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Title: Understanding socio-economic and environmental impacts of large scale land acquisitions in Zambia : a case study of Nansanga farm block
Author: Chilombo, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 1537
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2019
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The surge in large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) in the global south has captured the attention of activists, development practitioners, policy makers and academics. Whilst proponents of LSLAs speak of opportunities to provide food security, biofuels, eco-tourism etc., opponents have mainly been concerned with the fate of local communities. A growing number of studies show that local communities can (potentially) suffer from land dispossession and involuntary displacements, environmental degradation, diminished local food security and sovereignty, casualisation of job opportunities and curtailed access to water resources. But there is more to LSLAs than these starkly opposing claims; LSLAs can be lengthy and complex operations, cancelled, slowed down or reshaped by diverse, socio-cultural, political and biophysical landscapes in which they unfold. The polarised claims about LSLA deals are based on political, socio-economic and environmental (SEE) dimensions and footprints of the phenomenon. In light of the polarised claims and the socio-cultural, political and biophysical landscapes in which LSLA deals unfold, the aim of this thesis is to understand the SEE impacts of LSLA deals in Zambia, taking Nansanga farm block as a case study. Nansanga farm block is part of the government of Zambia's 2002 parliamentary decree agricultural program to establish nine farm blocks in each of the then nine provinces. Nansanga farm block, established among the Lala people in Senior Chief Muchinda, is the most developed of the planned nine farm blocks. The farm block is established on 155 000 ha of wet miombo woodland in central province. The land tenure had to be converted from customary to leasehold to pave the way for investments by urbanites and foreigners. Understanding SEE impacts of LSLAs has been marred by methodological and epistemological challenges. These challenges are linked to the evolution of LSLA deals; they are punctuated with cases of scaling down production levels, cancellations, and abandonments or transformations of business investment models. Investors can change, for example, from production of biofuels to food crops or mining. Such changes trigger different intended and non-intended consequences. In addition, LSLAs are an incipient phenomenon whose impacts are difficult to grasp without (reliable) baseline information on the affected areas and communities. In the absence of baselines, studies to assess short to medium term outcomes are difficult to interpret. Taking Nansanga farm block as a case study contributes to the post 2013 LSLA research agenda that has called for a shift in attention from quantifying 'grabbed' hectares of land and naming 'land grabbers' to learning about the processes and impacts of land deals where they happen. Thus, context-specific understandings of SEE impacts become important to assess vulnerabilities to external influences, as well as benefits and costs of LSLA deals in communities where they unfold. To understand the SEE impacts at community level, I used mixed methods. Ethnographically, I engaged with communities in Nansanga as 'experts' of their own experience of the farm block in their environment. I learned from them. To understand the SEE impacts, the methods were largely informed by rural participatory appraisal approaches. The empirical data presented in this thesis, are therefore, 'co-produced knowledge' with community members. In terms of structure, the thesis is divided into four general parts: setting thesis stage and study site (Chapters 1 - 3); literature review (Chapter 4); empirical chapters (Chapters 5 - 7); and the synthesis and conclusion (Chapter 8). The thesis presents results on four aspects of LSLAs. First, it proposes a conceptual framework to improve our understanding of LSLAs (Chapter 4). Second, the thesis presents results on the role of formal and informal institutions in shaping LSLA deals and their outcomes (Chapter 5). Third, in Chapter 6, I present results on the political ecology of LSLA deals in limbo of development. Fourth, Chapter 7 is focused on understanding how communities cope with impacts of LSLA deals in limbo of development. In Chapter 8, I synthesise the key findings from the thesis before concluding with a reflection on how the findings relate to the broader scholarship on LSLAs, the general agrarian and development questions that the findings raise. Overall, the thesis has contributed to understanding the SEE impacts of LSLA deals in limbo of development in a country that is a target for LSLAs. In the absence of baselines, the thesis has looked at the biophysical and socio-cultural uses of the miombo woodland where Nansanga farm block has been established, thereby developing an ecological and socio-cultural perspective and boundary that highlights a research path for understanding impacts later in Nansanga. The thesis has also looked at institutional environment of Zambia as a host country, the political ecology of 'failed' LSLA deals and how affected communities cope with unfulfilled promises of LSLA deals.
Supervisor: Van Der Horst, Dan ; Ryan, Casey Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Zambian land use ; customary land ; state land ; Nansanga farm block ; government land administration ; socio-economic implications ; environmental advantages ; tobacco production ; manganese mining ; environmental problems