Special Issue "Does Commons Grabbing lead to Resilience Grabbing? The Anti-Politics Machine of Neo-Liberal Agrarian Development and Local Responses"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Lerchenweg 36, 3000 Bern 9, Switzerland
Tel. 0041 31 631 89 99
Interests: environmental perceptions; large-scale land acquisitions; gender and resource management; Commons; climate change; bottom-up institution building processes (constitutionality)
MA. Mariah Ngutu
E-Mail
Assistant Guest Editor
Institute of Anthropology, Gender & African Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Interests: agro-industrial companies; food systems; institutions; commons (water); gender
MA. Fabian Käser
E-Mail Website
Assistant Guest Editor
Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland
Interests: agriculture; large scale land acquisitions; food systems; institutions; africa; political ecology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue contributes to the debate on land grabbing as commons grabbing with a special focus on how the development of state institutions (formal laws and regulations for agrarian development and compensations) and voluntary corporate social responsibility (CRS) initiatives have enabled the grabbing process. It also looks at how these institutions and CSR programs are used as development strategies of states and companies to legitimate their investments (Anseew et al 2012, Lavers 2012, Schoeneveld and Zoomers 2015). This Special Issue calls for contributions analyzing how these strategies are embedded into neo-liberal ideologies of economic development (Escobar 2010, Haller 2013). We propose looking at James Ferguson’s notion of the Anti-Politics Machines (1990, 2006) that served to uncover the hidden political basis of state-driven development strategies. We think it is of interest to test the approach for analyzing development discourses and CSR-policies in agrarian investments. We argue that these legitimize the institutional change from common to state and private property of land and land related common pool resources (Haller ed 2010), which is the basis of commons grabbing. This Special Issue welcomes contributions that show how investments, in fact, affect not “wastelands”, but land-related common pool resources, previously held in common property institutions. We are also interested in the way institutional change leads to legal and institutional pluralism, and how companies and local elites select from this plurality of institutions (labeled as institution shopping, see Toulmin 2009, Haller 2016). Furthermore research suggests that investments using institutional pluralism related to development, not only lead to commons grabbing (Haller 2016), but also to “resilience grabbing”.: CSR programs and compensations in the form of cash or employment do not cover the loss of a common pool resources for subsistence and cash. Especially, women and minorities are not able to get access to the few jobs available and to the low, as well as unequal, distribution of compensations (Marfurt et al 2016). As a consequence, local people are more vulnerable to environmental disturbances. However, we also look for contributions presenting perceptions and responses of commoners to the grabbing-process, which literature suggests ranges from weapons of the weak (Scott 1984) to options of mobilization (Politics Machines see Niederberger et al 2016), including institution shopping from below (on customary and human rights) and bottom-up institution building (Constitutionality see Haller, Acciaioli and Rist 2016) to reclaim to the commons.

References

  • Anseeuw, W.; Boche, M.; Breu, T.; Giger, M.; Lay, J.; Messerli, P.; Nolte, K. Transnational Land Deals for Agriculture in the Global South: Analytical Report Based on the Land Matrix Database; CDE/CIRAD/GIGA: Bern/Montpellier/Hamburg, 2012, ISBN: 978-92-95093-71-3.
  • Ferguson, J. The Anti-Politics Machine. “Development” and Bureacuratic Power in Lesotho. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UL, 1990.
  • Ferguson, J. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order; Duke University Press: Durham/London, UK, 2006
  • Haller, T. The contested floodplain: institutional change of the commons in the Kafue Flats, Zambia; Lexington Books: Lexington: Lanham, MD, 2012.
  • Haller, T. Managing the Commons with Floods: The role of institutions and power relations for water governance and food resilience in African Floodplains. In, Water and Food—Africa in a Global Context. Ostegard, T., Ed. The Nordic African Institute: Uppsala, Sweden, 2016, pp. 369–397.
  • Lavers, T. ‘‘Land grab” as development strategy? The political economy of agricultural investment in Ethiopia. Peasant Stud. 2012, 39, 105–132.
