Global Land Project | August 2010
Land Grab in Africa: Emerging land system drivers in a teleconnected world
by Cecilie Friis & Anette Reenberg
(Report includes detailed table of investments according to country)
The land change science community has for decades focused on the accelerating pressure on the Earth’s limited land resources (e.g. Lambin & Geist 2006) caused by human-environmental interaction, and large research efforts have been put into identifying and differentiating the proximate and underlying driving forces of land use and land cover changes at local to global scales. Turner et al. (2007) summarize the current state of insight by noting that virtually all land has been affected in some way by human action and that much of this change is a direct consequence of land use: 40% of the Earth’s land surface is used for agriculture (including improved pasture and coadapted grassland).
Especially the lands of the Global South are increasingly perceived as a potential factor of production for the increasing global demand for alternative energy (primarily biofuels), food crops, mineral deposits and reservoirs of environmental services. Notably Africa has become an attractive destination for land investments (Mbow 2010) because of its relatively low population density. Millions of hectares are bought or leased by nations or private companies based outside Africa, as well as by more wealthy countries on the continent such as Libya and Egypt.
This report has examined the international investments in agricultural lands in Africa. A quantitative estimate for the magnitude of the land deals has been given, based on the available media information in the International Land Coalitions’ blog Commercial pressures on land. Despite some reservations concerning accuracy of the data, the results of the analysis indicate that the magnitude of the land deals is significant and that land deals currently are negotiated throughout Africa. The results presented here indicate that the amount of land concerned could be as large as 51 to 63 mio ha – an area equivalent to France.A cluster of deals are identified in the eastern part of the African continent in countries like Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda and Madagascar, while other large recipient countries are Sudan, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In ten of the identified recipient countries the deals represent more than 5% of the current agricultural area – in Uganda more than 14%, in Mozambique more than 21% and in DR Congo more than 48% of the agricultural land! Thus, the consequences of the land deals can be expected to be very large for the local population and environment, with impacts such as agricultural intensification, forest degradation, displacement of local populations, increasing local food insecurity and increasing poverty. All in all, the international land investments have emerged as a new significant driver of land system change in an increasing teleconnected world.