Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Users have access to all deals in the database that meet the minimum information criteria (see “What minimum information criteria must a deal meet?”), however, on the global and regional pages, the following default settings are automatically applied, which can easily be changed to include more or less deals:

  • Only concluded deals (i.e. intended and failed deals are excluded)
  • Only foreign investors (i.e. domestic investors are excluded)
  • Excludes pure contract farming
  • Excludes oil/gas extraction
  • Excludes mining
  • Excludes forest concessions

Mining, logging, and pure contract farming deals are not included in the default filters because they generally do not involve land ownership.

Please note: Different default settings are applied on national pages, specifically only concluded deals and the target country.

The Land Matrix defines a land deal as any intended, concluded, or failed attempt to acquire land through purchase, lease, or concession for agricultural production, timber extraction, carbon trading, industry, renewable energy production, conservation, and tourism in low- and middle-income countries.

Our Global Observatory includes deals that:

  • 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.

In some cases, regional and national criteria may differ from the global set if agreed to by the organisation(s) coordinating it. For example, our National Land Observatories (NLOs) include domestic as well as transnational deals, whereas the Global Observatory only includes transnational deals. In addition, deals covering 50 hectares or more are captured, rather than the Global Observatory minimum of 200 hectares.

Three different variables are used to measure the area of a deal:

  1. Intended size: 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. Size under contract (leased or purchased area): The size of the area that was leased, purchased or taken under concession by the investor.
  3. Size in operation (production): The size of the area that was taken into regular operation (under production) by the investor.

The current negotiation status of a deal determines which size variable (measured in hectares) is used for the aggregated figures and visualisations (specified as “deal size” in the database download).

Variables for measuring deals.PNG

To ensure quality and prevent duplications, a deal must contain the following minimum level of information in order to reflect on the Land Matrix database public interface:

  • Location: At least the country of the potential land acquisition
  • Investor name: At least the name of one investor
  • Data source: At least one data source has to be provided
  • Deal size: At least one size variable (see “How is the area of a deal measured?”)

If any one of these is not provided, the deal will still be stored in the database for further research, but will not be shown on the public interface.

The Land Matrix has Regional Focal Points (RFPs) in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, as well as National Land Observatories in Argentina, Cameroon, Philippines, Senegal, and Uganda.

The following specific countries are covered under each region:

Africa:

The Africa RFP tries to cover all countries in the region, with a focus on the countries where there are substantial land acquisitions and available information.

Asia:

Actively monitored through the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), which coordinates the Asia RFP:

  1. Bangladesh
  2. Cambodia
  3. China
  4. India
  5. Indonesia
  6. Lao PDR
  7. Malaysia
  8. Myanmar
  9. Nepal
  10. Philippines
  11. Papua New Guinea
  12. Sri Lanka
  13. Thailand
  14. Timor-Leste
  15. Vietnam

Countries previously monitored through JASIL (see Former partners) in Central and west Asia:

  1. Armenia
  2. Georgia
  3. Mongolia
  4. Pakistan
  5. Tajikistan
  6. Turkey
  7. Uzbekistan
  8. Iraq
  9. Yemen

Eastern Europe:

  1. Albania
  2. Belarus
  3. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  4. Bulgaria
  5. Kazakhstan (pending)
  6. Lithuania
  7. Macedonia
  8. Moldova
  9. Romania
  10. Russian Federation
  11. Serbia
  12. Ukraine

Latin America:

The Latin America RFP is part of a network of partners in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The RFP tries to cover all countries in the region, with a focus on the countries where there is information available. This is mostly linked to the land acquisition process, for example, in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru.

Please note: While we do record land acquisitions in a number of low- and middle-income countries, we do not cover all countries in which land acquisitions take place. In other words, if land acquisitions for a particular country are not recorded in our database, it does not mean that there are no land acquisitions taking place in that country – it means we have not captured them.

Investor: The individual, company (including investment funds), or state agency that acquires land. The operating company is the entity directly engaged in the land deal. There can only be one operating company per deal. A parent company is an entity (or individual entrepreneur) that partly or wholly funds or owns a specific operating company, and is thereby able to influence the operation. Several parent companies may collectively hold shares in the operating company. A tertiary investor/lender, such as a bank or investment fund, finances the deal, and has no involvement in decision-making processes with regard to the acquisition/operation of that land. The tertiary investor can be linked to the operating company or any parent company.

Investor country: The country from which the investor originates, which is the same as the target country if it is a domestic investor. This is the country in which the investor is registered. Where it is not possible to determine where the investor is registered, the country in which the company headquarters are based will be listed as the investor country.

Target country/region: The country/region in which land is acquired.

We use two key variables to describe the status of a land deal: negotiation and implementation. While these two variables are linked (in principle, a contract needs to be signed before a project can be implemented), we list them independently in our database, although various combinations are possible for different projects.

The negotiation status includes the following stages:

Intended

  • Expression of interest
  • Under negotiation
  • Memorandum of Understanding

Concluded

  • Oral agreement
  • Contract signed

Failed

  • Negotiations failed
  • Contract cancelled

Other

  • Contract expired
  • Change of ownership

Please note: Unless the default filters are changed (see “What are the database default search filters?”), we only include the subset of data referring to concluded and transnational deals on our global and regional pages.

The implementation status includes the following stages:

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

Please note: Abandoned projects where concession contracts have not been terminated and for which there is no information are still categorised as "concluded deals", although all operations on the ground have been abandoned and thus the business project can be considered as unsuccessful.

As the project progresses, different negotiation and implementation statuses may apply. The latest status is indicated by the checked “current” box within the deals.

