Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details

Law and Development Review

Editor-in-Chief: Lee, Y.S.

2 Issues per year

Online
ISSN
1943-3867
See all formats and pricing

The Law and Land Grabbing: Friend or Foe?

Liz Alden Wily
  • Corresponding author
  • Affiliated Fellow, Van Vollenhoven Institute, Universiteit Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands, P. Box 1642-00621, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-07-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ldr-2014-0005

Abstract

This paper reflects upon the role of law in the contemporary surge in global large-scale land acquisitions. Its point of reference is the land security of several billion rural poor who traditionally own and use untitled lands that are classified as state lands or unowned public lands in national laws. Most of the affected lands are off-farm areas including forests, marshlands, and rangelands. Investors target these lands in belief they are unowned. Governments concur, selling or leasing these lands on grounds of being technically the lawful owner and despite awareness that these lands are occupied and used. Despite the longstanding nature of such conflicts as well known and long debated, the present land rush brings unresolved contradictions between statutory and customary law and associated meanings of property firmly to the fore. Using Sub-Saharan Africa as the example, this paper examines the legal effects. It is shown that while millions of local land rights are threatened, the land rush also vitalises demands for improved national law status for unregistered customary rights, including those such as forest and rangelands purposely held by communities in common. To this extent, the contemporary rush could prove as much legal friend as foe to majority land rights in agrarian economies. This is partly because the current rush, unlike those that have gone before it, occurs in an environment of advanced popular communication, emergent mass empowerment, and has the advantage of a pre-rush era of legal improvement in the handling of indigenous and customary land rights that has established alternative precedents. Opportunities to coerce modification of classical dispossessory paths of economic growth strongly exist. Global advocacy for secure community land rights is rapidly advancing.

Keywords: land rush; customary rights; collective entitlement; capitalist transformation; real property

References

  • Alden Wily, L., Going Global: Securing the Commons at Scale, paper presented at International Land Coalition, Rights and Resources and Oxfam Conference on Land Rights (Bellagio, 2012).

  • Alden Wily, L., Whose Land Are You Giving Away, Mr President? paper presented at the World Bank Conference on Land Policy and Administration (Washington, 2010), available at: <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/335807-1229025334908/alden-wily.docx>

  • Alden Wily, L., So Who Owns the Forest? (Monrovia (Sustainable Development Institute) and Brussels (FERN), 2007).

  • Alden Wily, L., Land Rights Reform and Governance in Africa How to Make It Work in the 21st Century? (Nairobi, UNDP Drylands Development Centre, and Oslo, UNDP Governance Centre, 2006), available at: <http://www.undp.org/oslocentre/docs07/Land_Rights_Reform_and_Governance_in_Africa.pdf>

  • Alden Wily, L., Community-based land tenure management. Questions and Answers about Tanzania’s new Village Land Act, 1999 (London: International Institute for Environment and Development, 2003).

  • Alden Wily, L., The Tragedy of Public Lands: The Fate of the Commons Under Global Commercial Pressure (Rome: International Land Coalition, 2011).

  • Alden Wily, L., Land Rights in Gabon. Facing up to the Past – and the Present (Brussels: FERN, 2011).

  • Alden Wily, L., “The Law is to Blame” Taking a Hard Look at the Vulnerable Status of Customary Land Rights in Africa, 42 Development and Change, no. 3 (2011).

  • Alden Wily, L., Rights to Resources in Crisis: Reviewing the Fate of Customary Tenure in Africa (2011), available at: <http://www.rightsandresources.org/publication_details.php?publication ID=1405>

  • Alden Wily, L., Looking Back to See Forward: The Legal Niceties of Land Theft in Land Rushes, 39 Journal of Peasant Studies no. 3–4 (2012). [Crossref]

  • Allan, T., “Introduction: Can Improving Returns to Food-Water in Africa Meet African Food Needs and the Needs of Other Consumers?”, in T. Allan, M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign Direct Investment and Food and Water Security (Abingdon: Routledge International Handbooks, 2013), pp. 1–8.

  • Allan, T., M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign Direct Investment and Food and Water Security (London and New York: Routledge, 2013).