  • Niederberger, T.; Haller, T.; Gambon, H.; Kobi, M.; Wenk, I. (eds.) 2016. The Open Cut: Mining, Transnational Corporations and Local Populations. LIT Verlag: Berlin, Germany; London, UK, 2016
  • Schoneveld, G.C.; Zoomers, A. Natural resource privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges for inclusive green growth. Dev. Plan. Rev. 2015, 37, 95–118.
  • Scott, J.C. Everyday Forms of Resistance. In Colburn, F.D. (Hg.): Everyday Form of Peasant Resistance: M.E. Sharp: Armonk, NY, USA, 1989; pp. 3–33.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller
Guest Editor

MA. Mariah Ngutu
MA. Fabian Käser
Assistant Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Land grabbing, commons, resilience, development discourses
  • Anti-Politics Machine
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), institution shopping, gender
  • Constitutionality

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
The Different Meanings of Land in the Age of Neoliberalism: Theoretical Reflections on Commons and Resilience Grabbing from a Social Anthropological Perspective
Land 2019, 8(7), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8070104 - 27 Jun 2019
Abstract
Recent debates in social anthropology on land acquisitions highlight the need to go further back in history in order to analyse their impacts on local livelihoods. The debate over the commons in economic and ecological anthropology helps us understand some of today’s dynamics [...] Read more.
Recent debates in social anthropology on land acquisitions highlight the need to go further back in history in order to analyse their impacts on local livelihoods. The debate over the commons in economic and ecological anthropology helps us understand some of today’s dynamics by looking at precolonial common property institutions and the way they were transformed by Western colonization to state property and then, later in the age of neoliberalism, to privatization and open access. This paper focuses on Africa and refers to the work of critical scholars who show that traditional land tenure was misinterpreted as customary tenure without full property rights, while a broader literature on the commons shows that common-pool resources (pasture, fisheries, wildlife, forestry etc.) have been effectively managed by locally-developed common property institutions. This misinterpretation continues to function as a legacy in both juridical and popular senses. Moreover, the transformation of political systems and the notion of customary land tenure produced effects of central importance for today’s investment context. During colonial times a policy of indirect rule based on new elites was created to manage customary lands of so-called native groups who could use the land as long as it was of no value to the state. However, this land formally remained in the hands of the state, which also claimed to manage common-pool resources through state institutions. The neoliberal policies that are now demanded by donor agencies have had two consequences for land and land-related common-pool resources. On the one hand, states often lack the financial means to enforce their own natural resource legislation and this has led to de facto open access. On the other hand, land legally fragmented from its common-pool resources has been transformed from state to private property. This has enabled new elites and foreign investors to claim private property on formerly commonly-held land, which also leads to the loss of access to land related common-pool resources for more marginal local actors. Thus, the paper argues that this process does not just lead to land grabbing but to commons grabbing as well. This has furthermore undermined the resilience and adaptive capacity of local populations because access to common-pool resources is vital for the livelihoods of more marginal groups, especially in times of crisis. Comparative studies undertaken on floodplains in Botswana, Cameroon, Mali, Tanzania and Zambia based on a New Institutional Political Ecology (NIPE) approach illustrate this process and its impacts and show how institutional transformations are key to understanding the impacts of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLA) and investments in Africa. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Anti-Politics Machine of Green Energy Development: The Moroccan Solar Project in Ouarzazate and Its Impact on Gendered Local Communities
Land 2019, 8(6), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8060100 - 20 Jun 2019
Abstract
The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) established one of the largest solar energy projects in the world through a public–private partnership. It is on communal land previously owned by a Moroccan Amazigh (Berber) clan in the Ghessate rural council area, 10 km [...] Read more.
