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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.

Overview

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

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...

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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...

My Home My Land cover

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.

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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...

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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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