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.

Land Deal Brief: The Myth of Job Creation

The promise of job creation has been put forward by investors, governments, and international institutions to convince local communities of the benefits of foreign investment in agriculture. For instance, the Sierra Leonean president, claimed in March 2011, “Huge investments in the [agricultural] sector will definitely translate into hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for our youths.” Several countries studied by the Oakland...

Land Deal Brief: The Role of Development Agencies

Oakland Institute’s (OI) investigation into over 50 land investments deals in seven African countries highlights the role played by a wide range of international development agencies, multilateral institutions, and so-called “socially responsible” investment funds. While using the language of aid organizations these institutions speak of “helping Africa feed itself,” “improved food security,” “livelihood creation,” and “sustainable...

Land Deal Brief: The Role of the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group (WBG) promotes large-scale land investment in developing countries as a “win-win” situation where investors profit and “host” nations benefit from economic development, improved agricultural infrastructure, and employment opportunities. Since the 2008 food and financial crises, the number of land investment deals in developing countries has skyrocketed, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Land Deal Brief: Nile Trading and Development, Inc. in South Sudan

The largest land deal in South Sudan to date was negotiated between a Dallas, Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development Inc. (NTD) and Mukaya Payam Cooperative in March 2008. The 49-year land lease of 600,000 hectares (with a possibility of 400,000 additional hectares) for 75,000 Sudanese Pounds (equivalent to approximately USD 25,000), allows NTD full rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land.

Land Deal Brief: Half a Million Lives Threatened by Land Development for Sugar Plantations in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley

Since 2003, Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, one of the most culturally and ecologically unique areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, has been thrust into the international spotlight due to the launch of the controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project. Unfortunately, the massive commercial agriculture developments and resulting state-sponsored human rights violations – all made possible by Gibe III – have escaped international attention.  

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Ethiopia

For decades, Ethiopia has been known to the outside world as a country of famine, food shortages, endemic hunger, and chronic dependency on foreign aid. Despite receiving billions of dollars in aid, Ethiopians remain among the poorest in the world. Our research shows that at least 3,619,509 ha of land have been transferred to investors, although the actual number may be higher.

Land Deal Brief: Deciphering Emergent’s Investments in Africa

Emergent Asset Management (Emergent), a private limited liability company based in the UK and minority owned by Toronto Dominion Bank, claims to be managing the largest agricultural fund in Africa. Using private equity to invest in industrial agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, Emergent is however, a prime example of the troublesome rise in speculative funds that are investing in African agricultural land.

Land Deal Brief: EmVest Asset Management in Matuba, Mozambique

EmVest Asset Management is a joint venture between Emergent Asset Management and Grainvest, a subsidiary of the RussellStone Group. Based out of Pretoria, South Africa, EmVest operates the African Land Fund (ALF) and lists social responsibility as a guiding tenet of its investment strategy, citing a desire to bring “economic uplift to communities through commercially viable, first world practices.”

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Mali

This report identifies and examines cases of large-scale land acquisitions in Mali. The report provides background on the institutional and political context of the country, the current macroeconomic situation, the state of food and agriculture, and the current investment climate. Additionally, it documents detailed information regarding four land investment deals currently being carried out in Mali.

Additional Languages: Lire en français

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Sierra Leone

Based on field research conducted between October 2010 and January 2011, this report provides new and important information on the social, political and economic implications of current land investments in Sierra Leone.

Quifel International Holdings in Sierra Leone

Land Deal Brief: Quifel International Holdings in Sierra Leone

Quifel International Holdings (QIH) is the Lisbon-based personal holding of businessman Eng. Miguel Pais do Amaral, a Portuguese aristocrat, businessman, and former majority owner of the Media Capital Group.

Land Deal Brief: Saudi Star in Ethiopia

Saudi Star Agriculture Development PLC, owned by Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al-Amoudi, acquired 10,000 hectares of land along the Alwero River in the Gambella region of Ethiopia.

Land Deal Brief: Addax & Oryx Group Bioenergy Investment in Sierra Leone

Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone Limited is the company behind the most developed land deal in Sierra Leone to date. “Renewable energy” subsidiary of Addax & Oryx Group, a Swiss-based energy corporation, Addax has leased 20,000 hectares for 50 years in the Bombali district to grow sugarcane to produce ethanol for export to Europe and electricity from the by-products to be sold in Sierra Leone.

Land Deal Brief: Malibya in Mali

The Malibya project established by the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio secures 100,000 hectares of fertile land for Libya within the borders of Mali. The land, located in the Office du Niger, comes free of charge for 50 years. Libya intends to build the necessary agro-industrial infrastructure (e.g. canals and roads) in order to cultivate rice and cattle in the region.

(Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab

Oakland Institute’s report exposes the role of the Bank’s private sector branch, International Finance Corporation (IFC), in fueling land grabs, especially in Africa.

The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor

The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor

The Oakland Institute sounds the alarm on the threat that land grabbing poses to food security and livelihoods. Land grabs--the purchase of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors--have become a widespread phenomenon, with foreign interests seeking or securing between 37 million and 49 million acres of farmland between 2006 and the middle of 2009.

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