What is the Land Matrix?

The Land Matrix is a global and independent land monitoring initiative. Our goal is to facilitate an open development community of citizens, researchers, policy-makers and technology specialists to promote transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment. 

The data should not be taken as a reliable representation of reality. Reality is fast-changing as deals are changed, annulled or new ones spring up. Many deals are not yet included in the database. As an open tool, the Observatory allows wide participation in constantly upgrading, correcting and improving the information it contains. Over time, with your help, it will become more accurate. 

In addition to the Global Observatory, the Land Matrix Initiative supports, and is linked to, other more specific Observatories on land deals that are country, regional and thematic-based. The Land Matrix aims to contribute in an innovative and relevant way to the growing movement towards open development - allowing for greater public involvement in critical decisions that affect the lives of land-users around the world.

Why do the numbers constantly change?

The beta version of the Global Observatory website was launched in April 2012. It was re-launched in June 2013, with an upgraded website and a completely revised dataset. The Land Matrix partnership now has put in place a process that ensures continuous updates.

The figures visible in the Global Observatory are derived from a live database that is constantly evolving. Although the data will never be error-free, a number of erroneous entries and deals that have been found not to fit the data parameters (see What is a land deal?) have been removed since the Land Matrix beta version. However, the main differences are due to the altered ways in which the data is now categorised. Concessions that could provoke conversions in land use and tenure security over large areas, but are unlikely to ever do so over the entire surface of the concession, such as logging and mineral concessions, are now excluded. In addition, the default filter settings exclude deals by domestic investors. Furthermore, the Global Observatory default settings only include deals that have been concluded, filtering out those still under negotiation or failed. 

Despite likely errors in the current dataset, as limited research has been undertaken in many countries, the aggregate figures are likely to be a significant underestimation of the scale of land deals. With the contributions of users, the dataset is expected to become more accurate over time. Contact us to provide comments on existing deals, information on new deals, or references to additional data.

How reliable is the data?

The dataset is inherently unreliable, but over time it is expected to become more accurate. Land deals are notoriously un-transparent. In many countries, established procedures for decision-making on land deals do not exist, and negotiations and decisions do not take place in the public realm. Furthermore, a range of government agencies and levels of government are usually responsible for approving different kinds of land deals. Even official data sources in the same country can therefore vary, and none may actually reflect reality on the ground. Decisions are often changed, and this may or may not be communicated publically

Therefore, the data of the Global Observatory relies extensively on unofficial sources (see: Where does the information come from?). Data errors may arise if the information provided by the source is inaccurate. As the information source is provided, the user may decide the extent to which they determine the source to be trustworthy. Errors may also arise from mistakes in entering the data. The new database management system accompanying the June2013 upgrade contains safeguards to detect likely mistakes, but these are impossible to eliminate. Furthermore, errors may arise from the information becoming out of date; we rely on our networks in different countries and users of the website to provide updates. 

If you notice inaccuracies, dead links or have more information on existing or new deals, please contact us.

What is a land deal?

In the Global Observatory, a deal is referred to as an intended, concluded or failed attempt to acquire land through purchase, lease or concession that meets the criteria defined below. 

The Global Observatory includes deals that are made for agricultural production, timber extraction, carbon trading, industry, renewable energy production, conservation, and tourism in low- and middle-income countries. 

Deals must: 

  • Entail a transfer of rights to use, control or ownership of land through sale, lease or concession; 
  • Have been initiated since the year 2000; 
  • Cover an area of 200 hectares or more; 
  • Imply the potential conversion of land from smallholder production, local community use or important ecosystem service provision to commercial use.

Who are investors, investor countries and target countries?

Investor: refers to the individual, company, including investment funds, or state agency that acquires land. - The primary investor is the entity directly engaged in the land deal, while the secondary investor is the entity that partly or wholly funds or owns the primary investor.

Target country: the country in which land is acquired.

Investor country: the country from which the investor originates, which is the same as the target country if it is a domestic investor. Investors may be private actors, governments or government-backed private actors.

How are stages of negotiation and implementation dealt with?

The Global Observatory has two key variables to describe the status of a land deal: the negotiation status and the implementation status. Although logically these two variables are linked (in principle, a contract needs to be signed before a project can enter the start-up phase), the two variables are independent in our database, and various combinations are possible for different projects.

