Factors of vulnerability: How large-scale land acquisitions take advantage of local and national weaknesses in Sierra Leone
Yengoh Genesis Tambang
Frederick Ato Armah
Summary, in English
Enticing economic benefits for host nations and the notion of large areas of land considered available are often put forward as the main reasons for large-scale land acquisition in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa. However, country-level datasets of land acquisitions seem to indicate a clear divide between a majority of countries engaged in land acquisitions as investors and those involved as targets. We posit that there are socio-economic and governance factors that make the engagement between targets of land acquisitions and investors both unequal and attractive to large-scale investments. We then ask the question: what are the factors that make communities vulnerable to an unequal engagement with large-scale land-investing interests in Sierra Leone? We explore this question using local-level socio-economic data of households and communities in two settings where land acquisitions have occurred in Sierra Leone. We find that socio-economic characteristics of local populations, such as levels of education, the powerful role of traditional chiefs and corruption, make these areas easier targets for such land investments. Investors also exploit the poor economic situation of local areas by making alluring promises of development opportunities. The vulnerability of local people to land investors is further undermined by poor governance at the national level and external politico-financial interest in favor of such investments. Local populations are vulnerable to organized campaigns of land acquisitions by multi-national companies. Proper legal and institutional frameworks are required to protect local interests in these land deals. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.