The Land Matrix

Apl. Prof. Dr. Jann Lay
2012 - 2015
German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)



Research Questions

  • What is the real extent, nature and impact of large-scale land investments?
  • Who is investing where?
  • What is driving the increasing interest in land?

Contribution to International Research
The project addresses the serious lack of data on global land investments by providing the currently most comprehensive online database on such deals (the "Land Matrix Global Observatory"). This information is demanded by a variety of actors: researchers, international and development organizations, NGOs, the media, and policymakers in host countries of such land deals.

Research Design and Methods
The Land Matrix database is a constantly updated data set that includes deals made for agricultural production (for food or agrofuel production), timber extraction, carbon-trading, mineral extraction, conservation and tourism. Deals included in the database must meet the following criteria:

  • They entail a transfer of rights to use, control or own land through sale, lease or concession.
  • They were signed sometime since 2000, when the annualized value of the FAO real food price index was at its lowest level.
  • They cover an area of 200 hectares or more.
  • They entail the conversion of land from local community use or from important ecosystem-service provision to commercial production.

Records are derived from a variety of sources: media reports; reports by international and local organisations, NGOs, and field-based research projects; company websites; and government records. Sources are partly accessed through two active internet portals dealing with land transactions: and Company websites and governmentrecords are also used where these are available. Moreover, the "crowdsourcing" function plays an increasingly important role.

Preliminary Results
An improved version of the online Land Matrix database was re-launched in June 2013. It is currently the largest data set of its kind and generates wide public interest. The Land Matrix data shows that there is indeed a global trend toward land acquisitions, and that a large number of these projects are likely to materialise. However, implementation on the ground is slow and a huge number of projects fail. Accordingto the Land Matrix information, Africa is the most targeted continent and most target countries are characterised by weak land governance and high incidences of hunger. Furthermore, targeted areas are easily accessible, provide high yield gaps, and have considerable population densities. Most investors come from comparativelywealthy countries, and countries that are net food importers. All in all, the data suggests that in a large number of cases there are trade-offs environmental and social goals.