7 June 2016

New DIIS publication: Land investments are too often considered to be land grabbing

This news is redirected by The Secretariat for Development Cooperation at SCIENCE from Danish Institute of International Studies.


Authors: Rasmus Hundsbæk-Pedersen, postdoc, DIIS & Lars Buur, Associate Professor, Roskilde University.

Improving land governance requires better analysis

From 2007-8 until today, an unprecedented number of articles, special journal issues, books and reports highlighting the theme of ‘land grabbing’ have swept the fields of land, agriculture and natural resource studies. However, scholars now acknowledge that a more careful examination of land acquisition practices is required. Much of the ‘land grabbing’ by foreign investors that was reported back then turned out to be perfectly voluntary or simply never materialized. Over-reporting of land deals was the order of the day. In Tanzania, for instance, more than a million hectares were reported as having been acquired by foreign investors, but subsequent checking only uncovered deals for around 200,000 hectares. Nonetheless a number of policy initiatives, not least on the international level, have been aimed at preventing land grabbing through guidelines and governance frameworks. However, if the analyses were flawed, these policy recommendations may turn out to have been misguided.


  • Replace generalized ‘land grabbing’ analyses with country- and context-specific analyses of land acquisition practices.
  • Target interventions at the context-specific laws and authorities that govern rights to land. These may change over time as laws and power relations change.
  • Better land governance requires the involvement of actors at various levels, from the local via the national to the global. The relative strength of actors differs from one context to another.

Read the full article.