Tanzania farm landscape.

Credit: A. Etizinger / CGIAR. Tanzania farm landscape.

Large-scale Land Acquisitions

A global land rush—sparked initially by a dramatic rise in global food prices and now driven by a variety of factors including increased demand for food and biofuels, carbon markets and speculation—is remaking the face of agriculture and land use in much of the world. Large swathes of land in Africa, Latin America and Asia are being purchased or leased by a variety of foreign and domestic investors. According to the International Land Coalition, a substantial amount of the land acquired is in Africa.

In Africa, this massive commercial pressure on land is occurring primarily where there is weak land governance, putting local land users at heightened risk of losing their land rights.

Leases of land to investors are often accompanied by commitments to provide employment, create infrastructure, transfer technology, and enhance foreign currency earnings.  Yet, there is little reliable data about the actual terms and implementation of many large-land deals. This lack of transparency makes it very difficult to assess their impact, whether positive or negative.

The international community has established recognized sets of principles and guidelines to promote agricultural investments that benefit investors, governments and local communities.  Common principles call for: recognition and respect of the land rights of local communities; participation of local communities in the development of land projects; where possible, structuring investments to have a positive impact on local livelihoods.

If done right, large-scale acquisitions of land by investors can respect and even strengthen local land rights, increase agricultural productivity and be financially successful. However, they can also lead to a loss of access and rights to land, water and other natural resources for local communities and especially for women whose land rights are more tenuous to begin with.

Large-scale land acquisitions briefs

Large-Scale Biofuel Production in Ghana

Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Ethiopia

Biofuels and Land Use in Tanzania

Africa: Responsible Investment in Land