Pathways to Accountability in the Global Land Rush: Lessons from West Africa
In recent years, investors have shown renewed interest in acquiring farmland for agricultural investments in developing countries. Research suggests that media reports have over-estimated the scale of land acquisition, but underplayed how investors focus on more valuable lands, which already generate interest from a variety of competitors. While investment in agriculture can create jobs, improve access to markets, and develop infrastructure for agricultural development, large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) are also associated with negative impacts on local populations. These include depriving them of their land and access to other resources. Since many villagers depend on land and natural resources for their food security and livelihoods, land acquisitions can have major and lasting negative repercussions for local livelihoods. If they are not properly managed, LSLAs can also increase the risk of conflict, both between and among companies and communities. Governments and communities face the very real challenge of ensuring that decision-making on land and investment builds on local needs and aspirations. Improving accountability is critical to ensuring that lands and local communities are equitably managed and governed. Through action-oriented research, this project aims to fill a crucial knowledge gap on what practical steps can best promote and improve accountability in LSLAs. The research team will assess the strengths and weaknesses of legal frameworks in regulating LSLAs in Ghana, Cameroon, and Senegal. Their analysis will feed into a participatory process that will enable local communities to design, experiment, and engage in activities to improve accountability in agricultural investment processes. In each country's pilot sites, researchers will test legal and social accountability tools. These tools aim to support local efforts to secure land rights and address governance structures. The project team will design tools to address LSLA gender dimensions; in other words, how LSLAs influence men and women. Their findings will help communities gain a better understanding of existing legal processes, map gaps in legislation, and propose alternatives to existing legal frameworks and governance structures. This work will form part of larger efforts to engage policymakers on how to achieve inclusive, transparent, and accountable decision-making around land and investment and is part of a series of projects promoting accountability on LSLA in Africa.