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.

Publications

We Say the Land is Not Yours report cover

We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence Against Forced Displacement in Ethiopia

Over the past six years, the Oakland Institute has been at the forefront of exposing the social, economic, and environmental impacts of foreign land grabs in Ethiopia. This work has been based on extensive fieldwork and research on human rights abuses against and forced evictions of indigenous populations in the Lower Omo and Gambella regions; detailed briefs on the impacts of specific land development projects, such as the Saudi Star Rice Farm...

Engineering Ethnic Conflict report cover

Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia's Plantation Development on Suri People

Recently dubbed “Africa’s Lion” (in allusion to the discourse around “Asian Tigers”), Ethiopia is celebrated for its steady economic growth, including a growing number of millionaires compared to other African nations. However, as documented in previous research by the Oakland Institute, the Ethiopian government’s “development strategy,” is founded on its policy of leasing millions of hectares (ha) of land to foreign investors. Implementation of...

Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank's Myths on Agriculture and Development report cover

Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank's Myths on Agriculture and Development

In the 1980s and 1990s, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) intervention in developing countries’ national policies, through aid conditionality and austerity programs known as Structural Adjustments Programs (SAPs), triggered a wave of global resistance against the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). in the face of growing criticism that these policies increased poverty, debt, and dependency on rich countries, saps...

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We Harvest--You Profit: African Land Ltd's Land Deal in Sierra Leone

From rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the current obsession for agricultural land borders on speculative mania as private companies, hedge funds, private equity funds, and sovereign wealth funds join the land rush looking for lucrative deals in the developing world. An estimated 500 million acres, an area about ten times the size of Britain, has been bought or leased in the developing world in the last decade. The social,...

Willful Blindness cover

Willful Blindness: How the World Bank's Doing Business Rankings Impoverish Smallholder Farmers

Established in 1944 with the objective of reducing poverty, the World Bank, headquartered in Washington, DC, is an international financial institution that provides financial and technical assistance as well as advisory services to enhance development in poor and transitioning countries. Despite its praiseworthy goals, the World Bank’s activities and undue influence over policy making in developing countries have come under heavy criticism over...

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Blog

Community Resistance to Senhuile Land Grab Sparks Hope in Senegal

Thursday, September 1, 2016 Alice Martin-Prével

Senegalese agro-pastoralists are striking wins against Senhuile SA, a foreign-owned agribusiness company established in Ndiaël, Saint-Louis Region of Senegal. In 2012, Senhuile obtained a 50 year lease on 20,000 hectares for a sweet potato plantation in a forest and wetland reserve, which was partially declassified to establish agribusiness activities.

Feyisa Lilesa: Crossing the Line in Ethiopia

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 Anuradha Mittal

As Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian marathon runner, crossed the finish line on Sunday, winning silver for his country at the Rio Olympics, his hands were crossed high above his head. To some viewers, it might have been a symbol of triumph at the end of a long race. But to those following the political turmoil in Ethiopia, it was a heroic – and dangerous – political act, sending a message globally about the plight of his people.

European Union Bankrolls Deceitful Land Project in Ethiopia

Saturday, July 30, 2016 Alice Martin-Prével

The European Union and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are funding a €3.8 million ($4.2 million) agricultural initiative in Ethiopia. "Support to Responsible Agricultural Investment" (S2RAI), launched in March 2016, is a three-year long project focused on two western regions of Ethiopia: Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz. According to documents made public at the project-launching workshop in Bishoftu on July 15-...

Green Resources Hedging Around Growing International Calls for Radical Reform of its Plantation Forestry Practices

Friday, March 25, 2016 Kristen Lyons and Peter Westoby

Kristen Lyons and Peter Westoby The Paris climate talks at the end of 2015 no doubt left some feeling as though global politics might have turned a little green. With a Climate Agreement aiming at keeping global temperature increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, national governments have some heavy lifting to do in cutting emissions. The green economy—including carbon markets and other payments for ecosystem services—is being...

Why the World Bank Is Missing the Point on Agricultural Development

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Alice Martin-Prével

Agricultural development is central to addressing some of the biggest challenges today: climate change, hunger, poverty, need for rural employment, and managing access to land and natural resources. According to the World Bank, climate change could push 100 million people into poverty in the next 15 years. Farmers will be the primary victims, affected by reduced rainfall, crop failure, heat waves, and floods. Yet, instead of investing in small-...

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