Can large-scale land acquisition deals improve livelihoods and lift people out of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Empirical evidence from Tanzania

Keywords: Large-Scale Land Acquisition, Land Grabbing, Livelihoods, Sustainable Livelihood Approach, Tanzania, Sub-Saharan Africa, Kilombero Plantation Limited, Agricultural Investment

Abstract

The recent wave of large-scale land acquisitions or land deals, popularly called ‘land grabbing’ in subSaharan Africa, has provoked vigorous debate over the potential benefits and risks to local people, with results structured by complex policy and institu­tional context. Land deals present new develop­ment challenges and aggravate old vulnera­bilities, raising critical questions for investigation. Yet empirical evidence of impacts on local populations is limited, particularly regarding how land deals affect local people’s livelihood assets, strategies, and outcomes. Guided by the sustainable livelihood approach and a quasi-experimental design, I compare livelihoods before and after a land deal project and between an affected and a control community in southwestern Tanzania. I use household surveys, focused group discussions, and key informant interviews to collect data. The ANOVA analyses revealed that the project severely deterio­rated households’ natural, financial, and social capital and had far-reaching impacts on well-being in the affected community compared to the control village. The study recommends that African countries should consider (1) scrutinizing land deals and enforcing contracts, (2) conducting rigorous envi­ron­mental and social impact assess­ment, (3) strengthening customary land rights and reinforc­ing compensation policies, and (4) mean­ingfully involving locals in land deal negotiations. This contribution responds to the deficit in research on land deals’ impacts on livelihoods and well-being and lays the groundwork for future research.

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Author Biography

Ernest Nkansah-Dwamena, Arizona State University

Ph.D.; Center for Biology and Society (CBS) and the School of Life Sciences (SOLS) at Arizona State University (ASU). He is now Assistant Professor in the Open Academy at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Published
2021-06-08
How to Cite
Nkansah-Dwamena, E. (2021). Can large-scale land acquisition deals improve livelihoods and lift people out of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa? Empirical evidence from Tanzania. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(3), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.103.013