The self presentation
The IDS is a leading global charity for international development research, teaching and communications. Its vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing: research knowledge can drive the change that must happen in order for this vision to be realised. Founded in 1966, IDS enjoys an international reputation based on the quality of its work and commitment to applying academic skills to real-world challenges. The theory of change is at the heart of what IDS does: knowledge should be generated by sound methodology and in partnership with other development and non-development actors.
Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC)
The FAC –a project within IDS- is a multidisciplinary and independent learning alliance of academic researchers and practitioners involved in African agriculture. It aims to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth. Collectively its researchers offer a responsive mode of working, so to engage with policy debates and issues as they arise.
The Consortium involves over 70 senior researchers and post-graduate students from leading African and UK institutions that are pursuing innovative research, communications and networking activities at both country and regional level on urgent agricultural policy issues. Since mid-2005, the Consortium has built an effective and dynamic partnership between leading African and UK institutions, developed a strong evidence base for policy processes at global, national and local levels, including contributing to the 2008 World Development Report and linking with insights from participatory regional consultations on the future of agriculture in Africa.
Recently (2011), FAC focuses in Land reform and in Land-grabbing. Land reform is viewed as an essential component of efforts to reduce poverty and inequality. Yet redistributive land reform has been off the policy agenda for decades, despite the recognition of its importance. The researches on poverty reduction and livelihood in southern Africa (e.g. Zimbabwe in 2000) showed how, given the right institutional and policy conditions, land reform can make major contributions to sustainable livelihoods.
Much attention has recently fallen on the ‘scramble’ for land and other natural resources in Africa to secure food supplies for populous Asian countries concerned about long-term food security. Yet mounting evidence (from the World Bank, from the International Land Coalition and Oakland Institute among others) suggests that at least as significant is the demand for land on which to grow bio-fuels or agro-fuels. Also significant is the demand for forests and for land for mining. Many of the transnational land deals being concluded in Africa are therefore not about cultivation of food at all, let alone cultivation of food for Africa.
Although the trend towards transnational commercial land deals is global, most estimates and research data concur that most of the land being transacted is in Africa: 70% (about 32 million ha) according to the World Bank and 64% (about 51 million ha) according to the International Land Coalition. As well as Asian, European and North American investors are those from Latin America and from Africa itself, not least South Africa.
In 2010 the Future Agricultures Consortium responded to growing evidence of large-scale land deals in Africa by pursuing two research initiatives:
A small grants programme to support 20 detailed case studies of such deals across 14 different African countries, covering topics varying across commodity sector and theme, including bio-fuels, forestry, water, local elites, international law, community consultations, environment impact assessments (further information is available from PLAAS).
A set of 5 country studies that explore the location of such deals within wider national, and even regional, political economy, and investigate the processes that have shaped the deals, the terms of the deals, implementation and impacts on land rights and livelihoods of local communities. These studies are underway in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa
The outputs of these studies, together with a rich array of other independent studies from elsewhere in the world, were presented at an International Conference on Global Land Grabbing which took place at the University of Sussex, UK, in April 2011.
FAC’s purpose in conducting this policy-relevant and applied research is:
To influence policy to curb (trans)national land deals that undermine local people’s land rights and livelihoods
To document best and worst practices of large-scale land-based investments, in terms of outcomes for pro-poor agricultural development (ie. tools to inform choices about different ways in which such deals may be structured), in order to promote evidence-based policy in this area, and
To promote informed choices about alternatives to land deals, through securing land rights in law and practice, and promoting ‘bottom-up’ accumulation through investment in opportunities for small-scale farmers.
FAC research on these issues has been presented at a number of recent high-profile policy, academic and activist events:
International Conference on New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture, hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome, Italy, 24th-25th January 2011.
World Social Forum Workshop on Land Grabbing in Africa: Dangers & Opportunities; Learning from Three Continents and Developing Resistance Strategies, hosted by Misereor, Caritas, Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, Food First Information Action Network (FIAN), and Network Afrika Deutschland (NAD). M’Bour / Dakar, Senegal, 6th-9th February 2011.
Meeting on Foreign Direct Investments in Land in Africa, hosted by the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa and Land Policy Initiative (in partnership with the African Union, African Development Bank and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) at the Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank, Lisbon Congress Centre, Lisbon, Portugal. 7th June 2011.