Because most large-scale land transactions being tracked in Africa are quite new, a lot of information exists on their size, but very little reliable information exists about their actual impacts. Yet there is such a large scale of land-use change planned, that stakeholders must build on reliable information to predict and avoid or mitigate negative impacts. This study focuses on the reported social and environmental impacts, as opposed to the predicted or likely impacts, of large-scale land transactions (LSLAs) in Africa, with a focus on West and Central Africa (WCA). The core of the report is an analysis of 18 case studies that are among the best-documented LSLAs in terms of their impacts, but the studies are not a representative sample. The 18 case studies cover Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, and Sierra Leone in WCA, and they cover Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia in East Africa. Impacts were classified into five groups: tenure impacts, land governance process and impacts, economic and livelihood impacts, human and sociocultural impacts, and environmental impacts. Key findings were as follows: • The state’s expropriation of customary rights, at least for the duration of the LSLA leases. The main tenure effect has been the conversion of customary tenure to state tenure because the state tenure is required for governments to make leasehold agreements with LSLA investors • A flawed process of consultation that has marginalized customary rights holders and is often accompanied by coercion, political pressure, or deception. In about half the cases, there were violent protests or clashes (sometimes leading to arrests and court cases), as well as a lack of information and transparency at all stages • In the land deals, prominent role of traditional authorities or chiefs, who often seemed to put personal interest ahead of community interest • Minimal compensation to displaced customary rights holders and/or rental payments; • Doubtful legality of the LSLAs in three cases • Disappointing levels and conditions of employment in the new agricultural enterprises—where jobs were obtained by local people, they were often short-term or seasonal and were usually poorly paid (partly because of the local people’s lack of skills) • Adverse effects on women because of their high dependence on the commons reported in several cases • Adverse social and cultural effects, including abuse of sacred sites, disruption of social networks, and impeded access to health and education services • Weak delivery by companies of promised social infrastructure and services, suggesting that the longer-term benefits claimed by companies may prove disappointing • Increased intra- and inter-community conflicts arising out of LSLAs, often associated with increased competition for the remaining farmland and erosion of social capital; • Severe effects on downstream livelihoods arising from the almost unlimited water extraction rights generally granted to LSLAs • Significant deforestation and damage to wetlands • Failure to undertake an environmental and social impact assessment, or when the assessment was carried out, failure to make it available to local stakeholders before the LSLA was approved 8 rightsandresources.org More positively, in Mali, Sierra Leone, and possibly other countries, reaction to LSLAs has resulted in new civil society led networks. Working with grassroots organizations and sometimes with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these networks have formed with the aims of (a) sensitizing communities to their rights and to the problems raised by LSLAs and (b) lobbying governments for policy and regulatory reforms. A key recommendation of this study is to conduct research on the broader economic and national impacts of LSLAs, including the effects on agricultural productivity (e.g. a study from Burkina Faso reported a lower productivity in agribusiness ventures, although these ventures were relatively small-scale compared to most LSLAs), fiscal contributions, and growth, etc., because this research has the potential to show that state support for LSLAs is hard to justify on national economic grounds. It seems that only exposing the social and environmental externalities will not be sufficient to convince governments to introduce the needed regulatory and policy reforms; that information needs to be supported by exposing the confused development discourse behind LSLAs. This view is similar to the position of the United Nations (UN) Rapporteur on the Right to Food (De Schutter 2011), who argues the need for more emphasis in the LSLA discourse on agricultural investment programs that introduce alternative models for large-scale plantations and estates on the basis of improving the productivity of family farms or of promoting more “agroecological” methods of production. Linked to this recommendation is an urgent need for more detailed comparative “micro-economic” studies on LSLAs, on smallholder farming systems where customary rights are relatively secure (allowing households to decide what to grow and how to grow it), and on alternatives such as out-grower schemes. This research should produce more detailed data on comparative income, livelihood, and equity effects (for women, the old, pastoralists, and other marginalized groups), which can feed into development policy analysis. Other research priorities include the following: the rates of abandonment of LSLAs and the reasons and consequences of abandonment, especially for former customary rights holders; the impacts of non-agricultural LSLAs (mining, tourism, etc.), which are currently poorly documented; the impacts of small-scale land acquisitions (SSLAs) by domestic investors, given their rapidly growing importance in the WCA region; and the impacts of LSLAs on water availability and consumption rates for affected stakeholder groups. Other key recommendations include the following: stronger support for customary land rights; measures to improve the consultation, information, and consent basis for LSLAs, with the aim of making free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) mandatory; independent scrutiny or certification of LSLA contracts and compensation; incorporation of the 2011 Nairobi Action Plan on Large-Scale Land-Based Investments in Africa and other African Union guidelines into national legislation; checks on the power of traditional authorities in LSLA situations; strengthened ex ante impact assessment and on-going monitoring of LSLAs; stricter regulation and transparent provision of water use by LSLAs; increased support for civil society led alliances and networks to increase local awareness of rights and the risks of LSLAs and to lobby for policy and regulatory reforms. However, the national and international political economy drivers of weakly regulated LSLAs will be hard to overcome. Combined with weak property rights, weak governance of LSLAs appears to suit national elites and international investors, allowing them to pursue rent-seeking opportunities. In the longer term, the processes of democratization and devolution will be key to achieving more equitable and effective land management.

Social and Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Africa–With a Focus on West and Central Africa

Resource Key: HJ2CWNJD

Document Type: Report

Creator:

Author:

  • Michael Richards

Creators Name: {mb_resource_zotero_creatorsname}

Place: Washington D.C.

