Hostname: page-component-758b78586c-9l7gn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-11-28T08:58:33.527Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Interplay of land governance and large-scale agricultural investment: evidence from Ghana and Kenya*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 February 2015

Kerstin Nolte*
GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies Institute of African Affairs (IAA), Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg, Germany
Susanne Johanna Väth*
Institute for Co-operation in Developing Countries, University of Marburg, Am Plan 2, 35037 Marburg, Germany; formerly at Centre for Evaluation (CEval), Saarland University, Campus, Building C5 3, 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany


This comparative analysis examines how large-scale agricultural land acquisitions are implemented in Ghana and Kenya, using embedded case studies of two specific investment projects. We find that insufficiencies in these countries' land governance systems are partly caused by discrepancies between de jure and de facto procedures and that powerful actors tend to operate in the legal grey areas. These actors determine the implementation of projects to a large extent. Displacement and compensation are highly emotive issues that exacerbate tensions around the investment. We also find that large-scale land acquisitions have a feedback effect on the land governance system, which suggests that large-scale land acquisitions can be drivers of institutional change. We suggest there may be a window of opportunity here to reform these land governance systems.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



We would like to thank the people and organisations who supported our research: David Okeyo, Caren Akumu, Baba Adam and Eric Johnson, for help with the focus group discussions; the Ghana Market-oriented Agriculture Programme (MOAP), a joint programme of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of the Republic of Ghana (MOFA), for financial and logistical support; the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Germany), the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) (Germany), and the sector project ‘Land Policy and Land Management’, a planning unit of the German Agency for International Co-operation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – GIZ), for financial support; Di Kilpert for editing; and Michael Kirk, Jann Lay, Simone Gobien and Thomas Falk, for valuable comments on the paper. Any shortcomings are of course ours.



