Land Rights

The purchase and lease of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors has led to debate about whether land investment is a tool for development or force of displacement.

The Facts

Over the last eight years, there has been a significant increase in land-based investment, both in terms of the number of investment projects and the total land area allocated. Industrialized nations and private foreign investors have driven demand for arable land in developing regions, particularly in Africa, but also in South America, and Asia-Pacific.

The lands offered to investors are frequently in use although occupants lack legal claims to the land and access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote land investment, displacement and impact on livelihoods have become serious sources of concern.

What we are doing about it

The Oakland Institute is committed to increasing transparency about land deals including the terms of the deals, the actors involved, and the impact on people and the environment.

Green Resources’ pine plantation in Kachung. Credit: Kristen Lyons / The Oakland Institute.

Evicted for Carbon Credits: Norway, Sweden, and Finland Displace Ugandan Farmers for Carbon Trading

Evicted for Carbon Credits: Norway, Sweden, and Finland Displace Ugandan Farmers for Carbon Trading, brings forward irrefutable evidence that the Norwegian forestry and carbon credit company, Green Resources, forcibly evicted villagers around their plantation in Kachung, Uganda. The establishment of the plantation on land previously used by subsistence farmers precipitated an on-going food security crisis that has not been addressed by...

Kara parent and child sitting along the bank of the Omo River. Copyright: Kelly Fogel

How They Tricked Us: Living with the Gibe III Dam and Sugarcane Plantations in Southwest Ethiopia

How They Tricked Us: Living with the Gibe III Dam and Sugarcane Plantations in Southwest Ethiopia, reveals the dire situation faced by the Indigenous in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley and calls for urgent action by the government. For years, the Oakland Institute has raised alarm about the threats that the Gibe III Dam and sugarcane plantations pose to the local population in the region. Now, several years on, new field...

Gilford Ltd. clearing land in West Pomio © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Land Summit or Land Grab?

Jubilee Australia and the Oakland Institute denounce the National Land Summit, organized by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, as a dangerous attack on the country’s unique customary land tenure system. Land Summit or Land Grab? details how the summit organized from May 1-3, 2019 is an attempt by the PNG government to ‘mobilize’ customary land to allow greater access to multinational companies and commercial banks for...

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The Bukanga Lonzo Debacle: The Failure of Agro-Industrial Parks in DRC

The Oakland Institute's report on the Bukanga Lonzo project and its impact reveals that agro-industrial parks are a false solution to the challenges faced by DRC and Africa when it comes to food, agriculture, and poverty alleviation.

Additional Languages: Parcs agro-industriels en RDC Tirer les leçons de la débâcle de Bukanga LonzoBilanga ya minene-minene ya mombongo: Mateya uta na esaleli mabe na Bukanga Lonzo
Report cover: Rainforest Action Network, CC BY-NC 2.0

Indonesia: The World Bank's Failed East Asian Miracle

Indonesia: The World Bank's Failed East Asian Miracle details how Bank-backed policy reforms have led to the displacement, criminalization, and even murder of smallholder farmers and indigenous defenders to make way for mega-agricultural projects. While Indonesia's rapidly expanding palm oil sector has been heralded as a boon for the economy, its price tag includes massive deforestation, widespread loss of indigenous land, rapidly...

Report Cover: India's mounting agrarian crisis forces distressed and dispossessed agricultural workers to migrate to cities and take up precarious seasonal work on construction sites © Sapana Jaiswal, People's Archive of Rural India

The Great Ventriloquist Act: The World Bank's Bad Business in India

The Great Ventriloquist Act: The World Bank's Bad Business in India exposes how India's one-track focus on improving its DBR has allowed massive environmental, labor, and human rights abuses to take place. Most appalling is the case of Vedanta Resources Plc, a company that benefitted from the removal of environmental safeguards and was able to operate a damaging copper smelter within the city limits of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu--a mere 8.4 miles...

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The Great Timber Heist - Continued: Tax Evasion and Illegal Logging in Papua New Guinea

The Great Timber Heist-Continued: Tax Evasion and Illegal Logging in Papua New Guinea makes public new evidence of financial misreporting and tax evasion in the logging industry in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Following the Oakland Institute's 2016 report, which alleged that financial misreporting by foreign firms resulted in nonpayment of hundreds of millions of...

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Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to Run Forever

Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to Run Forever is based on field research, never publicly-seen-before documents, and an in-depth investigation into Tanzania’s land laws. This report is the first to reveal the complicity between Tanzanian government officials and foreign companies as they use conservation laws to dispossess the Maasai, driving them into smaller and smaller areas and creating a stifling map of...

Additional Languages: Kuipoteza Serengeti, Ardhi Ya Wamasai Iliyopaswa Kudumu Milele
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A Death Knell for the EBA: Why the World Bank Must End its Ranking Programs Now

A new brief by the Oakland Institute urges member states to deliver the final blow to the Bank’s ranking programs—the Doing Business Report (DBR) and Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). The DBR and EBA face a growing crisis of legitimacy and confidence. Since last year, two anchor donors have ceased funding the EBA; in January 2018, former World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer resigned after exposing politically motivated...

