Project

Back to overview

Sustainable Soil Governance and Large Scale Land Acquisitions originating in Switzerland

English title Sustainable Soil Governance and Large Scale Land Acquisitions originating in Switzerland (SSGov)
Applicant Rist Stephan
Number 143136
Funding scheme NRP 68 Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource
Research institution Zentrum für Entwicklung und Umwelt Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.03.2013 - 31.05.2016
Approved amount 300'450.00
Show all

All Disciplines (5)

Discipline
Social geography and ecology
Legal sciences
Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Sociology
Ecology

Keywords (5)

"Land Grabbing"; Modernisierung der Landwirtschaft; Afrika-Schweiz; Nachhaltigkeits-Abschätzung; Nachhaltige Entwickung und Bodennutzung

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Weltweit werden immer mehr landwirtschaftliche Nutzflächen von Ländern mit Mangel an Ackerland oder von internationalen Investitionsfonds aufgekauft oder gepachtet - bis heute gegen 83 Millionen Hektaren. Das Phänomen nennt sich «Land Grabbing». Betroffen davon ist vor allem Afrika - in geringerem Mass sind auch asiatische Länder, Russland, Zentral- und Südamerika betroffen. Das Team um Stephan Rist untersucht die Auswirkungen von «Land Grabbing», an dem Akteure in der Schweiz beteiligt sind.
Lay summary

Länder mit Mangel an Ackerland (z.B. Saudi-Arabien, Katar, China) oder internationale private Investitions- oder Hedgefonds, die unter anderem auch von der Schweiz aus operieren, pachten oder kaufen Ackerflächen in Afrika, in geringerem Masse auch in vielen asiatischen Ländern, Russland, Zentral- und Südamerika. Auf diesen Flächen sollen unter Einsatz agroindustrieller Methoden (Hochertragssorten, Mineraldünger, Pestizide, Mechanisierung) Nahrungsmittel und Rohstoffe für die Papier- oder Baumwollindustrie produziert werden.

Ob sich solche Investitionen rechtfertigen lassen, wird kontrovers diskutiert. Befürworter betonen die Modernisierung der Landwirtschaft in den Ländern des Südens und argumentieren, dass die erzielten Deviseneinnahmen auch die Versorgung mit einheimischen Nahrungsmitteln verbessern. Die Kritiker hingegen weisen auf die oft schweren Menschenrechtsverletzungen hin, wenn Kleinbauern verdrängt werden, auf die damit einhergehende Proletarisierung ehemaliger Bauernfamilien und die mit der Intensivierung verbundenen Umweltprobleme.

Wissenschaftlich sind die Auswirkungen des «Land Grabbing» erst bruchstückhaft untersucht. In einem ersten Schritt entwickelt das Forschungsteam dazu ein Konzept einer nachhaltigen Bodennutzung. Dieses wird anschliessend an einem afrikanischen Land exemplifiziert und verfeinert. Aus den Erkenntnissen werden Politikempfehlungen abgeleitet – für die Schweiz als Ursprungsland entsprechender Investitionen, für das Empfängerland sowie für internationale Organisationen wie die FAO oder die Weltbank. Schliesslich soll ein einfach anzuwendender Instrumentenkoffer – bestehend aus dem Konzept und den dazugehörenden Methoden – interessierten Kreisen ermöglichen, die Nachhaltigkeit von «Land-Grabbing»-Projekten eigenständig abzuschätzen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.05.2013

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Dans le monde, de plus en plus de terres agricoles sont louées ou achetées par des pays où elles font défaut ou des fonds d’investissement internationaux - 83 millions ha sont concernés. L’Afrique est la première cible de ce phénomène baptisé accaparement des terres. Plusieurs pays asiatiques, la Russie, l’Amérique centrale et l’Amérique du Sud sont aussi concernés, mais dans une moindre mesure. Stephan Rist et son équipe étudient les conséquences de l’accaparement des terres venu de Suisse.
Lay summary

Les pays qui manquent de terres arables (par exemple l’Arabie Saoudite, le Qatar et la Chine) ou des fonds d’investissement privés internationaux, dont certains sont basés en Suisse, louent ou achètent des surfaces agricoles en Afrique, mais aussi, dans une moindre mesure, dans de nombreux pays asiatiques, en Russie, en Amérique centrale et en Amérique du Sud. Sur ces surfaces sont cultivés des produits alimentaires et des matières premières destinées à l’industrie du papier et du coton au moyen de méthodes agroindustrielles (variétés à haut rendement, engrais minéraux, pesticides, mécanisation).

