Impacts of large-scale land acquisitions on common-pool resources: Evidence from the Land Matrix

May 28th, 2019

Authors: Giger, Markus; Nolte Ward Anseeuw, Kerstin; Breu, Thomas Michael; Chamberlain, Wytske O.; Messerli, Peter; Oberlack, Christoph; Haller, Tobias

Published: 2019

Abstract: We are pleased to announce that members of our very own Land Matrix team have authored a chapter in the newly released book The Commons in a Glocal World: Global Connections and Local Responses. The chapter presents a global data set on large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) collected by the Land Matrix Initiative and discusses the relevance of this evidence for the study of common pool resources. The chapter posits that expansions of large-scale agriculture often affect areas formerly used as common pool-resources (CPRs), for instance by smallholders and pastoralists, and describes four mechanisms through which LSLAs affect CPRs and common property regimes. First, capital-intensive and rationalized agricultural production systems are generally fenced off, depriving CPR users of access and thus of important components of their livelihoods. Second, impacts can be related to indirect externalities, as the change in landownership often comes with changes in the mode and techniques of production – affecting off-site CPRs. Third, impacts can affect secondary land uses. Lastly, LSLAs can directly affect natural resources on- and off-site, for example, when investment contracts include water use rights that affect downstream areas and users. The chapter also presents data on former land use, land cover, and former land ownership of land acquired through land deals and discusses the possible overlap with CPRs. Based on a subset of Land Matrix data, the chapter demonstrates that acquired land was previously owned by communities or the state in 59% of cases, which indicates a high likeliness that LSLAs often affect CPRs. Four case studies documented in the Land Matrix database are used to illustrate these findings, and the chapter concludes by discussing ways of increasing the relevance of Land Matrix data for the study of the commons.

A pre-print of the chapter can be requested from the main author (Markus Giger, University of Bern).