Large-scale land acquisitions and food security.

What are the impacts of large-scale land acquisitions (LSA) on local food insecurity and malnutrition levels?


DFID are looking to propose that the UK supports a package of measures to strengthen land transparency and ultimately governance. This work is of a high priority for DFID and the wider UK Government. Following further research on the evidence and internal discussions, DFID have identified a gap relating to 2 specific questions:

  • What are the impacts of large-scale land acquisitions (LSA) on local food insecurity and malnutrition levels?
  • Is there a difference in impacts whether investments are international or local?

This report presents a brief assessment of the available literature which attempts to answer these questions. There is an ample and high quality debate being conducted about the impact of LSAs on livelihoods and food security, both in the academic world and between the protagonists either side of the LSA debate. However, the assessment finds very little direct analysis of food security and malnutrition using scientific means such as nutritional and anthropometric surveys.

Looking at food security and LSA from a wider ‘complexity theory’ perspective, the review also brings in governance and related questions, including the relevance and potential pitfalls of recent guidelines produced by the World Bank and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

There is virtually no work identified that answers the second question above. It might be possible to infer that international investments would have a less harmful impact as investors are concerned about their corporate image and social accountability, but in fact there is little to suggest that this is the case.

A clear need is identified to carry out more research on the gender dimension of the food security impact and whole LSA issue in general. A need is also identified to improve the way that Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) are carried out, including baseline studies and full assessments of food security and nutritional status, and mitigating measures and activities to be integrated into LSA investments.

Some new and on-going research activities offer prospects for beginning to fill in some of the gaps, and for providing a more nuanced understanding of how households are affected by and respond to LSAs on their doorsteps. In all cases, existing and new research proposals should include some analysis of nutritional status and food security, if possible to allow a ‘before and after’ assessment of LSA impact.


Tanner, C. Large-scale land acquisitions and food security. Evidence on Demand, UK (2013) 24 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd037.feb2013.tanner]

Large-scale land acquisitions and food security.

Published 1 January 2013