La légitimité de ces investissements fait débat. Les partisans soulignent la modernisation de l’agriculture dans les pays du sud permise par cette pratique et font valoir que les rentrées de devises ainsi obtenues favorisent également l’approvisionnement en produits alimentaires locaux. Pour leur part, les critiques pointent les violations des droits de l’homme, souvent graves, observées lorsque les petits agriculteurs sont chassés de leurs terres, la prolétarisation des anciennes familles de paysans qui en résulte et les problèmes environnementaux liés à l’intensification de l’agriculture.

Sur le plan scientifique, les conséquences l’accaparement des terres n’ont été étudiées que partiellement. Dans une première étape, l’équipe de recherche développe un concept d’utilisation durable des sols. Celui-ci est ensuite expliqué et affiné à travers l’exemple d’un pays africain. Des recommandations politiques sont avancées à partir des connaissances acquises – à l’attention de la Suisse en tant que pays d’origine des investissements concernés, des pays de destination et des organisations internationales comme la FAO et la Banque mondiale. Enfin, une batterie d’instruments simples à mettre en œuvre – comprenant le concept et les méthodes correspondantes – doit aider les milieux intéressés à évaluer eux-mêmes la durabilité des projets d’accaparement des terres.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.05.2013

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Throughout the world, agricultural land is being bought up or leased by countries with a lack of arable land or by international investment funds - to date, the figure comes to around 83 million hectares. Africa is the continent that is most affected by the phenomenon of land grabbing - then to a lesser extent, many Asian countries, Russia, Central and South America. Stephan Rist and his team are examining the effects of land grabbing by Switzerland.
Lay summary

Countries with a lack of arable land (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China) or international private investment funds, which operate from Switzerland and other countries, are leasing or buying up arable land in Africa, and to a lesser extent in many Asian countries, Russia, and Central and South America. Using agro-industrial methods (high yield varieties, mineral fertilisers, pesticides, mechanisation), the aim is to produce food and raw materials for the paper and cotton industries on these pieces of land.

Whether such investments are justified is controversial and still being discussed. Proponents stress the modernisation of agriculture in developing countries and argue that the foreign exchange revenue can improve the supply of local food. The critics, however, point to the often severe human rights abuses when small farmers are pushed out, to the accompanying proletarianisation of former farming families and to the environmental problems that come with more intensive farming practices.

