The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Institutional Arrangements in Land Deals in Africa: Local Impacts of Global Resource Scarcity

Research Partners:

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Principal Investigators: Ruth Hall. Lead Organisation: University of the Western Cape

Co-investigators: Ian Scoones; Dzodzi Akuyo Tsikata

Many investors have responded to recent food price hikes and volatile oil prices by acquiring large tracts of African farmland as a new base from which to supply growing markets. In the process, land uses change and existing populations are often displaced. The livelihood impacts of such investments depend on the terms of land access and institutional arrangements or farming models that structure them. This research investigates three models:

  1. corporate plantations/estates
  2. clusters of large commercial farms
  3. smallholder outgrower schemes, in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia.

This comparative study explores:

  • How do the deals affect people’s resource access, and what forms of accumulation are occurring?
  • What are the socially-differentiated livelihood and food security impacts of different kinds of land transactions?

Methods include document analysis, financial analysis and multi-scale interviews relating to each case. Rooted in gender analysis, similar quantitative and qualitative methods will be used at the nine study sites including key informant and semi-structured interviews, focus groups, rapid appraisal techniques, and a standardised quantitative household survey. By systematically analysing the differentiated impacts of different models of investment, the research aims to contribute to on-going policy debates about the impacts of and responses to the African ‘land rush’.

The ultimate end-users of the research will be rural people affected by, or potentially affected by, large-scale land deals, and these groups (but others as well) who would benefit from more inclusive types of investments. By addressing the local impacts of perceptions of global resource scarcity, the research aims to promote secure tenure to natural resources on which people's livelihoods depend, and equitable and sustainable development partnerships that avoid generating new dynamics of resource scarcity at the local level. Intermediary end-users of the research will include policymakers in national governments, regional organisations and continental multilateral organisations; national, regional, continental and global civil society organisations and networks; investors and private sector companies, and industry regulatory bodies; and academics in universities and research institutions within the countries studied and beyond. Our aim is to move the highly polarised debate on land deals in Africa beyond a simplistic win-win vs. lose-lose opposition. We will offer new evidence and analysis, as well as methodological tools and assessment indicators, based on grounded case studies. We will use this material to generate a debate across scales - from the local to the national to the continental and the global - building on our existing networks and policy connections developed by our respective institutions and the work of the Future Agricultures Consortium. As founding members and associates of the global Land Deal Politics Initiative and as the convenors of the recent International Conference on Global Land Grabbing (IDS, 6-8 April 2011,, the project partners have an exceptional network among the policy, academic and activist communities worldwide working on this topic. The project will build on team members' existing partnerships and relationships with global development cooperation institutions, through DFID and the FAO. This is combined with a strong base in African land governance and agricultural development institutions, and a track record of partnerships and collegial relations, including in African Union, NEPAD, CAADP and the Pan African Parliament. We also have relationships with civil society groups (farmers' organisations, land rights lobbies, and development and human rights NGOs) at the national level and regional levels As likely end users of the research findings, their input on the research will be solicited and they will be invited to key project events. A user reference group will be established at the outset of the research, and will provide advice on policy engagement and uptake. Membership is yet to be finalised, but will include representatives from the above-mentioned groups. The project will build the capacity of researchers to engage policy makers, and create policy opportunities from start to finish. A detailed policy engagement and communications strategy will be developed at the inception workshop, and its implementation will be supported by communications experts in PLAAS, FAC and IDS. Key moments in the project implementation will be used to engage policy makers, fellow researchers, civil society activists and the media. All project outputs will be designed to enhance the policy influencing capacity of the project. Short and accessible two-page summaries on the research underway in each country will explain the policy issues to be addressed, the research context, and emerging findings and insights from the field. These will be used as materials with which to engage policy audiences, together with written, visual and verbal presentations and inputs to meetings. These will be complemented by longer working papers, articles, presentations and a final book. A web portal for the project will be established on the PLAAS and FAC websites, as part of the land theme, and outputs will be highlighted in regular newsletters, policy briefings and meetings.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Inst for Poverty Land & Agrarian Studies
Fund Start Date: 
August 1st, 2012
Fund End Date: 
February 29th, 2016
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: