Large-scale land acquisitions

Ongoing activities

The impact of decentralization of land administration on smallholder farming, resource use and access in Ghana

Duration

September 2018 – August 2021

Funding

Swiss Governance Excellence Award

Description

Ghana operates a dual land rights regime, but the link between administration of interests in land created through customary practice and formal titles to land is tenuous to nonexistent. This project seeks to question mainstream views on decentralization, public intervention supposed to be carried out at a level where it can most effectively address issues of local or regional relevance. The overarching hypothesis of this project is that decentralization is supposed to improve the efficiency of public intervention by empowering specific actors – influential chiefs at the expense of others poor peasant landholders, it has deep impact on the governance of natural resource, with reshuffling access rights to land. The goal is to analyze the connection between decentralization processes, local decision-making and implication on use and access rights to land. the specific aims are to connect a debate on state restructuring with resource use patterns, mediated through tenure arrangement, understand the complex links between modern state institutions and customary power; and connect these broad processes of state reorganization with sustainability and environmental justice. The new institutional and political ecology (NIPE) will be used to analyze the effects of changes on access and use of land and land related resources.

Involved persons
  • James Natia Adam, Institute of Geography, University of Bern
  • Jean-David Gerber, University of Bern
  • Tobias Haller, University of Bern (Institute of Social Anthropology)
  • Timothy Adams, University of Bern

Completed activities

Large-scale land acquisitions and gender in Africa: The impact of institutional change and land investments on gender relations and food security
Duration October 2014 - September 2017
Funding SNSF (Swiss National Science Foundation)
Description The discussion about "Landgrabbing" focuses on the question whether such investments by agricultural companies promote or rather hinder rural development. While the companies involved emphasize the advantages of the investments, critical voices emphasize the disadvantages of the investments. These disadvantages relate to the loss of access to land and resources and to the environmental damage that reduces food security. Land rights are of central importance in African contexts. These are in the hands of governments, with use and access being regulated decentrally by male elites. This contrasts with locally defined forms of access, in which land and resources were managed collectively and women also had access via kinship systems. The new major private-law investments in land change these accesses and influence the spheres of subsistence production and food security.

In four comparative case studies in Africa (Morocco, Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia), the project aims to examine the role of large-scale investments in changing gender relations and food security. Using social anthropological and geographical qualitative research methods, the impact of land investments on gender relations will be investigated.

The project aims to close the gap in research on changing land rights and investment conditions in Africa and the related gender relations. In particular, there is a lack of case studies that address local gender perspectives. The theoretical inclusion of the neo-institutional approach, which deals with the shaping of institutions in access to resources under asymmetrical power relations and ideology that creates legitimation, is also lacking. The research promises comparative qualitative results for later quantitative research.

Involved persons
  • Jean-David Gerber, University of Bern
  • Tobias Haller, University of Bern (Institute of Social Anthropology)
  • Sonja Merten, University of Basel (Swiss TPH)
  • Timothy Adams, University of Bern
  • Désirée Gmür, University of Bern (Institute of Social Anthropology)
  • Sarah Ryser, University of Bern (Institute of Social Anthropology)
The effects of large-scale land acquisitions on households in rural communities of the Global South
Duration October 2013 - September 2015
Funding SNIS (Swiss Network for International Studies)
Description This interdisciplinary project aims to analyze the  impacts of contract farming on the local food system and its constitutive components – i.e. food production, food processing, food distribution and food consuming – with a special focus on gender relations and related decision-making processes  concerning the food system and household food security.

With the recent wave of large-scale land acquisitions (so called 'land grabbing') in developing countries, the issue of contract farming has gaimed renewed interest on the international policy agenda. While by many it is seen as having the potential to create win-win scenarios for investors and farmers alike, there is still a lack of concrete evidence outlining the impacts of contract farming arrangements for local women and men.

This interdisciplinary project aims to analyze the impacts of contract farming on the local food system and its constitutive components (i.e. food production, food processing, food distribution and food consuming) with a special focus on gender relations and related decision-making processes concerning the food system and household food security. Taking into account gender issues, the research is grounded in strong evidence for womens's critical role in the livelihood of rural families. Many studies across different developing countries show that, while men often control access and use of land, women tend to be in charge of substistence-oriented food production, preparation and household food security. Within an institutional regime framework, we will assess the influence of contract farming on local actors' configurations, strategies and decision-making within the lcoal food system, as well as the capacity of women and men to impact on household food security.

For the purposes of this project we will compare cases of contract farming in Ghana and Peru. While both countries experience high levels of food insecurity in rural areas and both governments have a keen interest in attracting foreign agricultural investment, the general social, cultural and economic structure is very different in the two countries. This choice of very different institutional settings will help us to test the general validity of our hypothesis. In both countries, we will focus on two large-scale agricultural investments that at least partly work through local outgrowers. We will conduct expert interviews with investors and other key informants (i.e. local chiefs and politicians), semi-structured interviews with a large sample of contract farmers (both women and men) and carry out gender-segregated focus group disucssions in each case study.

The research findings will serve the ongoing policy debate within many international organizations and NGO's on how to best guarantee rural people's livelihoods and food security within the context of contract farming, adding a highly important gender perspective to their deliberations.

Involved persons
  • Jean-David Gerber, University of Bern
  • Stephan Rist, University of Bern (CDE)
  • Michèle Amacker, University of Bern (IZFG)
  • Peter Knoepfel, University of Lausanne (IDHEAP)
  • Kristina Lanz, University of Bern
  • Laura Tejada, University of Bern (CDE)