Towards a broader view of the politics of global land grab


ICAS Working Paper Series No. 001

Towards a Broader View of the Politics of Global Land Grab:

Rethinking Land Issues, Reframing Resistance

Saturnino M. Borras Jr. and Jennifer Franco

May 2010

Published jointly by Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies, Land Deal Politics Initiative and Transnational Institute.

The phrase ‘global land grab’ has become a catch-all framework to describe and analyze the current explosion of (trans)national commercial land transactions related to the production and sale of food and biofuels. Initially deployed and popularised by activist groups opposed to such transactions from an environmental and agrarian justice perspectives, the significance of the phrase has quickly moved beyond its original moorings, as it gets absorbed into mainstream development currents that push for ‘win-win’ arrangements and a ‘code of conduct’, which is critically examined in this paper. The remainder of our discussion concerns the political dynamics of changes in and struggles over land use and land property relations in the context of contemporary (trans)national land deals that target, principally though not solely, ‘non-private’ lands. We argue that the political dynamics around land are further exposing the inappropriateness of the aggressively promoted mainstream ‘toolkit’ of ‘land governance’. And while we agree with much of the radical critique of the global land rush that it is likely to lead to massive enclosure and dispossession, we also raise the need for nuanced analysis (e.g. more class analysis) and careful empirical inquiry (e.g. less speculation). We then consider the possibilities of an alternative perspective, which for lack of a better term, we call here ‘land sovereignty’, as a potentially more inclusive and relevant conceptual, political and methodological framework.

Download the paper in PDF
Original source: TNI


  1. Nick
    20 Aug 2010

    This links to a slightly old version of the paper. The best place to link is to the main overview page From there you can download the latest version of the paper. Thanks, Nick Buxton, TNI (@transinstitute or

  2. . Talib Murad Ali(Dr), Retired FAO Regional Officer, Erbil-Kurdistan
    19 Jun 2010

    I always regard these issues as being of extreme importance from the regional viewpoint of the Middle East and North Africa as this was my territory when I was an FAO Representative and a Regional Officer. In this report, according to FAO, worldwide we have to increase our agricultural production 100% by the year 2050.This horrified me as that means we must increase our food imports by 100%! Only one or two countries in this region will be able to increase their agricultural production while the efforts of the remainder will be restricted by the limited availability of water and agricultural land and hence their food imports will increase. These ‘land grab’ investments will surely fall through in the near future as the host countries will recognise their own need for the land taken out of their usage. Most of the petroleum producing countries in our region will not be able to buy sufficient food to meet their needs without paying a costly price and their petrodollar advantage will be markedly reduced when food is in short supply. The term ‘food security’ is used in this part of the world by politicians in times of drought or when other factors cause food prices to rise. However food security is only paid lip service and the actions of WFP is considered to be the fail-safe. There are some countries in the region that take food supplies from WFP with one hand and with the other export their own food produce to their neighbours. The other jargon word in use is ‘land grab’ but this is very difficult for politicians to recognise as in their view what is taking place is simply investments. I would like to see this valuable publication from Yale University translated into other languages including Arabic. Our efforts with the decision makers in this neck of the woods may then become easier, provided that they read the publication.

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