Talk • Land Grabbing in Africa: Regulate, Restrict, Resist?

October 26, 2022 @ 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
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Topic: Land Grabbing in Africa: regulate, restrict, resist?

Speaker: Dr Silva Lieberherr is an agricultural scientist (ETH Zurich) with a PhD in Geography on farmers’ movements in Vidarbha (University of Zurich and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai). Since 2015, she has worked for a political organization focusing on land rights and their violation by (mainly Swiss) corporate actors. Silva has spent many months in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cameroon investigating and publishing cases of land rights violations. She collaborates intensively with the people on the ground and jointly organizes campaigns and political work.

Land grabbing or, in the language of the World Bank, large-scale land acquisition, is an old phenomenon. However, the current talk about land grabbing refers mainly to the surge in large-scale land acquisition that happened after the financial crisis and the food crisis in 2007 and 2008. As a result of these crises, farmland became more profitable for investors and a safe haven for capital. This added to large concessions that had been granted in colonial times and subsequently enforced during the structural adjustment programs, often with the help of both international institutions like the World Bank and the national militaries.

In this fashion, the land grab since the 2000s included large areas of land. Foreign governments who took over land to feed their populations attracted a lot of media attention, however, it was mainly investors and corporate actors who controlled the land thus incorporating it fully into the circles of global capital. The curve temporarily flattened but rose again due to Covid-19 and climate crisis.

Corporate actors and their lobbies portray it as rural development, an opportunity for jobs, and investment in public health and education. This, however, has been proven wrong many times. The populations suffer from severe consequences and companies do not shy away from crushing resistance, from manipulating and dividing resistance groups. A case from Liberia that combines contracts from colonial times with new manners of exploitation will exemplify this.

There have been several international frameworks of rules that aim to regulate large-scale land acquisitions, most prominently the UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure. While some see an opportunity to realize the promised potential of such land deals, others see such guidelines as just another instrument to make it easier to acquire land and to justify the increasing inequality and exploitation.


October 26, 2022
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Event Category:




LC 202
Lecture Hall Complex, L1 Building, Opp. KReSIT Bldg., Between Physics & MEMS Dept.
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076 India
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