In 2021 SLU granted seed funding to four SLU researchers with the aim of stimulating collaborative research with GCUA 2030 partners. Here we report successful outcomes from a collaborative research project involving researchers at SLU, Makerere University, and Michigan State University, entitled “Cancelled Agro-Investments, Smallholders’ Land Access and Sustainable Development in Rural East Africa”.
Following award of their ‘GCUA Seed Funding for Collaborative Projects’ in 2021, Linda Engström (Department for Urban and Rural Development, SLU) and GCUA2030 collaborators Godfrey Asiimwe (Department of Development Studies, Makerere University, Uganda) and Howard Stein (Department of Afro-American and African Studies, University of Michigan, USA) report on successful outcomes of the research project ‘Cancelled Agro-Investments, Smallholders’ Land Access and Sustainable Development in Rural East Africa’.
The project aimed to initiate interdisciplinary collaboration between the respective GCUA partner universities with a focus on understanding urgent land-related challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in rural East Africa. While the literature on effects of agro-investments in Africa has exploded, the team recognised that analyses of cancelled land deals are very limited. However, today land deals cover a staggering 12 million hectares of land in Africa.
As part of the research, fieldwork conducted in Tanzania included interviews with smallholder farmers, pastoralists, development practitioners, public officials, and government staff at district, region, and national levels. The team’s findings highlighted how people living on or adjacent to cancelled land deals suffer from an insecure land tenure, and that land belonging to a cancelled land deal is often being used differently than how it would have been had it been village land.
The team further organised a mini-conference on this theme at Makerere University, entitled ‘Land Accumulation, Dispossession and Livelihoods in Rural East Africa’. Linda adds that the event “was very rewarding and highly appreciated among participants – strengthening already existing networks and creating many new ones, both within and across scholarly geographic focus”.
The research team
Looking to the future, the team plan to publish a Special Issue in a peer-reviewed academic journal arising from the conference, as well as to arrange a PhD school and a follow-up conference at Makerere University on land dispossession and inequality in rural and urban Uganda and Tanzania.