Governing Commercial Pressure on Land in Africa

In the current debates on land grabbing and commercial pressure on land there is much emphasis on the issue of the governance of land acquisitions in general and the issue of regulation by state actors more in particular. The roles of states at different levels include regulation through legislative means: upholding existing legislation (e.g. in the case of protection of indigenous rights or forest protection) and issuing new legislation at national, provincial or local level to address on-going or imminent land acquisitions. This includes both property law as well as spatial planning mechanisms. But the role of the state may go beyond that and include informing and assisting the less powerful parties, monitoring agreements, as well as also devising new institutional forms to regulate land acquisition in a concerted manner between different stakeholders.

Public land leased to agri-businesses, Burundi, @Rosine Tchatchoua, 2013


The interest of this research line is to get a better understanding of the role that states at local level (municipalities, districts, “communes’) play in regulating processes of land acquisition and land grabbing and the implications of that role. This Landac-WUR project examined the mechanisms and strategies state agents develop at the local to regulate and monitor land acquisition processes, and how they balance development needs and protection needs. In this regard, four African countries have been selected for case studies: Uganda, Burundi, Burkina Faso and Ghana. These case studies focused on the public governance system, which – depending on the context – may include both formal/state and customary authorities. As part of the project team, I carried out fieldwork in southern Burundi in October-December 2013. Apart from the country research reports, a writeshop was held in Uganda in June 2014, gathering the country researchers, Gemma van der Haar (Wageningen University and Research Centre) and Gerard Baltissen (KIT, Royal Tropical Institute), in order to produce the final report.