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 (classified as “on” or “off” the lease within the deal). As the land used by contract farmers outside the area of a land acquisition does not change its tenure status, we do not include it in our aggregate figures of land acquisitions. However, we do provide separate figures within our data visualisations on the site. Because pure contract farming does not involve the acquisition of land by investors, nor are these cases currently recorded systematically, we have excluded it from the default filters (see “What are the default filters”).

Our core partners and Regional Focal Points have successfully established a broad network in the different regions to obtain information and to have it cross-checked by experts, individuals working in government, the private sector, civil society organisations, and interested members of the public on the ground. This decentralised data collection strategy has proved to be highly effective, with data being collected in a “snowball sourcing” manner, starting with one source. Most reported deals are based on two or more sources, but some have as many as seven sources. This approach allows for the triangulation of data, whereby using a variety of sources significantly improves data quality.

Due to the different needs and levels of available data per region and country, we use a combination of data sourcing strategies, including:

  • Leveraging partner networks of key resource individuals and organisations in host countries, through which data is increasingly being collected by a decentralised team of regional and national coordinators, research assistants, experts, and NGOs.
  • Fostering links with public, private, and civil society stakeholders in order to increase the quality of information.
  • Crowdsourcing by enabling users to submit details on a deal. Please note: We verify sources before we publish them in the database, and changes may not reflect immediately. Comments made on existing deals remain on the website unless the deal is removed from the database.
  • Reviewing research papers and policy reports by international and local organisations and NGOs, field-based research projects, official government records, company websites and publications such as annual reports, and media reports.
  • Data campaigns which target a specific country or region within a country and where intensive desktop and field-based research is undertaken by partner networks.

We give preference to primary information sources over publicly available reports, given the speed at which the status of existing and potential land deals changes and scarcity of readily available information.

As the Land Matrix database continues to mature, data verification increases and improves. Furthermore, we promote engagement by governments and investors listed in the database by requesting their feedback and allowing responses to be posted on the site.

Depending on the scope of the analysis, data is aggregated in different ways for the data visualisations on the site as well as for official Land Matrix publications (such as Country Profiles).

Handling multiple investors: For deals with multiple investors or where there is insufficient information on the individual investor shares, we count the full size of each foreign investor involved, which can then be interpreted as the total size of all projects in which an investor is involved. The same logic is applied to investor types where a deal has multiple investors.

Deal size logic: Caution should be exercised regarding the negotiation and implementation status and their respective size variables. The size of a deal is computed using the best information available. For example, if a deal has only information on “Size under operation” and no information on “Size under contract”, we will assume that the “Size under operation” corresponds at least to the “Size under contract”. The same holds for the “Intended size”, which might be replaced by the “Size under contract” or the “Size under operation” if missing.

Handling multiple intentions: For deals with multiple intentions or where there is insufficient information on the individual intention shares, we allocate an equal share of the deal size to each intention.

The way in which the extent of land acquisitions is quantified can deviate significantly due to differing definitions and parameters, such as how the term “large-scale land acquisition” is classified, or what time-frame, size, and logic is used for aggregation. See “What is a land deal” for the criteria we use to define a land deal.

Verification of basic data (such as deal size, location, investors involved, and terms of the lease agreement or contract) can be challenging, with different sources providing conflicting information. In fact, even the very existence of a deal is sometimes difficult to prove. The opaque nature of land acquisitions imposes certain limits on the data-gathering process. For instance, in several countries, there are no procedures for decision-making on land deals, 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 land deals. Therefore, even official data sources in the same country can vary, and none may actually reflect the reality on the ground. Once a deal has been concluded, the attention paid to it often diminishes, and so its actual development can remain uncertain. Furthermore, decisions are often changed and these changes may or may not be communicated publicly. For example, in many cases, intentions may be published, but nothing announced if these intentions are abandoned.

These limitations also introduce a number of biases to the dataset:

  • Open data policies in certain countries may give the impression that they have a higher proportion of land deals.
  • Media and research interest are often higher in certain regions (e.g. Africa), investors (e.g. emerging investor countries), and sectors (e.g. agriculture, specifically biofuels). Foreign investors generally attract more attention than domestic investors, which leads to an under-representation of purely domestic deals.
  • Networks of Land Matrix partners are important information providers and checkers, leading to a likely under-representation of deals in regions where our networks do not have a strong presence (see “Which regions and countries are covered”).
  • Failed deals and domestic deals are particularly hard to get reliable information on, so these are likely to be under-represented 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.

Although data around land deals is constantly evolving, and with it the information in the Land Matrix, we continually review the database to update existing deals, add new deals, and identify erroneous entries and deals that do not to fit the data parameters (see “What is a land deal?”), in line with our goal of ensuring data quality and accuracy. However, despite these efforts the data will never be entirely error-free. The aggregate figures, for example, are likely to be a significant underestimation of the scale of land deals, as only limited research has been undertaken in many countries.

Nevertheless, with your contributions, the dataset can become more accurate over time. Contact us to provide information on existing and new deals.

Our data management team keep links to websites where deals are reported, as well as screenshots of all websites containing applicable information, since these change over time. In addition, we store PDF documents and all relevant pages of data sources for further reference, unless they are available on reliable open access databases, such as Open Land Contracts.

Data is made freely available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may download infographics, the entire dataset, or filtered parts of it, and are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) or remix (adapt) the work on condition you 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). 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.

We encourage you to submit details on deals. You may also add comments to existing deals, which will remain on the website (unless the deal is removed from the database), and even share a whole dataset of deals for inclusion in the database.

Please note: All information is verified before we publish it, and therefore changes may not be reflected immediately.

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