Accountability in Africa’s land rush: what role for legal empowerment?

Commercial interest in land has been increasing in recent years. While the trend is global, Africa has been centre stage to this new wave of land acquisitions. Agricultural investments can contribute to economic development and poverty reduction. But evidence suggests that many investments have failed to live up to expectations.

In many cases, the deals have left villagers worse off than they would have been without the investment. Many deals are happening in developing countries where food security challenges are acute, and land tenure systems insecure. There is a growing body of evidence on the scale, geography, drivers, features and socio-economic outcomes of large-scale land acquisitions. There is also broad agreement that improving accountability is critical in ensuring that investment processes respond to local aspirations.

But few studies have specifically explored constraints and opportunities in the accountability of public authorities involved with large-scale land acquisitions. Do legal frameworks provide effective avenues for people to have their voices heard? What strategies are villagers using to respond to large-scale land acquisitions – and what difference do these strategies make?

This report, commissioned by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), is a step towards answering these questions. It takes stock of evidence about opportunities and challenges affecting the accountability of public authorities in large-scale land acquisitions, and about the role of legal empowerment as a citizen-driven pathway to greater accountability.

The report builds on, and contributes to, a decade’s worth of research that IDRC has supported on access to land rights globally, especially for women, and IIED’s research on the global land rush and analysis generated through its Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment initiative.

To download the report, click on the green button below.

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