Jorge A. Rincón Barajas / Christoph Kubitza / Jann Lay

Large-Scale Acquisitions of Communal Land in the Global South: Assessing the Risks and Formulating Policy Recommendations

Land Use Policy | 2024

  • Abstract

    This article conceptualises and empirically assesses the socioeconomic and environmental risks of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) for communal lands in the Global South. These risks include the displacement of local communities due to the insufficient formal recognition of communal land and exclusive and corrupt negotiations with investors who frequently exploit the legal pluralism inherent in these tenure systems. Furthermore, LSLAs often imply the loss of important ecological and socioeconomic functions that communal land holds for local communities across the world. These risks are in particular severe for already marginalised groups such as women, pastoralists and forest-dependent communities. Our empirical analysis focusses on spatial data of LSLAs and communal lands in three countries with varying degrees of communal land recognition. In the case of Colombia, where communal lands are relatively well documented and protected, we identify overlaps and conflicts arising from deficient consultation processes, primarily linked to extractive industries. Similarly, Cambodia formalises communal lands, but the actual extent of collective titles remains limited, and prevalent social forestry schemes in the region provide only restricted land rights. This leaves local communities with far less and also less well protected land facing LSLAs. The Democratic Republic of the Congo with almost no effective safeguards to protect communal lands is surely the most problematic case, as our analysis suggests potential overlaps of LSLAs with close to one million hectares of communal land. Increasing the compliance of land policies with global frameworks but also exploiting upcoming due diligence regulations will be key mitigating the risks of LSLAs for communal land.



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