Large Scale Land Acquisition as Commons Grabbing: A comparative study on cases from Africa

Haller, Tobias; Adams, Timothy; Gmür, Désirée Ruth; Käser, Fabian David; Lanz, Kristina Verena; Marfurt, Franziska; Ryser, Sarah; Schubiger, Elisabeth; von Sury, Anna Asha; Gerber, Jean-David (2019). Large Scale Land Acquisition as Commons Grabbing: A comparative study on cases from Africa. In: Lozny, Ludomir R.; McGovern, Thomas (eds.) Global Perspectives on Long Term Community Resource Management. Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation: Vol. 11 (pp. 125-164). Berlin, New York: Springer International Publishing

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We discuss the results of two research projects carried out by the Institute of Social Anthropology and Geography, University of Bern (Switzerland) regarding large-scale land acquisitions in Africa. Our case-studies are form Morocco, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. They illustrate the drama of the grabbed commons and economic consequences affecting marginalized groups. The results show that new land deals were made by foreign investors with local state officials and elites. The new rules made the land available for market-oriented productions and transferred the assets into state- or local elites- and international companies-owned properties. These changes adversily affected the traditional property rights scheme. New institutional changes eliminated communal ownership and access to other land-related commons such as water, pasture, fisheries, forestry, non-timber forest products, and wildlife vital for local livelihoods. We analyze how different local groups reacted to these dramas and what strategies they used to reinstall the commons, although with mixed success. Finally, we argue that only bottom-up institutional buildup provides essential basis for securing resilient livelihoods. Our studies allow for understanding the way how to use the commons in the future on local, national, and international level.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Haller, Tobias, Adams, Timothy, Gmür, Désirée Ruth, Käser, Fabian David, Lanz, Kristina Verena, Marfurt, Franziska, Ryser, Sarah, von Sury, Anna Asha, Gerber, Jean-David


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
700 Arts > 710 Landscaping & area planning
900 History > 910 Geography & travel






Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation


Springer International Publishing




Lisa Alvarado Grefa

Date Deposited:

23 Jul 2019 15:43

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:27

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