  • Amanor, K.S., “Sustainable Development, Corporate Accumulation and Community Expropriation: Local and Natural Resources in West Africa”, in K.S. Amanor and S. Moyo (eds.), Land and Sustainable Development in Africa (London and New York: ZED Books, 2008).

  • Amanor, K.S., “Securing Land Rights in Ghana”, in J.M. Ubink, A.J. Hoekema and W.J. Assies (eds.), Legalising Land Rights Local Practices, State Responses and Tenure Security in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2009).

  • Angel, S., D. Parent, S. Civco and A. Blei, The Atlas of Urban Expansion (Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2010).

  • Cain, A. Angola, “Land Resources and Conflict”, in J. Unruh and R. Williams (eds.), Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (London: Earthscan at Routledge, 2013).

  • Anseeuw, W., L. Alden Wily, L. Cotula and M. Taylor, Land Rights and the Rush for Land. Findings of the Global Commercial Pressures on Land Research Project (International Institute for Environment and Development, CIRAD and International Land Coalition, 2012), available at: <http://www.landcoalition.org/publications/tragedy-public-lands-fate-commons-under-global-commercial-pressure>

  • Anseeuw, W., M. Boche, T. Breu, M. Giger, J. Lay, P. Messerli and K. Nolte, Transnational Land Deals for Agriculture in the Global South. Analytical Report based on the Land Matrix Database (Rome: The International Land Coalition, University of Berne, CIRAD, GIGA and GIZ, 2012).

  • Bayart, J.-F., The State in Africa The Politics of the Belly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009).

  • Bernstein, H., Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change (Halifax and Winnepeg: Fernwood Publishing and Sterling, Virgina, Kumarin Press, 2010).

  • Borras, S., J. Franco, and C. Wang, The Challenge of Global Governance of Land Grabbing: Changing International Agricultural Context and Competing Political Views and Strategies, 10 Globalizations, no. 1 (2013). [Crossref]

  • Borras, S., C. Kay, S. Gomez and J. Wilkinson, Land Grabbing and Capitalist Accumulation: Key Features in Latin America, 33 Canadian Journal of Development Studies no. 4 (2012). [Crossref]

  • Bryceson, D., Changes in Peasant Food Production and Food Supply in Relation to the Historical Development of Commodity Production in Pre-Colonial and Colonial Tanganyika, 7 Journal of Peasant Studies, no. 2 (1980). [Crossref]

  • Chabal, P. and J.-P. Daloz, Africa Works Disorder as Political Instrument (Oxford, Bloomington, IN: The International African Institute with James Currey, 1999).

  • Chachage, C., Land Acquisition and Accumulation in Tanzania. The Case of Morogoro, Iringa and Pwani Regions, Research Commissioned for Pelum Tanzania (Dar es Salaam, 2010), available at: <http://www.commercialpressuresonland.org/sites/default/files/110406_Land_Acquisition_Tanzania.pdf>, accessed 12 May 2011.

  • Chanock, M., “Making Customary Law: Men, Women and the Courts in Colonial Northern Rhodesia”, in M. Hay and M. Wright (eds.), African Women and the Law (Boston: Boston University Press, African Studies Center, 1982).

  • Chidzero, B., Tanganyika and International Trusteeship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).

  • Cliffe, L., “Nationalism and the Reaction to Enforced Agricultural Change in Tanganyika during the Colonial Period in Tanganyika”, in L. Cliffe and J. Saul (eds.), Socialism in Tanzania, An Interdisciplinary Reader (Birmingham: East African Publishing House, Vol. 1, 1972).

  • Corson, C. and I. MacDonald, Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing, 39 Journal of Peasant Studies no. 2 (2012). [Crossref]

  • Dorsett, S., “Since Time Immemorial”: A Story of Common Law Jurisdiction, Native Title and the Case of Tanistry, 3 Melbourne University Law Review (2002), pp. 1–26, available at: <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/MelbULawRw/2002/3.html>, accessed 14 July 2013.

  • Emerton, L., Quantifying the Impacts of Barriers to Pro-Poor Forest Management, Livelihood and Landscape Strategy (Gland: IUCN, 2010).