Institution: Rights + Resources Intiative (RRI)

Date: March 2013

Language: en

Because most large-scale land transactions being tracked in Africa are quite new, a lot of information exists on their size, but very little reliable information exists about their actual impacts. Yet there is such a large scale of land-use change planned, that stakeholders must build on reliable information to predict and avoid or mitigate negative impacts. This study focuses on the reported social and environmental impacts, as opposed to the predicted or likely impacts, of large-scale land transactions (LSLAs) in Africa, with a focus on West and Central Africa (WCA). The core of the report is an analysis of 18 case studies that are among the best-documented LSLAs in terms of their impacts, but the studies are not a representative sample. The 18 case studies cover Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, and Sierra Leone in WCA, and they cover Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia in East Africa. Impacts were classified into five groups: tenure impacts, land governance process and impacts, economic and livelihood impacts, human and sociocultural impacts, and environmental impacts. Key findings were as follows: • The state’s expropriation of customary rights, at least for the duration of the LSLA leases. The main tenure effect has been the conversion of customary tenure to state tenure because the state tenure is required for governments to make leasehold agreements with LSLA investors • A flawed process of consultation that has marginalized customary rights holders and is often accompanied by coercion, political pressure, or deception. In about half the cases, there were violent protests or clashes (sometimes leading to arrests and court cases), as well as a lack of information and transparency at all stages • In the land deals, prominent role of traditional authorities or chiefs, who often seemed to put personal interest ahead of community interest • Minimal compensation to displaced customary rights holders and/or rental payments; • Doubtful legality of the LSLAs in three cases • Disappointing levels and conditions of employment in the new agricultural enterprises—where jobs were obtained by local people, they were often short-term or seasonal and were usually poorly paid (partly because of the local people’s lack of skills) • Adverse effects on women because of their high dependence on the commons reported in several cases • Adverse social and cultural effects, including abuse of sacred sites, disruption of social networks, and impeded access to health and education services • Weak delivery by companies of promised social infrastructure and services, suggesting that the longer-term benefits claimed by companies may prove disappointing • Increased intra- and inter-community conflicts arising out of LSLAs, often associated with increased competition for the remaining farmland and erosion of social capital; • Severe effects on downstream livelihoods arising from the almost unlimited water extraction rights generally granted to LSLAs • Significant deforestation and damage to wetlands • Failure to undertake an environmental and social impact assessment, or when the assessment was carried out, failure to make it available to local stakeholders before the LSLA was approved 8 rightsandresources.org More positively, in Mali, Sierra Leone, and possibly other countries, reaction to LSLAs has resulted in new civil society led networks. Working with grassroots organizations and sometimes with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these networks have formed with the aims of (a) sensitizing communities to their rights and to the problems raised by LSLAs and (b) lobbying governments for policy and regulatory reforms. A key recommendation of this study is to conduct research on the broader economic and national impacts of LSLAs, including the effects on agricultural productivity (e.g. a study from Burkina Faso reported a lower productivity in agribusiness ventures, although these ventures were relatively small-scale compared to most LSLAs), fiscal contributions, and growth, etc., because this research has the potential to show that state support for LSLAs is hard to justify on national economic grounds. It seems that only exposing the social and environmental externalities will not be sufficient to convince governments to introduce the needed regulatory and policy reforms; that information needs to be supported by exposing the confused development discourse behind LSLAs. This view is similar to the position of the United Nations (UN) Rapporteur on the Right to Food (De Schutter 2011), who argues the need for more emphasis in the LSLA discourse on agricultural investment programs that introduce alternative models for large-scale plantations and estates on the basis of improving the productivity of family farms or of promoting more “agroecological” methods of production. Linked to this recommendation is an urgent need for more detailed comparative “micro-economic” studies on LSLAs, on smallholder farming systems where customary rights are relatively secure (allowing households to decide what to grow and how to grow it), and on alternatives such as out-grower schemes. This research should produce more detailed data on comparative income, livelihood, and equity effects (for women, the old, pastoralists, and other marginalized groups), which can feed into development policy analysis. Other research priorities include the following: the rates of abandonment of LSLAs and the reasons and consequences of abandonment, especially for former customary rights holders; the impacts of non-agricultural LSLAs (mining, tourism, etc.), which are currently poorly documented; the impacts of small-scale land acquisitions (SSLAs) by domestic investors, given their rapidly growing importance in the WCA region; and the impacts of LSLAs on water availability and consumption rates for affected stakeholder groups. Other key recommendations include the following: stronger support for customary land rights; measures to improve the consultation, information, and consent basis for LSLAs, with the aim of making free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) mandatory; independent scrutiny or certification of LSLA contracts and compensation; incorporation of the 2011 Nairobi Action Plan on Large-Scale Land-Based Investments in Africa and other African Union guidelines into national legislation; checks on the power of traditional authorities in LSLA situations; strengthened ex ante impact assessment and on-going monitoring of LSLAs; stricter regulation and transparent provision of water use by LSLAs; increased support for civil society led alliances and networks to increase local awareness of rights and the risks of LSLAs and to lobby for policy and regulatory reforms. However, the national and international political economy drivers of weakly regulated LSLAs will be hard to overcome. Combined with weak property rights, weak governance of LSLAs appears to suit national elites and international investors, allowing them to pursue rent-seeking opportunities. In the longer term, the processes of democratization and devolution will be key to achieving more equitable and effective land management.

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