Myra Poluschny-Treuner

Land grabbing or an essential move towards development? A case study of Ethiopia

Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world and heavily dependent on international food aid, is identified as being one of the main targeted countries for land grabbing. While the Ethiopian government sees land investment as an essential part of their development strategy, international actors accuse land investors to trigger displacement of local people and increase food insecurity. This PhD research aims to contribute to a clearer and profound understanding of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia.

Based on a growing global awareness of climate change and its consequences, the continuously rising food prices as well as the industrialized and economically fastdeveloping countries aim to achieve more energy security through biofuels, a variety of foreign and domestic investors are encouraged to acquire vast areas of agricultural land in the global South. In that regard, Ethiopia seems to be particularly suitable due to its large "unused" affordable fertile land. The Ethiopian government fosters the shift to large-scale agriculture as an essential basis for agricultural modernization and hence, the improvement of agricultural productivity which shall lead to increased food production and economic growth. According to the findings of the Oakland Institute in 2011 at least 3.6 million ha land has been transferred to investors in different parts of the country. However, pursued research indicates that first effects of large-scale land investments show adverse consequences for the environment and local population. It has been reported that forest degradation, displacement of local populations, expropriation of land, increasing local food insecurity and increasing poverty could be attributed to large-scale land investments. Moreover, those effects may lead to local conflicts which again might trigger political instability.

The overall research question of this PhD study is "What are the large-scale land investment impacts on smallholders and the rural population in Ethiopia? To answer this broader question, several sub-questions will be addressed: 1. How do international and national policy processes influence large-scale land investment in Ethiopia? 2. Who benefits and who suffers from such large-scale land investment in terms of the Ethiopian government, investors, smallholders and the rural population? 3. How effectively do rural communities cope with land investment-related challenges? developing countries aim to achieve more energy security through biofuels, a variety of foreign and domestic investors are encouraged to acquire vast areas of agricultural land in the global South. In that regard, Ethiopia seems to be particularly suitable due to its large "unused" affordable fertile land. The Ethiopian government fosters the shift to large-scale agriculture as an essential basis for agricultural modernization and hence, the improvement of agricultural productivity which shall lead to increased food production and economic growth. According to the findings of the Oakland Institute in 2011 at least 3.6 million ha land has been transferred to investors in different parts of the country. However, pursued research indicates that first effects of large-scale land investments show adverse consequences for the environment and local population. It has been reported that forest degradation, displacement of local populations, expropriation of land, increasing local food insecurity and increasing poverty could be attributed to large-scale land investments. Moreover, those effects may lead to local conflicts which again might trigger political instability.

Supervisor: Laurent Goetschel

Co-Supervisor: Ueli Maeder

 

Bio:

Myra Posluschny-Treuner holds a BA in European Business from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, an MA in Political Science from the University of Freiburg in Germany, as well as a Master of Advanced Studies in European Integration with a major in Conflict and Development from the University of Basel in Switzerland. In 2011, Myra Posluschny started her PhD at the University of Basel, and joined both swisspeace and the NCCR North-South programme, where she is currently researching modernization strategies of the agricultural sector in Ethiopia. The research objective is to analyze impacts of large-scale land investments on smallholders and rural populations in Ethiopia, taking socio-economic impacts into account, investigating political power and policies, mapping and analyzing perceptions of all stakeholders as well as highlighting potential and existing conflicts.

Memberships: IGS North-South