  • Fairhead, J., M. Leach and I. Scoones, Green Grabbing: A New Appropriation of Nature? 39 Journal of Peasant Studies no. 2 (2012). [Crossref]

  • Feldman, R., Custom and Capitalism: Changes in the Basics of Land Tenure in Ismani, 10 Tanzania Journal of Development Studies, no. 3/4 (1974).

  • Government of Liberia, Special Independent Investigating Body, 2012. Report on the Issuance of Private Use Permits (PUPS) in Liberia (Monrovia: 19 December 2012).

  • Government of Liberia, National Land Tenure Policy (Monrovia: The National Land Commission, 2013).

  • Gray, C., Colonial Rule and Crisis in Equatorial Africa. Southern Gabon ca. 1850–1950 (New York: University of Rochester Press, 2002).

  • Greco, E., “Struggles and Resistance Against Land Dispossession in Africa: An overview”, in T. Allan, M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign direct investment and food and water security (Abingdon: Routledge International Handbooks, 2013), Part V. 5.4, pp. 456–468.

  • Green Advocates and Forest Peoples Programme, We Who Live Here Own the Land (Monrovia, 2012).

  • Henderson, W., “German East Africa 1884–1918”, in V. Harlow and E. Chilver with assistance of A. Smith (eds.), History of East Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Volume 2, 1965), pp. 124–162.

  • Hobsbawn, E., The Age of Empire 1875–1914 (London: Abacus Reprint 1997, 1987).

  • Hopma, J., Planning in the Wind: The Failure of Jordanian Investments in Sudan. Land Deal Politics Initiative Working Paper No. 22 (2013).

  • Iliffe, J., Tanganyika Under German Rule, 1905–1912 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969).

  • Maliasili Initiatives, Securing Community Land Rights. Experiences and Insights from Working to Secure Hunter-Gatherer and Pastoralist Land Rights in Northern Tanzania (Arusha, 2012).

  • Jayne, T. and M. Muyanga, Land Constraints in Kenya’s Densely Populated Rural Areas: Implications for Food Policy and Institutional Reform, Food Security (2012), available at: <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12571-012-0174-3> accessed 1 July 2012, Vol. 4(3) pp. 399–421. [Crossref]

  • Kanyinga, K., O. Lumumba and K.S. Amanor, “The Struggle for Sustainable Land Management and Democratic Development in Kenya: A History of Greed and Grievances, Chapter 4”, in K.S. Amanor and S. Moyo (eds.), Land and Sustainable Development in Africa (London and New York: ZED Books, 2008), pp. 100–123.

  • Kanyongolo, F., “Law, Land and Sustainable Development in Malawi, Chapter 3, in K.S. Amanor and S. Moyo (eds.), Land & Sustainable Development in Africa, Zed Books, (London & New York, 2008), pp. 83–99.

  • Kelly, A., Property and Negotiation in Waza National Park. Land Deals Politics Initiative Working Paper No. 21 (2013).

  • Land Rights Research and Resources Initiative, Accumulation by Land Dispossession and Labour Devaluation in Tanzania. The Case of Biofuel and Forestry Investments in Kilwa and Kilolo (Dar es Salaam, 2010).

  • Lee Peluso, N. and C. Lund, New Frontiers of Land Control: Introduction, 38 The Journal of Peasant Studies no. 4 (2011).

  • Li, T. Murray, Centering Labor in the Land Grab Debate, 38 The Journal of Peasant Studies no. 2 (2011). [Crossref]

  • Maina, C.P., “Rights to Communal Land Ownership, Chapter 8”, in C.P. Maina and H. Kijo-Bisimba (eds.), Law and Justice in Tanzania: Quarter of a Century of the Court of Appeal (Dar es Salaam: Legal and Human Rights Centre and Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2007).

  • McMichael, P., Land Grabbing as Security Mercantilism in International Relations, 10 Globalizations no. 1 (2013). [Crossref]

  • Mesaki, S., Recapping the Meru Land Case, Tanzania, 13 Global Journal of Human Social Sciences, Economics no. 1 (2012).

  • Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, National Land Policy (Dar es Salaam: United Republic of Tanzania, 1995).

  • Munden Project (The), The Financial Risks of Insecure Land Tenure An Investment View (Washington, DC: The Munden Project, 2012).

