Governing large-scale farmland investments in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and ways forward

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Large-scale farmland investments in sub-Saharan Africa have to date produced a striking uniformity of largely negative local socioeconomic and environmental outcomes, raising questions about their contribution to sustainable development. This study attributes these outcomes to eight interrelated factors, namely, (1) deficiencies in the law, (2) elite capture, (3) conflicts of interest, (4) capacity constraints, (5) high modernist ideologies, (6) limited contestation, (7) incompatibility of production systems, and (8) misalignment of corporate accountability. Considering the important role of poor implementation and enforcement in shaping outcomes, greater emphasis should be placed on institutional rather than legal reform in host countries. Institutional conditions relating to (1) mandate, (2) capacity, (3) incentives, and (4) accountability need to be fulfilled. Findings also highlight the importance of balanced cross-sectoral reform, risks associated with decentralization, and the need to exercise greater caution when adopting free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) principles. This Info Brief concludes with a number of concrete recommendations for policy makers.

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