BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
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International Land Acquisitions in the Global South: Patterns, Drivers, and Impacts

Giger, Johannes Marcus (2022). International Land Acquisitions in the Global South: Patterns, Drivers, and Impacts. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

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The main goal of this dissertation is to analyse the process and impacts of international land acquisitions taking place in the global South since 2012. Through data collection at different levels and with different methods, the present dissertation bridges the gap between case studies of individual projects and analysis of global data. The research results contribute to land system science by providing a better understanding of important contemporary telecoupling processes that link socio-ecological systems in the global North and the South. The core research first consisted in participation in a coordinated effort by a research consortium to develop a dataset on large scale land acquisitions (LSLAs), or “land deals”. Building on this data set, the analysis then aimed to assess the extent and dynamics of these acquisitions at the global level, as well as the actors and countries of origin behind them. To provide more insights into LSLA processes, the present research analysed business models of commercial farms in Kenya and the drivers that influence these business models. Finally, based on interdisciplinary work in Kenya, Mozambique, and Madagascar, the diverse different socio-economic, food security, and environmental impacts, and the reasons why these may differ between different countries were analysed. The results show that from 2008 to 2020 approximately 30 million hectares of agricultural land was acquired by investors legally registered in the West, the Gulf states, and a range of emerging economic powers, in particular China. The data highlight the persistent opaqueness of the origin of the true “beneficial owner” in many cases, as investor networks often use tax havens and offshore destinations to conceal the ultimate beneficiaries of the investments. In addition, the research points to a glaring lack of transparency regarding some of the most important information on LSLAs themselves, including contract terms, tax arrangements, social and environmental assessments, monitoring, exact locations, and implementation progress. The cluster analysis of business models further highlights the importance of the production and technical models in differentiating outcomes rather than the types of actors or financial structures involved per se. The main drivers influencing these business models include market demands as well as government policies that ensure relatively secure land rights and simultaneously limit the land that can be acquired. The importance of a cluster effect related to enabling access to human resources and access to inputs was equally evident when comparing the case of Kenya to Mozambique and Madagascar. The results on impacts point to limited overall benefits of LSLAs in terms of employment and income for local populations, yet considerable risks for local livelihoods and the environment, including threats to biodiversity, forest, and water resources. At the global level, we found that 87% of domestic and international agricultural land acquisitions are occurring in regions of medium-to-high terrestrial biodiversity. Additionally, 54% of deals recorded in the Land Matrix database were geared towards production of water-intensive crops, including cotton, oil palm, rubber, and sugarcane. Importantly, 34% of these deals take place in dryland zones, where the intensive production increases pressure on scarce water resources. Comparative analysis in Kenya, Mozambique, and Madagascar showed that the local context, government policies, and production models give rise to four distinctive impact patterns, ranging from widespread adverse impacts to moderate impacts.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 13 December 2022
Subjects: 900 History > 910 Geography & travel
Institute / Center: 08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2023 14:24
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2024 04:39

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