  • Mwaura, K., The Failure of Corporate Governance in State-Owned Enterprises and the Need for Restructuring Governance in Fully and Partially Privatized Enterprises: The Case of Kenya, 31 Fordham International Law Journal no. 1 (2007).

  • Neocosmos, M., Marx’s Third Class: Capitalist Landed Property and Capitalist Development, 13 The Journal of Peasant Studies no. 3 (2008).

  • Noe, C., Contesting Village Land. Uranium and Sport Hunting in Mbarang’andu Wildlife Management Area, Tanzania. Land Deals Policy Initiative Working Paper 15 (2013).

  • North, D., J. Wallis and B. Weingast, Violence and Social Orders A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

  • Nyerere, J., “National Property”, in J. Nyerere (ed.), Freedom and Unity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966).

  • Palmer, R., Select Bibliography (1) on Reports on Biofuels, Land Rights in Africa and Global Land Grabbing, 2006–2013 (Oxford: Mokoro Ltd, 2013).

  • Patnaik, U. and S. Moyo, The Agrarian Question in the Neoliberal Era Primitive Accumulation and the Peasantry (Dar es Salaam: Pambazuka Press, 2011).

  • Potts, D., “Land Alienation under Colonial and White Settler Governments in Southern Africa: Historical Land ‘grabbing’”, Chapter 1.2, in T. Allan, M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign direct investment and food and water security, (Abingdon: Routledge International Handbooks, 2013), pp. 24–42.

  • Ramaswamy, D., Comments on Agricultural Investment in Ethiopia (2013), available at: <http://www.kysq.org/docs/Ramaswamy.pdf>, accessed 1 May 2013.

  • Redfern, P., 2011. Report Exposes Dangers of Biofuel Deals in Tanzania as UK Firms Go Bust, The East African, 7–13 November 2011: 33.

  • Richards, M., Social and Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Africa – With a Focus on West and Central Africa (Washington, DC: Rights and Resources Initiative, 2013).

  • Scoones, I., R. Hall, S. Borras, B. White and W. Wolford, The Politics of Evidence: Methodologies for Understanding the Global Land Rush, 40 Journal of Peasant Studies, no. 3 (2013). [Crossref]

  • Scoones, I., N. Marongwe, B. Mavedzenge, F. Mahenehene, F. Murimbaribma and C. Sukume, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Myths and Realities (Oxford: James Currey, Weaver Press, Boydell & Brewer Inc., and Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd, 2010).

  • Siakor, S., Uncertain Futures. The Impact of Sime Darby on communities in Liberia (Monrovia: Sustainable Development Institute and World Rainforest Movement, 2012).

  • Sustainable Development Institute, Golden Veroleum Liberia. What Does the Contract Say? (Monrovia: Sustainable Development Institute, 2012).

  • Transnational Institute for European Coordination, Via Campesina and Hands off the Land Network, Land Concentration, Land Grabbing and People’s Struggles for Land (Amsterdam, 2013).

  • United Republic of Tanzania, Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Into Land Matters. Volume I Land Policy and Land Tenure Structure (Dar es Salaam: The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania in cooperation with The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden, 1994).

  • Verhoven, H., “Sudan and Its Agricultural Revival: A Regional Breadbasket or Another Mirage in the Desert?” in Chapter 1.3 in T. Allan, M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign direct investment and food and water security (Abingdon: Routledge International Handbooks, 2013), pp. 43–56.

  • Werner, W., A Brief History of Land Dispossession in Namibia, 19 Journal of Southern African Studies no. 1 (1993). [Crossref]

  • Woertz, E., “The Global Food Crisis and the Gulf’s Question for Africa’s Agricultural Potential”, in Chapter 2.2, in T. Allan, M. Keulertz, S. Sojamo and J. Warner (eds.), Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa Foreign direct investment and food and water security, (Abingdon: Routledge International Handbooks, 2013).

  • Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. William M’Intosh, US Supreme Court; 21 U.S. (543) 1823.

  • Largest Liberian palm oil project is failing locals: study, available at: <www.Reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE921L0Y520130322>, accessed 1 May 2013.

About the article

Published Online: 2014-07-17

Published in Print: 2014-12-01


Citation Information: Law and Development Review, ISSN (Online) 1943-3867, ISSN (Print) 2194-6523, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ldr-2014-0005. Export Citation

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in