The negotiation status includes the following states:


  • Expression of interest
  • Under negotiation


  • Oral agreement
  • Contract signed


  • Negotiations failed
  • Contract cancelled

Note that the default settings for the Global Observatory data include only the subset of data referring to concluded and transnational deals, unless the user changes the filters.

The Global Observatory also includes two types of deals that are unrealised. These are “Intended deals” (“Expression of interest”, “Under negotiation”), and “Failed deals”, which either failed during the negotiation phase (“Negotiations failed”: Failure category for all intended deals) or failed after conclusion (“Contract cancelled”: Failure category for all concluded deals). The default settings for the Global Observatory data exclude these subsets of data.

The implementation status includes the following states:

  • Project not started
  • Start-up phase (no production)
  • In operation (production)
  • Project abandoned

How is the area of a deal measured?

The Global Observatory provides three different variables to measure the area of a deal:

  1. Intended size [ha]:The area that was formerly or is currently intended to be acquired by the investor. In many cases, this is the area size announced before or during the negotiation phase of an investment. However, it may also reflect the intention of future expansion.
  2. Current size under contract (leased or purchased area) [ha]:The current area that has been leased or purchased by the investor.
  3. Current size in operation (production) [ha]:
    The current area that is already operational.

The current negotiation status of a deal determines which size variable is used for the aggregated figures and visualisations:

Negotiation statusCategorySize variable used for aggregated figures
Expression of interestIntended dealsIntended size
Under negotiation
Oral agreement Concluded dealsCurrent size under contract
Contract signed
Negotiations failedFailed dealsIntended but failedIntended size
Contract cancelledConcluded but failedCurrent size under contract

How is contract farming treated?

Contract farming refers to pre-agreed supply contracts between farmers and buyers for the supply of agricultural produce. Contract farming arrangements vary widely depending on countries, crops and companies, but generally can be located either inside or outside of the land acquired by an investor. Pure contract farming does not involve acquisition of land by external investors.. The Global Observatory also records cases of pure contract farming. However, as the land used by contract farmers outside the area of a land acquisition does not change its tenure status, we do not include this land in our aggregate figures of land acquisitions. 

Currently, deals related to pure contract farming do not satisfy the minimum size requirements of the website (200Ha), and consequently are not visible. In the future, new settings will be added to the website to allow these to be visible separately.

Where does the information come from?

Records are derived from a variety of sources, including:

  • Research papers and policy reports by international and local organisations and NGOs 
  • Personal information contributed through the Global Observatory website
  • Field-based research projects
  • Official government records 
  • Company websites
  • Media reports

Each deal includes information and links (whenever available) to the data source. Deals can also be filtered by data source type.

Sources are partly accessed through two active internet portals dealing with land transactions: www.commercialpressuresonland.org and www.farmlandgrab.org. Most of the deals show a combination of different types of sources. In line with the Global Observatory’s geographical focus (see: Which countries or regions are covered?), the data collection is directed by regional coordinators based in Africa, Europe and Latin America. 

The Global Observatory tries to foster links with public, private and civil society stakeholders in order to increase the quality of the information. By using the crowdsourcing function of this website, any user is able to submit details on a deal. As this information is verified to the extent possible by the partnership before it is included in the database, changes may not be reflected immediately. Comments made on existing deals remain on the website, unless the deal is removed from the database.

Are there biases in the data?

Limited data availability in the context of general lack of transparency with regard to land deals introduces a number of biases to the dataset. These include: 

  1. Open data policies in certain countries may give the impression that they have a higher proportion of land deals. 
  2. Media and research interest is often higher in certain regions (e.g. Africa), on certain investors (e.g. emerging investor countries) and in certain sectors (e.g. agriculture and specifically biofuels). Foreign investors generally attract more attention than domestic investors, which leads to an underrepresentation of purely domestic deals. 
  3. Networks of Land Matrix partners are important information providers and checkers, leading to a likely underrepresentation of deals in regions such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia where our networks do not have a strong presence. 
  4. Failed deals and domestic deals are particularly hard to get reliable information for, so these are likely to be underrepresented in the dataset. Consequently, trends evident in the database should be taken as indicative, since they are likely to change as the data becomes more accurate. 

What is the methodology for data collection?

