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Large-scale land acquisitions aggravate the feminization of poverty: findings from a case study in Mozambique
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5522-5280
West Virginia University, Morgantown, United States.
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0260-3978
2019 (English)In: GeoJournal, ISSN 0343-2521, E-ISSN 1572-9893, Vol. 84, no 1, p. 215-231Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The local implications of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs), commonly referred to as land grabs, are at the center of an exponential production of scientific literature that only seldom focuses on gender. Our case study aims to contribute to filling this analytical gap. Based on structured interviews and focus groups, we investigate local experiences in the lower Limpopo valley in Mozambique, where a Chinese investor was granted 20,000 hectares in 2012. Our findings show that land access in the affected area varied prior to land seizure due to historical land use differences and after land seizure mainly due to non-universal compensation. Furthermore, we show that as farming conditions deteriorate, a trend toward both the feminization of smallholder farming and the feminization of poverty is consolidated. Succinctly, as available land becomes increasingly constricted, labor is allocated differently to alternative activities. This process is by no means random or uniform among households, particularly in a context in which women prevail in farm activities and men prevail in off-farm work. As men disengage further from smallholder farming, women remain directly dependent on fields that are smaller and of worse quality or reliant on precarious day labor in the remaining farms. We contend that the categories female-headed and male-headed households, although not inviolable, are useful in explaining the different implications of LSLAs in areas in which gender strongly substantiates individuals’ livelihood alternatives. © 2018 The Author(s)

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2019. Vol. 84, no 1, p. 215-231
Keywords [en]
Development studies, Female-headed households, Feminization of poverty, Gender, Land grabbing, Large-scale land acquisition, Mozambique’s Limpopo valley, Land use, Land acquisition, Mozambique, Mergers and acquisitions
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-34697DOI: 10.1007/s10708-017-9836-1ISI: 000459424700013Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85042138941OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-34697DiVA, id: diva2:1187004
Note

Fieldwork for the study entitled “Large-scale land acquisitions aggravate the feminization of poverty: Findings from a case study in Mozambique” was funded by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, and the foundation Forskraftstiftelsen Theodor Adelswärds Minne.

Available from: 2018-03-02 Created: 2018-03-02 Last updated: 2020-11-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Livelihood Implications of Large-Scale Land Concessions in Mozambique: A case of family farmers’ endurance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Livelihood Implications of Large-Scale Land Concessions in Mozambique: A case of family farmers’ endurance
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the process and the implications of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) for local livelihoods, especially the livelihoods of those who make a living from farming. These individuals were historically known as peasants and are now more commonly referred to as smallholders, small-scale farmers or family farmers. What happens to their livelihoods as land under their control is allocated to investors?

Promoters of LSLAs stress that when land acquisitions are preceded by community consultations, there may be synergism between investors’ activities and local livelihoods. Accordingly, local farmers are expected to gain from, for example, closer ties to the market and new livelihood alternatives such as formal employment. Differently, critical voices contend that despite sound legislation on the matter, in practice LSLAs constitute drivers of dispossession, being therefore disguised land grabs. This research seeks to fill a knowledge gap on the immediate local livelihood implications of LSLAs. By employing a case study design in Mozambique (one of the countries targeted by recent LSLAs), this thesis adds empirical evidence that is crucial to the above-named theoretical debate involving LSLAs.

The analyzed case is pivoted by a Chinese company that in 2012 was granted 20,000 hectares in the lower Limpopo region. Despite legislation that asserts the legality of customary land occupation, in practice, land was seized without adequate consultation and compensation. Consequently, local farmers lost the most fertile areas. Nonetheless, farmers were able to regain or maintain access to farmland that was more peripheral and of worse quality. Concomitantly, the company generated a small number of jobs and created a contract farming scheme that, despite bottlenecks, benefited farmers who were able to handle risk. In general, families who lost land and those who entered the contract farming scheme strive to keep a foothold on farmland – a strategy that is partly explained by the economic rationale of seeking to meet the consumption needs of current and future generations. Additionally, family land is embedded with symbolic value (illustrated, for example, by individuals’ relations with ancestors buried in family land). The existence of symbolic and thus immaterial values that land embodies poses insurmountable challenges to the idea that it is possible to achieve fair compensation for the loss of land and the environment in general.

This study shows the renewed pressure (now through the hands of private actors backed by public efforts) placed on family farmers, derived livelihood trends (i.e., the overall precarization of family farming, the widening of economic inequality, and the feminization of poverty), and family farmers’ continuous endurance. Ultimately, this study illustrates local processes and livelihood implications of LSLAs in Mozambique, and likely also in contexts marked by similar democratic deficits and renewed incursions over valuable land that is intensively used. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2020. p. 189
Series
Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 180
Keywords
Large-scale land acquisitions, land concessions, land grabs, livelihoods, family farmers, peasants, gender, community consultations, popular deliberation, cultural ecosystem services, Mozambique, Lower Limpopo Valley
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social and Economic Geography Globalisation Studies
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-42236 (URN)978-91-89109-33-9 (ISBN)978-91-89109-34-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-12-11, MA636/via link, Alfred Nobels allé 7, Huddinge, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-11-18 Created: 2020-11-16 Last updated: 2021-01-07Bibliographically approved

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Porsani, JulianaLehtilä, Kari

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