Building accountability in large land acquisitions in Africa

April 20, 2016

Large-scale land deals can bring benefits such as jobs, infrastructure, and access to food and markets. But when badly managed, they can dispossess people in rural communities and spark conflict. Women and other vulnerable groups face the greatest risks. IDRC is funding research in Africa to find ways to make land acquisition processes more accountable and equitable.

At a meeting in Dakar, Senegal, in November 2015, five IDRC-supported teams are presenting preliminary findings from research carried out in 10 African countries. The teams represent close to 20 organizations — including universities, civil society organizations, and think tanks. Researchers are working with communities to increase their ability to negotiate equitable terms in large land deals and protect their rights.

Five policy-relevant themes are emerging from the preliminary findings:

  • Uneven community impact: Large-scale land acquisitions impact community members differently. For example, researchers found that women, youth, and the poorest community members often received less compensation for land than men and better-off neighbours.
  • Awareness and participation: Communities often lack awareness of decisions being made about land and natural resources and don’t participate enough in them. For example, researchers documented cases where the decision-maker on a land investment was not clearly identified.
  • Fair compensation: Communities’ land and land use needs to be fairly valuated for them to receive equitable compensation and a fair share of benefits and risks in land deals. Stronger procedural protections are needed for communities to leverage compensation and benefit-sharing.
  • Clear and secure tenure rights: More needs to be done to secure land tenure and natural-resource rights and create reliable mechanisms that lead to fair settlements. Communities and communal lands often face greater risks of conflict and insecurity where formal laws and rules do not protect customary tenure rights and uses.
  • Women’s participation: Researchers, rights advocates, and policymakers need to address the impact of large-scale land deals on rural women who face a double burden of exclusion, hindering their participation in decision-making.

IDRC-supported researchers will continue to translate their findings into action to prevent disputes, protect community members’ rights, and make large land acquisitions more accountable and equitable.

For more information read the synthesis report and the workshop report.

Read more about the five research projects on community rights in large land deals in Africa: