Large-scale land deals between African states and foreign investors is one of the most challenging development issues of today. The phenomenon is a major factor leading to substantial reconfiguration of access to land and land-based social relations – involving the state, people and investors. It is unprecedented in terms of both the size of the lands leased/sold out and the pace involved. Ethiopia ranks among the top in terms of the size of land leased out during the last decade. The phenomenon generates many questions relating to issues of land rights and people’s livelihoods: Would it lead to poverty reduction and food security in the land-selling/land-leasing countries and localities? What are the immediate and long-term implications for the people living on, and in the surroundings of, the lands? Are the local people included in the process, and do their opinions count in shaping the land-deal decisions and subsequent outcomes? If these investments have benefits for the local people, what are the conditions under which such opportunities can be realized? Owing to the many procedural and outcome-related questions involved, the land deals have attracted growing interest and debate. While some see such investments as vital for poverty alleviation and economic transformation, others view it as a “land grabbing” and impoverishing scheme. These framings should be substantiated by empirical evidence showing the implications of such transactions and investments for local livelihoods. This study attempts to address the impacts of the transnational agricultural investments, most of which are commercially oriented, on the livelihoods of the local people in Ethiopia. It adopts a political-ecological perspective and the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) as pillars of the theoretical framework, and capitalizes on their synergy. The study employs a mixed-methods approach involving a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. The primary data will be complemented with systematic content analysis of relevant secondary data, including investment policy documents. The knowledge to be gained through the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods will have methodological contribution to development studies and social science in general. The study aims to provide new insights into the relationships between land rights, local livelihoods and global investments relevant for future development research and policy.
In the course of the last decade, large-scale land deals between African governments and foreign investors has been taking place at an alarming speed and magnitude. The phenomenon has generated various questions on issues of land rights and people’s livelihoods: What are the implications for the people living on, and in the surroundings of, the lands? Are the local people included in the process, and do their opinions count in terms of affecting the land-deal decisions? Using data from interviews and household survey, the proposed study attempts to answer these questions and, thereby, address the implications of the ongoing land deals on the livelihoods of the local people in Ethiopia. The study aims to provide new insights on challenging questions of global powers and local processes as significant components of the process in framing the debate on large-scale land deals as “land grabbing” or “sustainable development.”