Buying Land

Dr. Danka Thalmeinerova, GWP’s Senior Knowledge Management Officer, attended GWP’s Coordinated Land and Water Governance workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, June 15-16, 2015. In this blog she shares highlights, and insights she gained. Land and water

An introduction by Madiodio Niasse of GWP’s Technical Committee set out key questions such as:

  • How can you integrate water and land if you mainly work from a water angle (risk of putting too much emphasis on water at the expense of land)?
  • The world has been managing land and water separately without major problems, why should we look at these resources simultaneously now?
  • How does coordinated governance of land and water contribute to food security?

The popular term is “land grabbing” but the participants did not like the negative connotation. Are all forms of “land investments” a case of “grabbing”?

Apparently there is a slowing down of such deals, but the most targeted region is Africa. The most frequent buyers come from the UK and the USA. Other big buyers include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China. The Land Matrix is an online tool that records all known deals.

Ward Anseeuw (CIRAD and University of Pretoria) emphasized that a rush for land is triggered by a range of drivers, food being the main one, but also biofuels production. Ruhiza Boroto (FAO-Africa) noted that from 2000-2012, a total area of approximately 3.4 million hectares (the size of the Netherlands) has been bought in Africa. Of this, 26% was acquired for growing food crops, 68% for biofuels, 3% for cotton, and 3% for livestock.

Interestingly, only about 25% of land deals include information about the water on or under the land. The volume of water to be extracted is not usually specified in contracts, and water pricing, where it exists, is not related to volume extracted. This has far-reaching implications, not only for the water sector which is impacted by land investments in a particular country, but for transboundary waters as well. Information about changes in land use are not mentioned in the UN Water Convention, and are rarely the subject of neighbor notification, said Anton Earle (SIWI).

Workshop speakers shared experiences on how coordinated land and water management contributes to food security. A case study from Burkina Faso, presented by Tiemtoré Mahamoudou (GWP West Africa), illustrated how small-scale irrigation works with both surface and groundwater resources and how farmers learned appropriate farming techniques to ensure production during dry seasons. The project began in 2001 and a strategy for sustainable development of irrigated agriculture was adopted in 2003. Currently, more than 120 billion Central African Francs have been mobilized for its implementation. Nevertheless, there are still constraints such as poor maintenance of irrigation devices and insecure land use rights.

Rudo Sanyanga (Oxfam) focused on campaigns in rural communities to help women obtain their fair share of water resources on which their livelihoods depend. An example from Malawi, by Robert Kafakoma (Training Support for Partners), showed how land monitoring and recording systems safeguard women’s land and water rights. Land dispute registers become a deterrent to corruption, and women are getting their land back. Water aspects may not be addressed specifically, but it is obvious that ‘when a local person has piece of land, they usually have water there.’

Governance is about power, access to information, and political economy. While a lot can be learned through pilot projects among the poor, a need for governance changes must be made at the top levels of government. How can we multiply and scale up small community examples to translate them into a common, national policy? The coordination and integration of land and water use is expensive, long-term, politically sensitive, and complicated – but must be done. Researchers should help policy makers identify the synergies between the two sectors so that they are not in conflict, but move together for positive human development.

The workshop, attended by 32 participants (15 women), was organized by the GWP Technical Committee in collaboration with the International Land Coalition (ILC) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Presentations are online at SlideShare.


About globalwaterpartnership

The Global Water Partnership's vision is for a water secure world. Our mission is to advance governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable development.
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One Response to Buying Land

  1. Stella Pike says:


    Excellent presentation through I will try to use this for my land Costa Rica.

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