AFGROLAND : Dynamics of the food supply system of Africa
The Afgroland Project has identified four distinct impact patterns of land acquisitions. Loss of access for local people to land due to such land aquistions can create conflicts and cause negative impacts. Strong land tenure can reduce this risk.
Project description (completed research project)
Production and consumption of soil ecosystem services are increasingly decoupled across scale and distance. Switzerland is a prominent case where much of the ecosystem services that it consumes comes from beyond its national territories. The overall goal of this project was to contribute to a more in-depth understanding of impacts of such decoupled production.
The project investigated the costs and benefits of land related investments in three African countries. Thereby the project looked specifically at the impact of such investment on the sustainable management of soils and other natural resources with a view to assess the wider consequences on food security, income and sustainable development.
Our results show that the socio-economic, food security and environmental impacts fall into four recurrent patterns referred to as impact profiles termed ‘conflicted neighbourhoods’, ‘moderate neighbourhoods’, ‘land loss to main employer’, and ‘widespread hostility’. We find that each impact profile can be consistently associated with a distinct set of conditions of land-use changes, business models, size of land areas aquired, land tenure and governance systems. With regard to labour effects, we find that most investments do not offer a sufficient amount of jobs to compensate for the land that is lost by local farmers. With regards to food security, results show positive as well as negative impacts.
Implication for research
The research approach – designed as a comparative cross-country methodology – sheds light on how differences in national context reshape the influence of international drivers of change on concrete impacts of agricultural investment. Using a set-theoritical methodology, we demonstrate how a medium number of case studies can be analysed to investigate recurrent patterns of impacts. Such an approach is useful to overcome the dilemma between the limitations of either assessing cause-effect relations of selected variable in large sample sizes or of conducting few in-depth holistic case studies that are seemingly incomparable.
Implication for practice
Striking a new balance between highly context-specific insights and broader generalisation of knowledge is critical to policy and practice, as evidence-informed decision-making is increasingly important beyond the local level. The highly nuanced insights from our study will support policy makers, business, and civil society to revisit their assessment of impacts of large agricultural investments. We highlight mainly the critical importance of promoting investments with high labour creation potential, and with minimal loss of land to local land users, as well as the importance of strong land tenure systems to protect the rights of local land users.
African Food, Agriculture, Land and Natural Resource Dynamics, in the Context of Global Agro-Food-Energy System Changes