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Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa

land grab or development opportunity

By Lorenzo Cotula et al.
Published by FAO, IIED and IFAD
Website: www.iied.org
2009, 120pp, ISBN 978 1 84369 741 1(Pb), free to download

As suggested in New Agriculturist's recent Points of View on 'Land grabbing', foreign acquisition of land in developing countries creates both risks and opportunities for investors and local people. This timely report, which draws on detailed analysis in five African countries, concludes that optimising the opportunities and minimising the risks for local people is a complex process: the devil is most certainly in the detail. Risks may be mitigated, for example, through careful choice of project location, through the right choice of business model - from plantation to contract farming - and through carefully devised revenue-sharing arrangements.

However, in examining contracts from deals conducted in Ethiopia, Mali, Ghana, Sudan and Madagascar, the researchers found that many key issues are only vaguely dealt with at best. Issues, such as how investors' commitments can be monitored and enforced, or how government revenues can be maximised and distributed, are typically given scant attention when deals are drawn up. Hence a series of recommendations is offered to potential investors, recipient governments, community-based organisations and international agencies, on how to maximise the development benefits of this growing trend. Clear and succinct, this is essential reading for those involved in international land deals in Africa and elsewhere.

Date published: September 2009

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