Economic and Ethical Challenges of “Land Grabs” in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ott, Konrad, Kleemann, Linda, Lay, Jann, Thiele, Rainer and Voget-Kleschin, Lieske (2013) Economic and Ethical Challenges of “Land Grabs” in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kiel Policy Brief .

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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.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: environmental ethics
Research affiliation: Kiel University
Refereed: No
Open Access Journal?: Yes
ISSN: 2195-7525
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2017 20:43
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2017 09:39

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