Beyond land grabbing narratives, acknowledging patterns and regimes of land control in Senegal

Authors: Jeremy Bourgoin, Djibril Diop, Camille Jahel, Roberto Interdonato, and Quentin Grislain
Published: 2023
Source: Land Use Policy

This paper, co-authored by members of the Land Matrix, looks at how, despite a growing awareness, the patterns and regimes of dispossession are still subject to blind spots, due in part to a recurring focus on foreign land grabbers, a lack of transparent data on land investments, and several methodological limitations. The authors therefore propose another way of looking at land control in agriculture by encompassing all types of investors at a national scale and focusing on the full ensemble of control processes. While they highlight the inequality in land distribution and control, they also stress the environmental impacts of large agricultural investments that encroach on common lands and the social consequences of restricting access and use of resources, which further exacerbates the exclusion of local communities.


Land is central to addressing global development challenges, and land governance is at the heart of paradigms of democracy, justice, sustainability, and resilience. Despite the thoroughly recognized importance of land as a basis for all human-nature relations, the land sector is challenged by mechanisms of commodification and land control. The widely recognized global land rush of the late 2000 s increased the pressure on land, spotlighting in particular the rising demand for arable lands. But despite a growing awareness, the patterns and regimes of dispossession are still subject to blind spots, due in part to a recurring focus on foreign land grabbers, a lack of transparent data on land investments, and several methodological limitations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world's most targeted areas in terms of land investments, Senegal offers an interesting case study because published data on land control has been limited to foreign land investments. In this study, conducted in partnership with the technical committee of the Senegalese Land Governance Observatory, we propose another way to look at land control in agriculture by encompassing all types of investors at a national scale and focusing on the full ensemble of control processes. In our results, we describe the dynamics of land investments through time and space and identify three different types (or clusters) of investment patterns with specificities in terms of investing stakeholders, crops, and markets. While we highlight the inequality in land distribution and control, we also stress the environmental impacts of large agricultural investments that encroach on common lands and the social consequences of restricting access and use of resources, which further exacerbates the exclusion of local communities.

Access the full paper here.

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