Due to the speed at which the status of existing and potential land deals changes and the scarcity of readily available information, primary information sources are given preference over publicly available reports. Several strategies are being used to enable this:

  1. First, the provision of tools to enable crowdsourcing from the public is enhanced, together with a data management system that is being developed and implemented. 
  2. Second, partner networks of key resource individuals and organisations in host countries are being established. Data is collected increasingly through a decentralised team of research assistants, experts and NGOs. Using the data sources described above, regional coordinators are developing a network of information sources to collect and check information. 
  3. Through the links to national observatories, more data will be collected in those countries and the quality of the data will be improved. 
As the Global Observatory database is becoming more mature, more and better data checking from different data sources (company information, official data, civil society reports, research data) will become possible. A reflection is on-going to promote engagement by governments and investors listed in the database, to request their feedback and allow their responses to be posted online.

What are the default settings?

The user has access to all deals in the database. The website, however, has the following default settings, which can be easily changed to include more (or less) deals. The default setting displays deals with the following characteristics:

  • Only concluded deals, i.e. intended and failed deals are excluded 
  • Only foreign investors, i.e. domestic investors are excluded 
  • From all sources

The size of a deal is computed using the best available information. For example, if a deal has only information on “current size under operation” and no information on “intended size”, we will assume that the “current size under operation” corresponds to “intended size”.

Which countries or regions are covered?

The Land Matrix contains deals that target low- and middle-income countries according to the World Bank country group classification as of 2010 (see: http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-classifications). Please note that the quantity and quality of information may vary across countries for numerous reasons, including media coverage, feasibility of conducting field research or density of the partnership networks.

Who are the partners?

The most important partners in updating the data in the Global Observatory are yourselves as users. We rely on information provided by researchers, activists, practitioners, government agencies, journalists and companies to improve the data. The Global Observatory is coordinated by the following organisations:


International Land Coalition

ILC (International Land Coalition) is global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.

ILC coordinates the Land Matrix interface, assists the team of data editors, and is coordinating national observatory pilot projects in Madagascar, Tanzania, Peru, Laos and Cambodia together with CDE.  It is also responsible for communications and media relations.


Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement    

CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement) is a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues.

CIRAD is part of the Research Committee, is supporting data collection for Africa, coordinates the development of an Africa Observatory/Portal and contributes to the establishment of national land observatories in Africa (South Africa, Cameroon).


Centre for Development and Environment 

CDE (Centre for Development and Environment) is the University of Bern’s centre for sustainable development research. It was founded with the aim of fostering sustainable development-oriented research across various institutes and departments of the University of Bern.

CDE is part of the Research Committee. It is also coordinating the pilot of national observatories in Madagascar, Tanzania, Peru, Laos and Cambodia with ILC, and complements data collection in these countries.


GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien    

GIGA is a Hamburg-based research institute focused on political, economic and social developments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East. 

GIGA is responsible for the data management and the maintenance of the Land Matrix global database. It is part of the research committee, supports the global data collection and provides training for the Regional Focal Points as well as advice to Land Matrix users. GIGA complements the data editor and Land Matrix interface teams.


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) is a federal enterprise owned by the German Federal Government, operating in international cooperation services for sustainable development across more than 130 countries.

GIZ is member of the Steering Committee, and supports the Land Matrix through various financial contributions. GIZ further supports data collection and verification.

Regional Focal Points

Since July 2014, five regional focal points are supporting the LMI on regional level data collection, research, advocacy, networking and communication. Decentralization is essential in order to promote transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investments and improve data quality. 

AFA Logo

AFA (Asian Farmers’ organisation for Sustainable Rural Development): an alliance of national farmers’ organizations, currently with 17 member organizations in 13 countries in Southeast, East, South and Central Asia, with a combined membership of around 12 million small scale women and men farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples.
AFA coordinates data collection, research, networking and communications for Asia.

Jasil Logo

Jasil: a Mongolian nongovernmental organization whose mission is to promote sustainable management of natural resources and land through equitable and participatory processes. JASIL is responsible for data collection of Central Asia (Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at an initial stage) and coordination with local and regional governmental and nongovernmental organizations. 

