Labelling large-scale land acquisitions as land grabs: Procedural and distributional considerations from two cases in Ghana

Abubakari Ahmed*, Z. Abubakari, Alexandros Gasparatos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper uses an actor-oriented political ecology approach, and procedural and distributional lenses to explore whether large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) exhibit the characteristics of land grabs. We apply these perspectives in two LSLAs in Ghana (oil palm, jatropha) that reflect different drivers/processes of land acquisition, crops and modes of production. For the procedural analysis, we track how LSLAs unfolded on the ground using (a) legal perspectives, (b) narratives of the local communities and other key players (e.g. chiefs, investor, government institutions), and (c) formal documentary evidence. For the distributional analysis, we examine some of the key socio-economic and environmental impacts of these LSLAs through household surveys in the affected communities affected. Through the triangulation of this information, we conclude that even though these LSLAs have some characteristics of land grabs, it is problematic to concretely label them as such. This is because they followed the appropriate legal provisions, even though some of the consultation and compensation processes were questionable. These processes were largely mediated through the unconstructive involvement of chiefs (and their manipulation of customary procedures), rather than unethical practices from the side of investors. These questionable processes have affected transparency and accountability, and have had negative distributional outcomes. This indicates ‘benefit grabbing' by traditional authorities at the expense of local
communities, rather than actual land grabbing by investors. It is therefore imperative to consider chiefs’ involvement in LSLAs and further formalise LSLA processes (especially in terms of consultations and compensation) to avoid instances of land and/or benefit grabbing in Ghana, and elsewhere in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
Early online date4 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Chiefs
  • benefit grabbing
  • Jatropha
  • Oil Palm
  • land transaction
  • Ghana
  • n/a OA procedure


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