Large-Scale Land Acquisitions, Rural Change, and Social Conflict

  • By combining theoretical and methodological approaches in political science, economics, and environmental sciences, this project analyzes the effects of large-scale land acquisitions on rural structural change and social conflicts in order to advance academic research, provide international policy advice, and inform the work of local advocacy and development organizations.
    BMZ, 2019-2022


    Daniel Geissel

    Doctoral Researcher

    Rebecca Lohmann

    Former Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Lisa Hoffmann

    Research Fellow

    Dr. Alexander De Juan

    Ehemals Research Fellow

    Prof. Dr. Dr. Evans S. Osabuohien

    Dr. Nunung Nuryartono


    Prof. Dr. Jann Lay

    Lead Research Fellow / Leitung Forschungsschwerpunkt "Globalisierung und Entwicklung"


    How do large-scale land acquisitions affect rural structural change and the risk of social conflict in developing countries? To understand how these “land grabs” translate into social conflict we investigate how they affect rural socio-economic structures and rural livelihoods. We pay particular attention to socio-economic inequality and examine how local formal and informal institutions may mitigate or intensify adverse implications of land deals.

    Beitrag zu internationaler Forschung

    The research speaks to the literature on social conflicts and the role of horizontal inequality as well as the conflict and land nexus.

    Despite clear indications that land acquisitions matter for social conflict, this relationship has remained under-studied. Both of the research strands highlight that the advent of an investor and changes in the availability and distribution of land do not mechanically produce specific outcomes. Instead, we observe considerable heterogeneity of effects, which indicates a key role for conditioning factors. Nonetheless, only little research has assessed the role of institutions and of inequality in terms of their mediating and intervening effects.

    Forschungsdesign und Methoden

    The project relies on a nested mixed-methods research design that combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. Firstly, we will use available data to assess patterns of and correlations between investments and conflict events. We associate data on the presence (incl. duration) of land investments and conflict outcomes.

    Secondly, we will collect quantitative data from two case studies in regions with a high incidence of large-scale land acquisitions: West Africa and South East Asia. Specifically, we will conduct two household surveys in selected rural sites in Liberia and Indonesia.

    Thirdly, these quantitative analyses will be complemented by in-depth qualitative studies of selected cases. The cases will be selected to be exemplary of specific combinations of realizations of conflict outcomes, intervening variables, and context factors

    GIGA Working Papers | 05.2022

    Large-Scale Land Deals and Social Conflict: Evidence and Policy Implications

    Inwiefern erhöhen groß angelegte Landkäufe das Risiko von Konflikten und welche politischen Maßnahmen können dem entgegenwirken? Anhand früherer Forschungsarbeiten entwickeln die Autor:innen Handlungsempfehlungen, wobei sie die Notwendigkeit von rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen, Konsultationen und Transparenz hervorheben.

    Journal of Economic Geography | 2018

    Determinants of Foreign Land Acquisitions in Low- and Middle-income Countries

    Prof. Dr. Jann Lay

    Lead Research Fellow / Leitung Forschungsschwerpunkt "Globalisierung und Entwicklung"

    GIGA Focus Nahost | 2/2018

    Brotkorb und Konfliktherd – Landinvestitionen in der Republik Sudan

    Dr. Alexander De Juan

    Ehemals Research Fellow

    Michael Schiess


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