Ethnography of a Land-Deal. Local Perceptions and Vertical Perspectives of a Large Scale Land Acquisition Project in Northern Sierra Leone

Käser, Fabian; Marfurt, Franziska; Lustenberger, Samuel (17 October 2014). Ethnography of a Land-Deal. Local Perceptions and Vertical Perspectives of a Large Scale Land Acquisition Project in Northern Sierra Leone. In: Schweizerische Tage der Afrika-Forschung 2014. University of Bern. 17.10.2014.

Despite an increased scientific interest in the relatively new phenomenon of large-scale land acquisition (LSLA), data on processes on the local level remain sparse and superficial. However, knowledge about the concrete implementation of LSLA projects and the different impacts they have on the heterogeneous group of project affected people is indispensable for a deepened understanding of the phenomenon. In order to address this research gap, a team of two anthropologists and a human geographer conducted in-depth fieldwork on the LSLA project of Swiss based Addax Bioenergy in Sierra Leone.
After the devastating civil war, the Sierra Leonean government created favourable conditions for foreign investors willing to lease large areas of land and to bring “development” to the country. Being one of the numerous investing companies, Addax Bioenergy has leased 57’000 hectares of land to develop a sugarcane plantation and an ethanol factory to produce biofuel for the export to the European market.
Based on participatory observation, qualitative interview techniques and a network analysis, the research team aimed a) at identifying the different actors that were necessary for the implementation of this project on a vertical level and b) exploring various impacts of the project in the local context of two villages on a horizontal level.
The network analysis reveals a complex pattern of companies, institutions, nongovernmental organisations and prominent personalities acting within a shifting technological and discursive framework linking global scales to a unique local context. Findings from the latter indicate that affected people initially welcomed the project but now remain frustrated since many promises and expectations have not been fulfilled. Although some local people are able to benefit from the project, the loss of natural resources that comes along with the land lease affects livelihoods of vulnerable groups – especially women and land users – considerably. However, this research doesn’t only disclose impacts on local people’s previous lives but also addresses strategies they adopt in the newly created situation that has opened up alternative spaces for renegotiations of power and legitimatisation. Therewith, this explorative study reveals new aspects of LSLA that have not been considered adequately by the investing company nor by the general academic discourse on LSLA.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Käser, Fabian David


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Fabian Käser

Date Deposited:

12 May 2015 10:19

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:26

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Large scale land acquisitions, Sierra Leone, local perception, local strategies, social anthropology, human geography, development, gender, network


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