Large-scale land acquisitions aggravate the feminization of poverty: findings from a case study in Mozambique

Large-scale land acquisitions threaten smallholders’ livelihoods. Large-scale land acquisitions have a stronger negative effect on the livelihoods of those with less access to off-farm income, i.e. often the women.

Dr

Juliana Porsani

(She/Her)

Senior Lecturer

Södertörn University

Researcher working with various development-related themes such as large-scale land acquisitions, land rights, gender, participation, indigenous communities, and indigenous tourism.

Large-scale land acquisitions threaten smallholders’ livelihoods. Large-scale land acquisitions have a stronger negative effect on the livelihoods of those with less access to off-farm income, i.e. often the women.

Key Takeaways

  • Large-scale land acquisitions that follow a gender-blind fashion erode an important basis of women’s livelihoods and thus impair families’ direct access to food and women’s autonomy.

How To Apply Insights

  • Support smallholders’ initiative and regarding large-scale land acquisitions:
  • “Deals” between companies and communities must take into consideration who wins and who loses at communities from a gender perspective. This is a critical point that should be discussed within communities prior to their eventual consent. Attention to gender is central if large-scale land acquisitions are to stand a chance of benefiting rural communities instead of further depriving them.
  • Investors and government must acknowledge that land is a critical resource with material and immaterial value in places marked by structural economic insecurity and where identity and religion/spirituality are connected to land. Thus, communities should be central in deciding not only if they would like to close a deal with investors but also which land parcels (and how much) they may consider ceding/exchanging.
  • Having in mind the institutional weaknesses in these contexts, transnational civil society organizations such as NGOs could play an important role preparing communities and working as communities’ advocates to increase the changes that what is on paper (the law, the agreements between investor and communities) are translated into practice.

Why This Research Matters

There are 952 documented LSLAs concluded since the early 2000s, comprising an area of approximately 7,8 million hectares (See https://landmatrix.org/). The findings here may be relevant for contexts of strong economic insecurity and where smallholder farming is critical for livelihoods, particularly women’s livelihoods.

Findings & Research Conclusions

Large-scale land acquisitions also known as large-scale land investments pose a threat to the land rights and livelihoods of farmers in Mozambique.

Farmers are rarely relying only on farming. They rely on a range of on-farm and off-farm livelihood activities.

Due to the gender division of labor in Mozambique (with intertwined cultural and historical roots), women tend to be more engaged in farming (food production) whereas men tend to be more engaged in livestock and off-farm (cash generating) activities.

Households headed by women comprise a significant group in rural areas and are often more vulnerable than others.

Investors are often attracted to the best soils and areas which are often already being used by local farmers.

The legislation in Mozambique states that 1) all land belongs to the State; 2) customary rights are recognized; 3) it is possible for investors to obtain from the government the right to use land (in practice a land-use permit of 50 years that may be renewed); 4) when the land targeted by investors is already in use by communities, to obtain a this permit (also known as DUAT) from the government, investors must first secure communities’ consent in community consultations.

The legislation is however weakly enforced. Community consultations sometimes do not happen. When they do happen, they are pervaded by challenges derived from power asymmetries. The absence of free, prior, and informed community consent in these processes is what justify large-scale land acquisitions being called land grabs.

The expected benefits of large-scale land acquisitions often do not fully materialize (e.g. jobs are often seasonal, insufficient and taken mostly by young men).

Large-scale land acquisitions lead to land becoming less available, particularly the most productive soils, depriving both male- and female-headed households of quantity and quality of land.

Although worse farming conditions negatively affect all households, they have a stronger negative effect on the livelihoods of those with less access to off-farm income sources (i.e., women). This leads to the increase in the relative importance of male-dominated activities and thus male-derived income, reinforcing thereby the feminization of poverty.

About Case Study

Land concession (20,000 ha) to Chinese company (Wanbao) in 2012.

Research's methodology

Fieldwork in the middle of 2013 and the middle of 2017, which examined a large-scale land acquisition that began late in 2012 in the Lower Limpopo Valley, Mozambique. Interviews were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively.

ConceptDefinition
Large-scale land acquisitions (or Large-scale land investments)The purchase, lease or concession of large tracts of land for a range of purposes, including the extraction of minerals and fossil fuel, the establishment of conservation areas, the cultivation of cereals for food, feed, and biofuel, and re-forestation, afforestation, and REDD+ projects.

Reference this research

Porsani, J., Caretta, M.A. & Lehtilä, K. Large-scale land acquisitions aggravate the feminization of poverty: findings from a case study in Mozambique. GeoJournal 84, 215–236 (2019).

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