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Where bills of sale have queered the pitch, natives may be guaranteed secure occupancy and use — for as long as they actively occupy and farm the land. It would not, in any event, be wise to make it difficult for natives to feed themselves. Conditionality of occupation and use leaves the attractive prospect that Europeans may claim ownership of several billon hectares of unsettled and unfarmed lands — in short, the communal property within their customary domains.
In the absence of acknowledged owners, the commons fall directly to colonial administrations as their private property. And if there is still any doubt, it is obvious to the white men that the lucrative forests, wetlands and grasslands of Africa cannot amount to property as they are in communal possession; in Europe, private property means individual property. Moreover property obtains legal protection only when an individual person or company has a deed to prove it. Africans do not. In oddly mixed ways, these various proofs of terra nullius are applied.
Legal dispossession of Africans is more or less total. Natives continue to occupy and use lands which they no longer legally own. Through the 20th century major colonial incursions are made into these lands. Although cities and towns multiply, they prove more notable for the conflicts they generate than the actual hectares they absorb. Settler schemes, commercial plantations run by parastatals and private enterprise, take a much greater toll, along with evictions caused by the issuance of concessions to foreign enterprises for oil, mining and timber exploitation.
Laws are also passed declaring certain resources generically the property of the state; minerals surface mined for centuries or not , waters, beachfronts, marshlands, mountains, forests and woodlands, fall like ninepins to the state, irrespective of local possession.
The s in Africa.
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Liberation from Europe begins mid-century. Curiously, colonial notions of tenure are sustained in most post-independence land laws. Or perhaps not so curiously, for keeping rural majorities as tenants at will is as useful to new African governments as it had been to colonial masters. Class formation and land commoditization have grown apace since the s.
The new African middle class share not only political power and business interests, but the same deep commitments to market-led development so strongly advocated by the new donors the former colonizers and international agencies. Positions expressed in the landmark studies of late colonialism in Anglophone and Francophone officialdom become embedded national policies in Africa, reinforced by the land policies of the World Bank These read little differently from those of Malthus and Lloyd, as recorded by Linebaugh: land privatization is prerequisite to productivity.
Stimulus for land grabbing and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
Indigenous tenure regimes in general and communal landholding in particular are to be done away with as obstructions to individual-centric economic growth, to allow the polarization needed to produce a landless class for urban industrialization and fewer and larger native land owners assisted to produce food and commodities at scale. All over Africa and Asia privatization schemes are launched, aiming to individualize, title and register houses and farms Alden Wily Where these work, such as in Kenya, commons are subdivided among wealthier farmers. Or they are handed over to governments as forest and wildlife reserves or state-run commercial agriculture developments.
Ultimately the reach of privatization schemes is limited, so that by only around 10 percent of the rural lands of Africa are subject to statutory entitlement, and most of this in the white settler areas of southern Africa. But this is not problematic for African administrations who continue to dispose of untitled, customarily-owned lands at will, often to themselves or other private interests. Despite privatization pressures the customary sector remains dominant. As the century nears end half a billion Africans are still regulating their land relations according to community-based norms, shaped by customs but adjusted regularly to meet changing realities.
Despite significant failures in the s and s governments hold tenaciously to mechanized large-scale farming as the route to growth. Smallholder agriculture remains starved of investment even though customary smallholders represent the overwhelming majority. Families eke out a living on less and less farmland per capita. Levels of concentration and farm landlessness within the African peasant sector look increasingly like those of South Asia in the s. But where the commons remain these routinely make the difference between pauperization and survival. Woodlands and forests are especially valuable, doubling the livelihood of the poor in many areas IUCN And of course, the rural poor are the majority, some 75 percent of the rural population.
Democratization in the s provokes tenure reforms, often following years of bitter social conflict. A handful of governments, most notably Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania, acknowledge that Africans cannot remain forever squatters of their own land Alden Wily They pass new land laws which for the first time endow customary rights with the legal force of real property, and irrespective of whether or not these interests are formally titled and registered, or owned by individuals, families or communities.
The last opens the way for communities to secure thousands of hectares of commonage as acknowledged collective property. However, as well as being flawed in diverse ways, these cases are the exceptions.
The grab of the world's land and water resources
Most governments continue to avoid real change to their land laws. World Bank structural adjustment programs aid and abet this, coercing governments to accelerate privatization and sell off untitled lands including the commons to foreign investors. Now consider this. Hundreds of rural communities in Africa — as well as parts of Asia and Latin America — are physically confronted with eviction or displacement or simply truncation of their livelihoods and lands they customarily presume to be their own.
These lands are willfully reallocated by their governments to mainly foreign investors to the tune of an estimated million hectares since mainly , and still rising.
Large-scale deals for hundreds of thousands of hectares dominate, although deals for smaller areas acquired by domestic investors run apace World Bank This is the global land rush, triggered by crises in oil and food markets of the last decade, and compounded by the financial crisis. A regional bias is beginning to show; China and Malaysia dominate land acquisition in Asia while South Africa shows signs of future dominance in Africa.
Two South African farmer enclaves already exist in Nigeria, and Congo Brazzaville has granted 88, hectares with promises of up to ten million hectares to follow.
Negotiations are ongoing in at least 20 other African states Hall What foreign governments and other investors primarily seek are lands to feed the lucrative biofuel market by producing sugar cane, jatropha and especially oil palm at scale. Additionally, investors seek to launch lucrative horticultural, floricultural and carbon credit schemes. This rush for land, the new landgrab, does not stand alone. As key projects to attract state-promoted FDIs, the two foreign companies were offered an opportunity to contract forestland owned by state-owned farms through Guangxi Forestry Group , a company set up by the Guangxi Forest Department.
APP was permitted to contract Accessed 1 July According to an employee of APP, these forestland plots are located in the east and north of Guangxi, far away from their pulp factory in Qinzhou and in a climate unsuitable for planting eucalyptus trees. Foreign companies prefer to use this channel because land that is owned by state-owned farms is usually large-scale and contiguous — and with less complicated social relations.
These features mean that the land acquisitions operating within this channel are more convenient and have fewer potential conflicts. However, this channel is not entirely conflict free.
Some state-owned farms expressed complaints: The year duration for land lease is too long. Now the benefits are seven or eight times more. The benefit could be over 10 thousand Yuan per mu.
It Stora Enso does not to want to lease the land with any conflicts. The land lease is the requirement from the government. It the investment of Stora Enso is the investment introduced by the provincial government … If we can choose not to lease the land to Stora Enso, we certainly are not willing to give the land to them.
Field notes, 10 March Similar to the previous channel, such land leases are not without state intervention. Field notes, 18 March This is also a favourable option for foreign investors to hold, because collective-owned forestland is relatively contiguous. In one village in Guangxi Field notes, 4 March , it led to the return of land from a foreign investor. Two other key triggers for conflicts via this channel are the illegally signed agreements and the low land rent, in addition to land ownership.
The illegal land contracts might be due to the manipulation of a few local elites, as observed by Ping and Nielsen, 63 Ping and Nielsen.
A Case Study , 18— View all notes or the carelessness of the villagers, as pointed out by an employee of a foreign company. So, when signing agreements, many of them did not care. A lot of people were not at home. Some asked other villagers to sign their names View all notes In some cases, these leases could lead to loss of collective land without compensation, and even without the villagers noticing, which provoked conflicts.
Ping and Nielsen, A Case Study. View all notes However, in a few cases, because of the illegality that took place during the signing of land contracts, the villagers were rightfully able to get higher land rent or get some land back, as was the case in one village I visited in Guangxi.
Land rent is always low, far below the current value of forestland that has increased due to the rise of the ITP sector.