The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) established one of the largest solar energy projects in the world through a public–private partnership. It is on communal land previously owned by a Moroccan Amazigh (Berber) clan in the Ghessate rural council area, 10 km away from Ouarzazate. The land for the energy project comprises a surface area of more than 3000 hectares. This large-scale land acquisition has led to the loss of access to common-pool resources (land, water, and plants), which were formerly managed by local common property institutions, due to its enclosure, and the areas themselves. This paper outlines how the framing of the low value of land by national elites, the state administration, MASEN, and the subsequent discourses of development, act as an anti-politics machine to hide the loss of land and land-related common-pool resources, and thus an attack on resilience—we call it in our scientific discipline a process of ‘resilience grabbing’ (Resilience is the ability of a person and/or a household to restore basic livelihood capacities after shocks and hazards. Such capacities need to be available over time and remain high for the unit (household, community) to be resilient), especially for women. As a form of compensation for the land losses, economic livelihood initiatives have been introduced for local people based on the funds from the sale of the land and revenue from the solar energy project Noor Ouarzazate. The loss of land representing the ‘old’ commons is—in the official discourse—legitimated by what the government and the parastatal company call the development-related ‘fruits of growth’, and should serve as ‘new forms of commons’ to the local communities. The investment therefore acts as a catalyst through which natural resources (land, water, and plants) are institutionally transformed into new monetary resources that local actors are said to be able to access, under specific conditions, to sustain their livelihood. There are, however, pertinent questions of access (i.e., inclusion and exclusion), regulation, and equality of opportunities for meeting the different livelihood conditions previously supported by the ‘old’ commons. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Food Systems and Their Impact on Common Pool Resources and Resilience
Land 2019, 8(4), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8040071 - 23 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The ongoing expansion of agro-industrial food systems is associated with severe socio-ecological problems. For a closer look at the socio-ecological impacts, we analyze the capacity of six food systems to provide farm-based agroecosystem services with the Agroecosystem Service Capacity (ASC) approach. At the [...] Read more.
The ongoing expansion of agro-industrial food systems is associated with severe socio-ecological problems. For a closer look at the socio-ecological impacts, we analyze the capacity of six food systems to provide farm-based agroecosystem services with the Agroecosystem Service Capacity (ASC) approach. At the same time, we analyze how food systems affect the management of common pool resources (CPR). Our findings show that indigenous peoples and agroecological food systems can have up to three times the ASC-index of agro-industrial food systems. Through their contribution to the sustainable management of cultural landscapes with robust institutions for the management of CPRs, food systems contribute to socio-ecological integrity. On the other hand, regional and agro-industrial food systems with a lower ASC-index contribute less to socio-ecological integrity, and they undermine and open up common property institutions for robust CPR management. As a result, they appropriate (or grab) access to CPRs that are vital for food systems with higher ASC-indexes resulting from a robust management of CPRs. Strengthening a robust management of CPRs could put a halt to the ongoing expansion of food systems with a low ASC-index by replacing them with a high ASC-index to prevent an exacerbation of the current socio-ecological situation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Navigating Contested Winds: Development Visions and Anti-Politics of Wind Energy in Northern Kenya
Land 2019, 8(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8010007 - 04 Jan 2019
Abstract
State-led development visions and the accompanying large-scale investments at the geographical margins of Kenya rest on the potential of public–private partnerships to fast-tract sustainable development through accelerated investments. Yet, the conceptualisation, planning and implementation of these visions often deploy a depoliticising development discourse [...] Read more.
State-led development visions and the accompanying large-scale investments at the geographical margins of Kenya rest on the potential of public–private partnerships to fast-tract sustainable development through accelerated investments. Yet, the conceptualisation, planning and implementation of these visions often deploy a depoliticising development discourse that reinforces and expands long-standing misconceptions about the margins primarily directed at pastoral livelihoods and related communal land tenure. This paper illustrates how the implementation of a wind energy project employs the corporate strategies of depoliticising both land claims and development interventions. In Northern Kenya, private sector participation in large-scale wind energy infrastructure has created a complex development apparatus in which players are empowered to undertake the accelerated investments required to shape the delivery of the Kenya Vision 2030 in the region. An analysis of corporate actors’ strategies in the implementation of the contested wind farm presents a depoliticised framing of “low-cost green energy”, representations of pastoral land tenure and corporate social responsibility strategies through which dispossession is justified and legitimised. This case underscores the extent to which corporate counterresistance is shaped by the reproduction of a historical depoliticised discourse about pastoralism and communal tenure and challenges the traditional narrative of government hegemony against local resistance to large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Resilience of Traditional Livelihood Approaches Despite Forest Grabbing: Ogiek to the West of Mau Forest, Uasin Gishu County
Land 2018, 7(4), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/land7040140 - 16 Nov 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
This paper is a summary of the findings of research work conducted in two case studies in the Rift Valley, Kenya. This study used the Neo-Institutional theory to interrogate how the rules and regulations (institutions involved) of the agrarian reform process in Kenya [...] Read more.