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Carbon Colonialism: Failure of Green Resources’ Carbon Offset Project in Uganda

Carbon Colonialism: Failure of Green Resources’ Carbon Offset Project in Uganda exposes the continued and relentless attacks of Green Resources on the rights of local people and the environment in Kachung, Uganda. Following the Institute’s exposé in 2014, revealing the mistreatment and violence perpetrated by the company in Uganda, Green Resources’ only carbon credit...

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Palestine: For Land and Life

Palestine: For Land and Life offers a glimpse of everyday life for the people in Palestine and the monumental issues that stand in the way of peace and justice in the region. The series began as a project examining the impact of the occupation on agricultural livelihoods, with a special focus on land, water, and seeds. But the research quickly became about everyday life under occupation, the use of laws and military orders which...

Justice Denied: Resettlement, Demilitarization, and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Justice Denied: A Reality Check on Resettlement, Demilitarization, and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Justice Denied exposes the many issues that continue to plague land release and resettlement in the country, and the failure of the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its international commitments to transitional justice. The Sri Lankan military continues to occupy large quantities of land; land released by the government is often of poor quality, hindering the ability...

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Taking On the Logging Pirates: Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out!

A landmark report from the Oakland Institute, Taking On the Logging Pirates: Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out! elevates the voices of communities across the country who are opposing the theft of their land, made possible by the corrupt practices of local officials and foreign companies.

The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda

The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda

In recent years, there has been a significant trend toward land acquisition in developing countries, establishing forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution generated in the Global North. Badged as “green economic development,” global carbon markets are often championed not only as solutions to climate change, but as drivers of positive development outcomes for local communities. But there is mounting evidence that these corporate land...

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Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia

As months of protest and civil unrest hurl Ethiopia into a severe political crisis, a new report from the Oakland Institute debunks the myth that the country is the new “African Lion.” Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia exposes how authoritarian development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty, food...

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Backroom Bullying: The Role of the United States Government in the Herakles Farms’ Land Grab in Cameroon

Backroom Bullying: The Role of the United States Government in the Herakles Farms’ Land Grab in Cameroon, shows how bullying by US government officials may have played a critical role in the granting of nearly 20,000 ha by the Cameroonian government to the US-based firm Herakles Farms in 2013, instead of the cancellation of clearly flawed project.Using information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request,...

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Waiting to Return Home: Continued Plight of the IDPs in Post-War Sri Lanka

Threatened and despaired, a group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka petitioned the Oakland Institute to help them return home. This inspired the Institute’s latest report, Waiting to Return Home: Continued Plight of the IDPs in Post-War Sri Lanka. Backed by extensive field research and interviews, the report highlights a harsh reality—amid United Nations resolutions, task forces, and numerous promises made by the...

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The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.

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The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea

The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea, exposes massive tax evasion and financial misreporting by foreign logging companies, allegedly resulting in nonpayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to the world’s third largest rainforest....

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Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent

Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent, authored by lawyers from leading international law firms, provides an in-depth and damning analysis of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The report examines how the law, enacted in 2009, is a tool of repression, designed and used by the Ethiopian Government to silence its critics.

Peru, The Poster Child For the World Bank in Latin America

Peru has remained in the good grace of the World Bank. In 2015, it ranks 35th in the Bank’s Doing Business survey, with the second highest score in Latin America, indicating that the government has “created a regulatory environment conducive to business.” In 2008, Peru requested help from the Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) advisory services for the design of a new reform agenda launched in 2009. As a result, the World Bank’s...

Additional Languages: Perú: el buen alumno del Banco Mundial en América Latina
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Irresponsible Investment: Agrica's Broken Development Model in Tanzania

This report presents the findings of an investigation carried out in Tanzania between 2011 and 2015 of KPL’s investment venture, focusing on the impacts experienced by surrounding communities.

Additional Languages: Kutowajibika Katika Uwekezaji: Agrica Ni Mfano Wa Mradi Wa Maendeleo Ulioharibika Tanzania

The Long Shadow of War: The Struggle for Justice in Postwar Sri Lanka

The bloody civil war that ravaged Sri Lanka for 26 years officially ended in 2009 with the defeat of the minority Tamil separatists, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The conflict, in which the LTTE opposed the government led by the majority Sinhalese Buddhists, killed around 200,000, led to the displacement of more than a million people, destroyed infrastructure across the country, and took a heavy toll on the lives and...

Additional Languages: Lire en francaisLeer en español

I Speak without Fear: Where Are Our Loved Ones Who Have Been Abducted, Arrested, and Disappeared?

In December 2014, the Oakland Institute carried out research and fieldwork in Sri Lanka in order to understand and document the state of land conflicts and displacement amid accusations of land grabs experienced by the Tamils and other minorities at the hands of the Sri Lankan army and the government. While investigating the land grabs, the research team witnessed discrimination, harassment by the police, and horrors of the civil war that...

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My Home My Land

My Home, My Land is a graphic representation of much of the Oakland Institute's work on land grabs. Illustrated by the Institute's Intern Scholar, Abner Hauge, this publication dismantles the many myths promoted by so-called donor countries, development agencies, and corporations about the positive effects of foreign direct investments through large-scale land acquisitions...

Additional Languages: Mi hogar, mi tierraMa terre, ma vie

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