Fundpaz Logo 

FUNDAPAZ (Fundación para el Desarrollo en Justicia y Paz) : a civil society organization with the mission of fostering human development in rural communities in Northern Argentina. FUNDAPAZ acts as Institutional Coordinator and is mainly in charge of networking and dissemination activities. INENCO (Research Institute on Renewable Energy) coordinates data-collection, report writing, and communication with other regional partners and global initiatives. The LM Latin America Focal Point works in close liaison with the "Red Territorios Visibles" www.redterritoriosvisibles.org, and NITLAPAN to coordinate data-collection in Central America.

University of Pretoria Logo

University of Pretoria: a major academic institution in Africa, particularly engaged in the development of consistent data with regards agriculture and land governance. The Post-Graduate School of agriculture and Rural Development, The Department of agricultural Economics and the Center for the Study of Governance Innovation partake in this LM endeavour.

University of Pretoria coordinates data collection, research, networking and communications for Africa.

ecodia inverse.png

Ecoaction (Centre of Environmental Initiatives) is a civil society organization which consolidates experts and activists for common action to protect the environment. The organization works to change state practices and policies in the energy, transport and agriculture sectors to consider environmental and social impacts. Ecoaction is active in various regional networks and is well integrated to the NGOs communities from Europe to Central Asia.
Ecoaction coordinates data collection, research, networking and communications for Eastern Europe.



The Land Matrix Initiative is financed partly by the internal resources of the partner organisations. It is also financially supported by Oxfam, SDC, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, BMZ and European Commission. Supporters are not responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained on this website.



The concept for the interactive dataset has been developed in partnership with Tactical Studios at Tactical Technology Collective, an international NGO working to enable the effective use of information for progressive social change. 

Design and development by Sinnwerkstatt, a sustainable full-service media agency.

What does Data Availability mean?

Mapping relevant information about land deals and their impact is key to understanding the phenomenon. In order to gather as much data as possible, we have categorized information about land deals into more than a hundred data points, ranging from intention of investment to reaction of local communities. We measure the percentage of data completion of a single land deal through the Data Availability index, represented in Get the Idea visualisations through pie-charts and as a data column in Get The Detail.

How can I report information?

By using the crowdsourcing function of this website, any user is able to submit details on a deal. As information is checked to the extent possible by the partnership before it is included in the database, changes may not be reflected immediately. Users may also add their comment to existing deals. Comments made on existing deals remain on the website, unless the deal is removed from the database. Beyond providing information on single deals, users can share a dataset of land deals for inclusion in the database. It will be cross-checked by the partnership before it is included.

How can I use the data in the Global Observatory?

Users can download infographics, the entire dataset, or filtered parts of it.
Data is made available for users under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Users are free:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

How should I cite the Land Matrix Global Observatory?

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The Land Matrix Global Observatory. International Land Coalition (ILC), Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Web. [Insert date of access]

Chicago style

The Land Matrix Global Observatory. "Page reference, i.e. get the idea." Last modified [Insert date of access]. [Insert specific link].
The Land Matrix Global Observatory. "Page Title." Accessed Date, [Insert date of access]. [Insert specific link].


Please note that while substantial efforts are made to ensure accuracy, the Land Matrix Partnership does not guarantee that all the information on this website is complete or accurate. We invite comments on the accuracy of data displayed. The information is inherently subject to change without notice and may become outdated.

Only records and fields that have been subjected to the error-checking process as described on this page are publicly available on this website. The error-checking process has confirmed that data in the Global Observatory are correct according to the sources given for each record. Whilst the Partnership endeavours to ensure that all errors have been corrected, some may still remain due to human error, source error or changing circumstances. We welcome and encourage the submission of any information that can help improve the accuracy of our records. If you notice inaccuracies, dead website reference links or have more information, please contact us using the links provided.

The representation of facts and interpretations expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinions of the Land Matrix partner organisations or its supporters.

Get in touch

Please read carefully the content above. You might already find your answer!


Are you a journalist and want to write a piece on the Land Matrix? Do you wish to set up an interview? Please write to media@landmatrix.org


Do you have questions, suggestions, feedback for the programmers? Do you wish to use our codebase for your projects? Are you having technical problems, or wish to report a bug? Please write to tech@landmatrix.org


Do you have any comment or question on the data or the methodology? Do you want to share a dataset of land deals? Please write to data@landmatrix.org

Remember that you can also add your comments under each deal, or report new deals.