This paper is a summary of the findings of research work conducted in two case studies in the Rift Valley, Kenya. This study used the Neo-Institutional theory to interrogate how the rules and regulations (institutions involved) of the agrarian reform process in Kenya are constantly changing and helping to shape the livelihoods of social actors around Mau Forest. The first case study—Ndungulu, is a settlement scheme where the Ogiek ethnic community were resettled between 1995 and 1997 after the land clashes of 1992. The second case study is the Kamuyu cooperative farm, a post-colonial settlement scheme owned by a cooperative society that was founded in 1965 by members from the Kikuyu ethnic group. This study employed qualitative data collection methods intermittently between 2012 and 2017 for a total of two years. A total of 60 interviews were conducted for this research. Thirteen (13) of these were key informant interviews with experts on land. The qualitative interviews were complemented by participant observations and nine focus group discussions. The qualitative data from the interviews and focus group discussions were transcribed, coded and analyzed thematically. Observations documented as field notes were also analyzed to complement the study findings. In this paper, the challenges, bargaining position and power play between social actors and government institutions implicated in the agrarian reform process in Kenya has been brought to the forefront. For instance, due to the structural issues that date back to the colonial period, the Ogiek have found innovative ways to maintain their daily existence (e.g., maintaining traditional methods of apiculture in Mau Forest). However, constraints in accessing forest land has resulted in them taking desperate measures, namely; selling off land to the Kalenjin in what is called “distress land sales”. On the contrary, the neighboring Kikuyu have maintained their land ownership status despite recurrent ethnic clashes that have occurred during general election years. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Impact of Government Policies and Corporate Land Grabs on Indigenous People’s Access to Common Lands and Livelihood Resilience in Northeast Cambodia
Land 2018, 7(4), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/land7040122 - 19 Oct 2018
Abstract
Cambodia has become a principal target of transnational (and domestic) land grabs over the past decade, mostly in the form of economic land concessions (ELCs). The northeastern part of the country—where the majority of Cambodia’s indigenous people reside—is a particular hotspot. In this [...] Read more.
Cambodia has become a principal target of transnational (and domestic) land grabs over the past decade, mostly in the form of economic land concessions (ELCs). The northeastern part of the country—where the majority of Cambodia’s indigenous people reside—is a particular hotspot. In this article, we discuss three policy mechanisms that the Cambodian government has employed to extend and legitimize land exclusions in the name of national economic development through the example of two indigenous villages in Srae Preah Commune, Mondulkiri Province. First, we show how the allocation of two ELCs has deprived indigenous communities of their communally managed land. Second, we examine how communal land titling processes have failed to provide indigenous villagers with effective legal mechanisms to counteract ELCs and land encroachment by internal migrants. Third, we elucidate how the promotion of cash crop production contributed to livelihood and land use transitions from a reliance on forest resources in 2003 to a dependence on cash crops in 2012 to a struggle to remain resilient amid a slump in crop prices in 2018. We conclude that the combination of these policies has undermined communal ownership and livelihood resilience under a situation of limited exit strategies. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Actors, Rules and Regulations Linked to Export Horticulture Production and Access to Land and Water as Common Pool Resources in Laikipia County, Northwest Mount Kenya
Land 2018, 7(3), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/land7030110 - 17 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy, supporting up to 80% of rural livelihoods. Kenya’s export horticulture is currently the leading agriculture subsector in Kenya and is regarded as an agro-industrial food system based on the economies of scale, producing for mass markets [...] Read more.
Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy, supporting up to 80% of rural livelihoods. Kenya’s export horticulture is currently the leading agriculture subsector in Kenya and is regarded as an agro-industrial food system based on the economies of scale, producing for mass markets outside of the production area. Much of the food consumed from Kenya’s export horticulture sector has undergone multiple transformations and been subject to a host of formal and informal institutions (rules, regulations, standards, norms and values). Kenya’s export horticulture production, driven by rising global demands, has expanded beyond the ‘traditional’ mountainous high yielding areas into arid and semi-arid (ASALs) zones such as Laikipia County, Northwest of Mount Kenya. An anthropological study of export horticulture viewed as an agro-industrial food system in Laikipia County was carried out utilizing the new institutionalism theory in anthropology to explore the actors, rules and regulations linked to export horticulture production and access to common pool resources. The study employed qualitative data collection methods to collect data over an extended field work period of eight months. The data from 40 in-depth interviews complemented by unstructured observations, four focus group discussions and five key informant interviews was transcribed, coded and analyzed thematically based on the grounded theory approach. This paper, therefore, presents findings from the qualitative case study on the actors as well as the rules and regulations (the institutional settings) of export horticulture production and access to common pool resources from an emic perspective of the involved actors. The formal and informal rules and regulations which form the institutional setting in this food system are viewed as changing and defining the operations of the food system’s access and management of common pool resources, namely water and land. With the agro-industrial food system competing with local food systems such as agro-pastoralism and small holder agriculture for these scarce resources in a semi-arid zone, there is potential for conflict and reduced production, as well as overall benefits to the different actors in the study area. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Pastoral Resilience among the Maasai Pastoralists of Laikipia County, Kenya
Land 2018, 7(2), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/land7020078 - 19 Jun 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
This paper addresses pastoral resilience by drawing out the coping strategies and mechanisms utilized by the Maasai Pastoralists through a food system approach, based on the study findings of an anthropological study of pastoralism as a food system in Laikipia County, Rift Valley, [...] Read more.
This paper addresses pastoral resilience by drawing out the coping strategies and mechanisms utilized by the Maasai Pastoralists through a food system approach, based on the study findings of an anthropological study of pastoralism as a food system in Laikipia County, Rift Valley, Kenya. The co-existence and interactions of pastoralism as a food system with other types of food systems in Laikipia, such as large-scale horticulture, justified the selection of the study site. This paper is guided by the specific objectives aimed at establishing actors and their roles, and describing the institutional settings and changes that sustain the continued practice of pastoralism. Using a new institutionalism approach, the paper focuses not only on the actors and their roles but also on how internal and external forces regulate access and use of common pool resources (CPRs) resulting in food sustainability within the food system amidst climatic challenges and cyclic humanitarian crises. We argue that this has an impact on the food system that continually defines and redefines the actors’ roles and institutional settings and changes (formal and informal rules, regulations, values and norms) that in turn affirm the value of pastoral economies and benefits accrued to a wide range of actors beyond the community and leading to pastoral resilience. Data collected through in-depth interviews amongst pastoral households identified actors and their roles in pastoralism in the household with a total of 50 households being conveniently sampled. Key informant interviews with key stakeholders in the food system described the institutional settings and changes and also identified actors and their roles in pastoralism. Three focus group discussions based on age and gender, established the actors and their roles and described institutional settings and changes to supplement data collected from interviews and unstructured observations aimed at giving a better description of the actors and their roles and also point to observable institutional settings and changes within and outside the community group ranches. The findings reveal that actors in the household, state, non-state, and service providers have developed varied coping strategies and mechanisms that sustain pastoralism. The study also identified institutional settings and changes that promote pastoral resilience, notably, private land ownership patterns, co-management of livestock markets, commercialization of herding, decentralization of livestock services, holistic management of pasture and the water-shed management plans. As a result, increased scholarship and advocacy in regards to the concept of co-management of livestock markets, are recommended as a means of understanding the pastoral resilience that the food system exhibits. Full article
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