plays significant roles in the sustainability of households, communities, nations and the world. The lack of adequate and secure access to land and natural resources by the rural and urban poor has been identified as the prime cause of hunger and poverty in the world (HTF, 2005). Land is a prerequisite for agricultural production. Thus, in Africa where a mammoth proportion of the population engages in agriculture, the importance of land is inestimable. To the vast majority of societies in Africa, land is regarded not simply as an economic or environmental asset, but as a social, cultural and ontological resource. Land remains an important factor in the construction of social identity, the organisation of religious life and the production and reproduction of culture. The link across generations is ultimately defined by the complement of land resources which families, lineages and communities share and control. Indeed land is fully embodied in the very spirituality of society (AU/ECA, 2009).

The acquisition of vast tracts of land from Africa by wealthier nations and private investors now referred to as land grabbing became a widespread phenomenon after 2007. The nature and magnitude of these acquisitions has led to widespread debate about its positive and negative impacts on local communities (Zoomers, 2010; De Schutter, 2011).

Over the past two years, the phenomenon of land grabbing has been increasingly described by the media as a growing trend across the world, most notably in Africa. Although it is difficult to precisely quantify the phenomenon, land grabbing incidences have been recorded in more than 60 countries around the world. Recent estimates indicate that between 80 to 227 million hectares having been grabbed in different parts of the world (Borras et al, 2011). The Global Land Project identified 62 million hectares in just 27 African countries in 2009 (GRAIN, 2011). A 2009 study titled “Land grab or development opportunity?” jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), analyzed land acquisitions of 1000 hectares or more between 2004 and 2009 from four African countries of Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar and Mali. According to the study, about two million hectares of land across the four countries have been signed over to foreign interests, including a 10,000-hectare project in Mali and a 450,000-hectare plantation for agrofuels in Madagascar (Cotula et al., 2009).

Other countries such as Nigeria which previously have few incidences of land grabbing are beginning to take centre stage in land grabbing deals. The first land deals in recent time in Nigeria was completed in Kwara State in 2004 when the Kwara State Government invoked the provisions of the Land Use Act to appropriate 13,000 hectares of land from local farmers in Shonga region, and allocated 1,000 hectares each to 13 commercial farmers from Zimbabwe on a 25-year lease, in the first instance, and renewable thereafter, at no cost whatsoever to the farmers (Ariyo and Mortimore, 2011). In January 2012, GRAIN reported seven completed lands deals in Edo, Abia, Anambra and Taraba States of Nigeria estimated at 392, 292 million hectares. Land grabbing as a phenomenal has elicited great debates about its implications for development among scholars, government and the civil society. Despite the spate of media reports and some published research, international land deals and their impacts remain still little understood. This chapter is a step towards filling this gap (Cotula et al., 2009). Thus, the goal of this chapter is to examine the socio-economic implications of land grabbing in Africa. It also analyses the scale, pace, actors as well as drivers in Africa. The above is achieved using historical and desk-based research design.The desk-based research comprised the examination of existing literature to help situate this current study within the context of existing evidence. It involved an analysis of published reports, databases and research papers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Baseline Data: Initial collection of data which serves as a basis for comparison with the subsequently acquired data.

Optimists: Refers to individuals or organizations that perceive land grabbing in a positive light. In other words, they believe that land grabbing will translate to sustainable development of local communities.

Foreign Land Acquisitions: The outright purchase of land from individuals, communities or government by foreigners.

Pessimists: Refers to individuals or organizations that perceive land grabbing in a negative light. In other words, they believe that land grabbing will compound poverty situation in local communities.

Land Tenure: Land tenure is the name given, particularly in common law systems, to the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, community or the state.

Land: Land is all the area of the earth's surface, including the physical environment such as landforms, climate and hydrology, plant and animal population, and the physical results of human activity like terraces and drainage works

Grey Literatures: Grey literature are government publications, reports, statistical publications, newsletters, fact sheets, working papers, technical reports, conference proceedings, policy documents and protocols and bibliographies.

Environmental Impact Assessments: An environmental impact assessment is a formal process used to predict the environmental consequences (positive or negative) of a plan, policy, program, or project prior the implementation decision, it proposes measures to adjust impacts to acceptable levels or to investigate new technological solution.

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