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