The effects of land grabbing have only undergone fragmented scientific examination. The research team will initially be developing the concept of sustainable soil use. This will then be exemplified and refined in an African country. Policy recommendations will be derived from this information - for Switzerland as the country of origin of such investments, for the recipient country, and for international organisations such as the FAO and the World Bank. Then an easy-to-use instrument case – consisting of the concept and the associated methods – should enable interested circles to independently evaluate the sustainability of land grabbing projects.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.05.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Conflicts of customary land tenure in rural Africa: is large-scale land acquisition a driver of ‘institutional innovation’?
(2016), Conflicts of customary land tenure in rural Africa: is large-scale land acquisition a driver of ‘institutional innovation’?, in Peasant Studies.
Grabbing or investment? On judging large-scale land acquisitions.
(2016), Grabbing or investment? On judging large-scale land acquisitions., in Agriculture and Human Values.
Discussion: Food security and sustainable food systems: The role of soil
(2015), Discussion: Food security and sustainable food systems: The role of soil, in International Soil and Water Conservation Research.
Eckpfeiler eines nachhaltigen Agrarhandelssystems
(2015), Eckpfeiler eines nachhaltigen Agrarhandelssystems.
Sustainable investment in land in the Global South: What would it require from a coherence perspective? The case of Sierra Leone
(2015), Sustainable investment in land in the Global South: What would it require from a coherence perspective? The case of Sierra Leone, in Questions of International Law.
Von der Regulierung zur Demokratisierung - Antworten auf den globalen Hunger
(2014), Von der Regulierung zur Demokratisierung - Antworten auf den globalen Hunger, in Widerspruch.
Von Ernährungssouveränität zur kooperativen Ernährungssouveranität - Genügend und gesunde Nahrungsmittel für alle Menschen
(2014), Von Ernährungssouveränität zur kooperativen Ernährungssouveranität - Genügend und gesunde Nahrungsmittel für alle Menschen, in Widerspruch.
Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone - Analysis of the implementation process of a large scale land acquisition project from the perspective of assemblage theory
, Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone - Analysis of the implementation process of a large scale land acquisition project from the perspective of assemblage theory.
Ethnography of a Land-deal. A Village Perspective on the Addax Bioenergy Project
, Ethnography of a Land-deal. A Village Perspective on the Addax Bioenergy Project.
Local Perceptions of a Bioenergy Project in Sierra Leone: Expectations of Modernity, Gendered Impacts and Coping Strategies
, Local Perceptions of a Bioenergy Project in Sierra Leone: Expectations of Modernity, Gendered Impacts and Coping Strategies.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Global Programm Food Securtiy of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Faculty of Geosciences, University of Lausanne - Prof. Dr. René Véron Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
The Graduate Institute - Prof. Dr. Marc Hufty Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Insitute of Gegraphy of the University of Geneva - Prof. Dr. Frederic Giraud Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Bread for All (Migues Baumann) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Dr. Hy Dao Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Alliance Sud - Swiss Alliance of Development Organisations - Peter Niggli Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
International Union for Conservation of Nature -IUCN (Dr. Gonzalo Oviedo) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Institue of Social Anthropology of University of Berne - Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, University of Berne (Dr. Sabin Bieri) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), the University of Bern (Dr. Peter Messerli) Switzerland (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
‘Commons in a 'glocal' world: global connections and local responses’ IASC Regional European Conferenece Talk given at a conference “Are large scale land acquisitions leading to "commons" and "resilience grabbing" was using three inputs from our research network working on Sierra Leone. 11.05.2016 Bern, Switzerland Bürgi Elisabeth; Rist Stephan; Patrick Bottazzi;
Guest Lecture at the University of Caberra Talk given at a conference Responsibility Goods - the concept and two complementary case studies from Sierra Leone 04.08.2015 Canberra, Australia Mann Stefan;
Guest Lecture at Australian National University Individual talk Responsibility Goods - the concept and two complementary case studies from Sierra Leone 03.08.2015 Canberra, Australia Mann Stefan;
American Association of Geographers (AAG) Conference 2015. Session name : Rendering Land Investable: Multiple Ontologies and Materiali Talk given at a conference Building land scarcity in rural Sierra Leone : the impacts of large scale land acquisition on local livelihoods 25.04.2015 Chicago, United States of America Patrick Bottazzi;
Guest Lecture at Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern Individual talk Re-Conceptualizing the Global Land Rush – From Polanyi’s Double to Nancy Fraser’s Triple Movement 21.04.2015 Bern, Switzerland Rist Stephan;
Large scale land acquisition and rural communities - gender relation, decision making and food security Talk given at a conference Large scale land acquisition and households: Insights from Sierra Leone 27.11.2014 Bern, Switzerland Bürgi Elisabeth; Patrick Bottazzi; Rist Stephan;
Roundtable - From Growth to Sustainable and Inclusive Development: A Shift in Paradigm Talk given at a conference Participation in round table 13.11.2014 Bern, Switzerland Bürgi Elisabeth;
The Right to Food and Conflicts over Land Use- IHEID/SNIS Talk given at a conference Customary land governance and large scale land acquisition : tenure security or gerontocracy ? 07.11.2014 Geneva, Switzerland Patrick Bottazzi; Rist Stephan;
Panel: The Political Economy of Large‑Scale Land Acquisitions: Institutional Diagnostics - ECPR Conference Glasgow Talk given at a conference The Role of Human Rights in Policy and Jurisprudence Relating to Large Scale Land Acquisitions 06.09.2014 Glasgow, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Rist Stephan;
Seminar about landgrabbing Talk given at a conference Land Grabbing – a blueprint framework 23.05.2014 Oslo, Norway Mann Stefan;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Large Scale Land Acquistion in Sierra Leone - Lecturing in Sustainable Regional Development, Institute of Geography, University of Bern. Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 07.03.2014 Berne, Switzerland Rist Stephan;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) BIOETHANOL-LANDHANDEL MIT SCHWEIZER BETEILIGUNG; Text von Samuel Schlaefli International 2016

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
161905 Archetypes of transnational land acquisitions: towards a generalization of case study knowledge for informed soil governance (ATLAS) 01.01.2016 NRP 68 Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource

