Large-Scale Land Acquisitions by Foreign Investors in West Africa: Learning Points

Onoja, Anthony O.; Achike, Anthonia I.

Recent reports indicating that large portions of land (estimated 50-80m hectares) have been bought by international investors in middle- and low-income countries, with roughly two-thirds of those purchases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, calls for a cursory appraisal of the implications of the trend of land grabbing for West African food security. This study reviews cases of land grabbing by foreign investors in West Africa, identifies the possible drivers of large-scale land acquisition by foreign investors in the region, and discusses the implications of the findings for agricultural and land policy reforms in West Africa. Land transactions involving foreign investors have increased in the area over the past 10 years. Over 100,000 ha have been documented in Nigeria. Ghana and Mali have many significant transactions on land by foreign investors. Several investors have more than 100,000ha. Burkina Faso has one significant land transaction (200,000 ha) while Niger and Senegal have relatively small land transactions. Most lands grabbed in West Africa were profit driven (by biofuel investors) and were made under the guise of using the lands acquired for agricultural investments. There were noted dangers in the deals with respect to food security drive, food safety, environmental safety, employment generation, and land tenure threats, which endangered peace, sovereignty, and the economic wellbeing of citizens. We recommend applying a regional approach by African countries, implementing land reforms that will involve the local communities who own the land, stopping long-term leasing beyond 50 years, building capacity, and creating awareness about land transactions of large magnitudes.


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Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development

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Academic Units
Earth Institute
Published Here
December 10, 2015