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Large-Scale Land Acquisition as Commons Grabbing: A comparative analysis of six African case studies

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Book (peer-reviewed)
Author HallerTobias, AdamsTimothy, GmürDésirée, KäserFabian, LanzKristina, MarfurtFranziska, RyserSarah, SchubigerElisabeth, vonSuryAnna, GerberJean-David,
Project Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Gender in Africa: The Impact of Institutional Change and Land Investments on Gender Relations and Food Security
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Book (peer-reviewed)

Publisher Reimer, Berlin


We discuss the results of two research projects carried out by the Institute of Social Anthropology and Geography, University of Bern (Switzerland) regarding large-scale land acquisitions in Africa. Our case-studies are form Morocco, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. They illustrate the drama of the grabbed commons and economic consequences affecting marginalized groups. The results show that new land deals were made by foreign investors with local state officials and elites. The new rules made the land available for market-oriented productions and transferred the assets into state- or local elites- and international companies-owned properties. These changes adversily affected the traditional property rights scheme. New institutional changes eliminated communal ownership and access to other land-related commons such as water, pasture, fisheries, forestry, non-timber forest products, and wildlife vital for local livelihoods. We analyze how different local groups reacted to these dramas and what strategies they used to reinstall the commons, although with mixed success. Finally, we argue that only bottom-up institutional buildup provides essential basis for securing resilient livelihoods. Our studies allow for understanding the way how to use the commons in the future on local, national, and international level.