The Pardee Papers, No. 13, May 2011
By Rachel Nalepa
May 2011 (42 pages)
Foreign direct investment in agricultural land in developing countries has escalated dramatically in recent years, attracting the attention of development experts as well as mainstream media outlets around the world. These investments are made specifically to transform arable land into profitable and more productive agricultural enterprises for food and agrofuel stocks for use by the investor countries. Proponents of these land concessions argue that spillover effects like technology transfer and increased employment will jumpstart agricultural productivity in developing states. Critics generally believe that these deals will result in more harm than good, especially in places where land rights are historically contentious or weak. This paper examines the emerging political economy of the global land rush and discusses how insecure tenure rights and poor governance are resulting in adverse short-term effects that call into question whose notion of “development” is being served by these investments.
Rachel Nalepa is a doctoral student in the Geography and Environment Department at Boston University. She specializes in the political ecology and geopolitics of land investments for agrofuel developments in Ethiopia. She holds a master’s degree in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and was a Pardee Graduate Summer Fellow in 2010.