A network for all who care about the conservation of our world and who want to see it achieved with justice, compassion, dignity and honesty.

The International Conference on Global Land Grabbing

Held in Brighton, UK on the 6-8th April 2011

This conference brought together an impressive array of analysis and experiences of land being lost to institutional economic pressures. A good number of the cases presented are linked to conservation – summaries of some examples below.

1. Wildlife Conservation and Land Acquisitions: A Case Study of the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust

By Ngeta Kabiri, Environmental Evaluation Unit, University of Cape Town

In the past decade, there have been large-scale acquisitions of land in Africa that have drawn the attention of both agrarian policy analysts and local populations in the affected areas. The key concerns are the merit of the land deals and the way they are executed, both in terms of how they are negotiated and the resultant structures of the new land tenure dispensation.The central concern, however, has been the capacity of the local populations with a claim tothe affected lands to secure their preferred outcome. Can they, for example, block the deals if they don’t want them? What is the import of these land acquisitions to local population and the country generally? While proponents say the deals are beneficial to the states and local communities, critics argue that they portend ill for the countries concerned, especially on food security, the environment and access to land by the poor. This paper inquires into these issues within the specific context of the TLCT. The central question guiding the inquiry is whether these land deals constitute conservation and development icons, and to what extent the affected local communities have been involved in the framing of the deals.


2. Conservation and Land Grabbing in Tanzania

by Tor A. Benjaminsen, Ian Bryceson, Faustin Maganga, Tonje Refseth

The discussion of global ‘land grabbing’ has mainly focused on large-­‐scale land deals and direct foreign investments in food and biofuel production in developing countries. The land grabbing effect of conservation projects is, however, rarely heeded in these debates. In Tanzania, conservation areas have steadily increased since colonial times leading to loss of land and resource access for small-­‐scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk. Today, around 40 % of the land area of the country is under some form of environmental protection. This includes more recent areas under so-­‐called ‘community-­‐based conservation’, which in practice proves to be business-­‐as-­‐usual in terms of conservation taking 2 priority over local rights and livelihoods. This paper provides examples of how community-­‐based conservation in wildlife, forests and coastal areas in Tanzania leads to local people’s loss of access to land and natural resources. The increasing commodification of biodiversity and natural resources driven by the boom in safari tourism as well as new climate mitigation initiatives such as REDD is accelerating this process. The main actors are big international conservation groups, foreign donors, and state agencies focused on recentralizing control over resources in order to capitalize on the increasing land rent.

3. Taming the Jungle, Saving the Maya Forest: The Military’s Role in Guatemalan Conservation

By Megan Ybarra

 This article examines the significance of the role of the military in conservation in Guatemala through an analysis of discourses about the lowlands over time. Historically, Guatemala’s national imaginary of the lowlands has been that of a dangerous jungle (selva) that must be tamed. During the civil war, the military employed this imaginary in its counterinsurgency campaigns, positioning the jungle as a dangerous space with suspect citizens, or potential guerrillas. In the 1980s, international conservation agencies called the region part of the “Maya Forest” in a political project to create an international park system, but they never tamed the jungle. I argue that the transnational conservation alliance, comprised of international NGOs and national elites, continues to evoke the violence of counterinsurgency in the territorial project of conservation. Both counterinsurgency and parks as territorial projects position nature as separate from agriculture. I argue that the use of jungle and forest discourses in successive territorial projects produces a racialized landscape that connects a violent past to a potentially violent present. These two divergent yet articulated signifiers also attach to peoples living in the northern lowlands. In recent years, the jungle discourse has articulated with advocacy for increased militarization of conservation to fight the “war on drugs” in parks. As such, I argue that conservationists and the military are complicit in reproducing social inequalities, often through violent exclusions.

4. Household Livelihoods and Increasing Foreign Investment Pressure in Ethiopia's Natural Forests

By Kathleen Guillozet and John C. Bliss

Foreign investment in Ethiopia‟s forestry sector is currently limited, but agricultural investments that affect forests, largely through forest clearing, are commonplace. We describe the nature of forest investments and outline the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing them. Given the key role that forests play in rural livelihoods, new tenure arrangements will have significant implications for communities located at the forest-farm interface. Evidence from a case study in the Arsi Forest area of Oromia Regional State is used to examine historic and contemporary forest benefit distributions and investigate the the potential for conflict over competing forest access claims associated with new investments.


5. Whose Paradise? Conservation, tourism and land grabbing in Tayrona Natural Park, Colombia

By Diana Ojeda

The last decade in Colombia has been marked by a massive counter-agrarian reform, forcibly displacing 4 million people from an estimated 5.3 million hectares of land. The land grab stands in close relation to paramilitarism, illegal crop production and high-end corruption. While war-related dynamics of dispossession are widely recognized as causes of land grabbing, the logics of exclusion and expropriation behind “greener” projects (agro-fuel production and ecotourism) are obscured under discourses of conservation, climate change mitigation and sustainable development. The case of ecotourism development in Tayrona National Park, on the northern coast of Colombia, epitomizes the greening of the global land grab. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with community members who live and work at the park, I examine the case within the shifting resource politics in the area. Following the criminalization, exclusion and forced eviction of community members, I trace the problematic couplings of conservation, tourism and land grabbing. Ecotourism serves as a powerful mechanism of accumulation by dispossession that evidences not just the workings of global capital, but also the green pretexts that produce class-, race- and gender-marked subjects as expropriable, disposable beings.

A public park in private hands. Parque Tayrona, Arrecifes, Colombia. Photo – Diana Ojeda

A public park in private hands. Parque Tayrona, Arrecifes, Colombia.

Photo – Diana Ojeda

The conference web site still has the full array of papers available for individual download at: