Understanding and mediating competing community interests

August 12, 2016
SERIES: LARGE-SCALE LAND ACQUISITIONS IN AFRICA
Tree planting

Sustainable Development Institute

The issue

Large land deals affect community members in different ways, depending on their age, gender, ethnicity, social status, and other factors. Women, youth, and the poorest community members often receive less compensation for land than men and local elites.

What research is finding

Research teams are shedding light on how LSLAs can stoke competing interests and how their effects can vary across groups. Competition for farmland risks widening social and economic gaps, for instance, by raising rents for tenants and creating incentives for elites to profit directly from land deals. In Uganda, some local chiefs, driven by economic gain, have become “owners” rather than playing their traditional role as custodians of community lands.

When LSLAs limit community access to land, the domestic and economic burden on women can increase. Women can lose access to their plots, for instance, or be forced to walk longer distances to farm or collect water and firewood. In Nigeria, researchers noted the greater risk of domestic violence when men lose access to their lands. LSLAs can also affect the generations differently, as in Mali, where youth have been forced to migrate to find decent employment. In some areas where immigrant groups have been granted use of common lands, they face erosion of their rights when their host communities are subject to LSLAs.

The response

Several research projects are working to enhance transparency and accountability of LSLAs and strengthen advocacy efforts so that disadvantaged groups are able to demand justice. In Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda, the United Nations Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests were the starting point for these efforts. 

This is one of five cross-cutting issues that have emerged from early research findings on large-scale land acquisitions in Africa. Read more about how researchers are working with communities to increase their ability to protect their rights.