Abstract

Large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) are a relatively recent phenomenon of massive land deals that currently cover about 203 millions of hectares worldwide. LSLAs - also called “land grabbing” in the public debate - mainly originate in developed countries (among them Switzerland) and target land in poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Arguments in favour of LSLAs focus mainly on the need to increase investments and technology transfer into agricultural production in order to meet the growing global demand for food, biofuels, and other natural resources used for producing industrial goods such as timber, paper, rubber, textiles, and others. The generation of national income from the exportation of agricultural goods, the modernisation of land use, and the integration of national economies into the global markets are considered as further advantages of LSLAs. However, research on the effects of LSLAs in the countries where the land is located also point to a large number of critical aspects. Major negative aspects of LSLAs affect small-scale farmers. Case studies have shown that LSLAs can lead to dispossession of land rights, curtailing access to grazing areas, water resources, or forests and affecting livelihood strategies, food security, income levels, and labour conditions, and often increasing already existing social conflicts.Although scientific evidence is rapidly growing, scientific inquiry into the assessment of LSLAs in view of the principles of sustainability is characterised by the following research gaps: 1) the lack of a systematic typology of modalities under which LSLAs take place, which makes it difficult to deal with the heterogeneity and context-specificity of costs and benefits of LSLAs; 2) the lack of a broad, integrated perspective understanding LSLAs as part of a wider dispute over “land control”, rather than just “land acquisition”; 3) the lack of a comprehensive approach that integrates the issue of the legal underpinnings of LSLAs and examines its links with socio-economic and ecological effects of LSLAs; 4) the lack of an approach that integrates evaluation of the effects of LSLAs on agronomic soil characteristics; 5) the lack of sustainability impact assessment tools that are capable of dealing with the multidimensional and cross-scale configurations of LSLAs. These research gaps may explain the fact that the links between policymaking and scientific research are still very weak and policymaking regarding the complex institutional relations between home and host countries are not adequately informed by scientific evidence.Taking account of these research gaps, the project consortium has decided to address the following research and policy objectives:1) To produce a typology of LSLA modalities considering driving and affected actors, institutions, and agronomic effects, by analysing over 920 land deals documented in the Land Matrix database established by ILC, CDE, and other partners, taking into account the notion of “land control”. 2) To make complex situations of LSLAs and their impacts on sustainable soil governance understandable, and to assist stakeholders by providing a toolkit based on an adapted and tested concept and methodology for assessing the sustainability of LSLAs.3) To inform and advance policy debates in both a home state (Switzerland) and a host state by developing innovative policy options for promoting sustainable soil governance in a concrete exemplary case of LSLA.This project is based on an inter- and transdisciplinary methodological approach aimed at interrelating scientific knowledge with that of non-academic actors interested in assessing the sustainability of LSLAs with a view to producing a Sustainable Soil Governance (SSG) framework. Methodologically, this calls for a mixed-methods approach that integrates quantitative and qualitative instruments. Interdisciplinary scientific work is to be broadened towards transdisciplinary knowledge co-production through close collaboration with a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG). The SAG will be comprised of four scientific experts from three Swiss universities, as well as an expert each from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL; the expert is Dr. Paul Mäder, the main applicant of another NRP 68 project), the Global Food Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the UNDP and IUCN offices in Switzerland, and four important NGOs - two Swiss and two international ones - working on LSLAs.Transdisciplinary work will be organised in three phases: 1) development of a typology of LSLAs and sustainable soil governance (SSG) framework, including their validation together with the SAG; 2) application of the SSG framework to a concrete case of LSLA in Africa and its validation together with local stakeholders and the SAG; 3) development of policy options and of a toolkit for assessing the sustainability of LSLAs, including their validation together with the SAG. The project’s main results will comprise five scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals, a policy brief, and a toolkit for assessing the sustainability of LSLAs in view of the principles of sustainable soil governance established in the SSG framework; the latter will be published on the website of ILC and/or CDE and other interested organisations. The SAG will constitute a platform not only for linking research and policy but also for fostering debates within the large national and international networks to which the SAG members are affiliated. The inter- and transdisciplinary approach of this project requires senior researchers’ expertise; such demanding research cannot be done by one or two PhD students. For this reason, we decided to designate two part-time senior researchers (Dr. Patrick Bottazzi, sociologist at CDE, and Dr. Elizabeth Bürgi of WTI) as core members of the research team. They will be constantly supported by the main applicant of this project, Stephan Rist (human geographer at CDE), and the co-applicants Stefan Mann (agroeconomist at Agroscope) and Thomas Cottier (professor of economic law at WTI). In addition, the work of the core team will benefit from the feedback of the renowned academic experts joining the SAG.
-