Amanor, S.K. 2001. Share Contracts in the Oil Palm and Citrus Belt of Ghana. London: IIED.Google Scholar
Amanor, S.K. 2010. ‘Family values, land sales and agricultural commodification in South-Eastern Ghana’, Africa 80, 1: 104–25.Google Scholar
Amanor, S.K. 2012. ‘Global resource grabs, agribusiness concentration and the smallholder: two West African case studies’, Journal of Peasant Studies 39, 3–4: 731–49.Google Scholar
Anseeuw, W., Boche, M., Breu, T., Giger, M., Lay, J., Messerli, P. & Nolte, K.. 2012. Transnational Land Deals for Agriculture in the Global South. Analytical report based on the land matrix database. Bern, Montpellier, Hamburg: CDE, CIRAD, GIGA.Google Scholar
Anyidoho, N.A., Amanquah, S.T. & Clottey, E.A.. 2008. ‘Chieftancy institutions and land tenure security: challenges, responses and the potential for reform’, ISSER Technical Publication, No. 77. Legon: University of Ghana, Institute of Statistical, Social & Economic Research.Google Scholar
Aryeetey, E., Ayee, J.R.A., Ninsin, K.A. & Tsikata, D.. 2007a. ‘The politics of land tenure reform in Ghana: From the Crown Lands Bills to the Land Administration Project’, ISSER Technical Publication, No. 71. Legon: University of Ghana, Institute of Statistical, Social & Economic Research.Google Scholar
Aryeetey, E., Al-Hassan, R.M., Asuming-Brempong, S. & Twerefou, D.K.. 2007b. ‘The organization of land markets and production in Ghana’, ISSER Technical Publication, No. 73. Legon: University of Ghana, Institute of Statistical, Social & Economic Research.Google Scholar
A.Y. & A.Consult. 2007. ‘Updated resettlement action plan for the Oil Palm Plantation Development Project at Okumaning’. Accra: A.Y. & A. Consult.Google Scholar
Berry, S. 2013. ‘Question of ownership: proprietorship and control in a changing rural terrain: a case study from Ghana’, Africa 83, 1: 3656.Google Scholar
Boone, C. 2012. ‘Land conflict and distributive politics in Kenya’, African Studies Review 55, 1: 75103.Google Scholar
Braun, J. von & Meinzen-Dick, R.. 2009. ‘‘Land Grabbing’ by foreign investors in developing countries: risks and opportunities’, IFPRI Policy Brief 13. Washington, DC: IFPRI.Google Scholar
Bugri, J. 2012. ‘Sustaining Customary Land Secretariats for improved interactive land governance in Ghana’, paper prepared for presentation at the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, 23–26 April. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Cotula, L. & Vermeulen, S.. 2011. ‘Contexts and procedures for farmland acquisitions in Africa: what outcomes for local people?’, Development 54, 1: 40–8.Google Scholar
Cotula, L., Vermeulen, S., Leonard, R. & Keeley, J.. 2009. Land Grab or Development Opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa. London, Rome: IIED, FAO, IFAD.Google Scholar
Deininger, K. & Byerlee, D.. 2012. ‘The rise of large farms in land abundant countries: do they have a future?’, World Development 40, 4: 701–14.Google Scholar
Deininger, K., Byerlee, D., Lindsay, J., Norton, A., Selod, H. & Stickler, M.. 2011. Rising Global Interest in Farmland: can it yield sustainable and equitable benefits? Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
Dion, D. 1998. ‘Evidence and inference in the comparative case study’, Comparative Politics 30, 2: 127–45.Google Scholar
Domfeh, K. 2003. ‘Compliance and enforcement in environmental management: a case of mining in Ghana’, Environmental Practice 5, 2: 154–65.Google Scholar
Dominion Farms, County Council of Bondo & County Council of Siaya. 2003. Memorandum of Understanding. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Environmental Protection Agency & Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. 2010. EPA Ghana ‘Akoben’ programme: final ratings of manufacturing companies. Accra: EPA & Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology.Google Scholar
Food and Agriculture Organization. 2013. Trends and Impact of Foreign Investment in Developing Country Agriculture: evidence from case studies. Rome: FAO.Google Scholar
FIAN International. 2010a. Land Grabbing in Kenya and Mozambique: a report on two research missions – and a human rights analysis of land grabbing. Heidelberg: FIAN International Secretariat.Google Scholar
FIAN International. 2010b. ‘Landraub in Ghana. Der Agrartreibstoff schmiert das Geschäft’, FIAN Fact Sheet 3. Heidelberg: FIAN International Secretariat.Google Scholar
German, L., Schoneveld, G. & Mwangi, E.. 2013. ‘Contemporary processes of large-scale land acquisition in Sub-Saharan Africa: legal deficiency or elite capture of the rule of law?’, World Development 48: 118.Google Scholar
Gerring, J. 2004. ‘What is a case study and what is it good for?’, American Political Science Review 98, 2: 341–54.Google Scholar
Gerring, J., Kingstone, P. & Lange, M.. 2011. ‘Democracy, history, and economic performance: a case-study approach’, World Development 39, 10: 1735–48.Google Scholar
Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC). 2013. ‘Investment procedures’,, accessed 25.4.2013.Google Scholar
Glinz, C. 2011. ‘Kenya's new constitution: a transforming document or less than meets the eye?’, Verfassung und Recht in Übersee 2011, 1: 6080.Google Scholar
Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC). 2013. Company profile., accessed 25.4.2013.Google Scholar
Görgen, M., Rudloff, B., Simons, J., Üllenberg, A., Väth, S. & Wimmer, L.. 2009. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in land in developing countries. Eschborn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit.Google Scholar
Kanyinga, K. 2009. ‘The legacy of the white highlands: land rights, ethnicity and the post-2007 election violence in Kenya’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 27, 3: 325–44.Google Scholar
Kasanga, K. & Kotey, N. 2001. Land Management in Ghana: building on tradition and modernity. London: IIED.Google Scholar
Kobo, O. 2010. ‘We are citizens too: the politics of citizenship in independent Ghana’, Journal of Modern African Studies 48, 1: 6794.Google Scholar
Levy, J.S. 2008. ‘Case studies: types, designs, and logics of inference’, Conflict Management and Peace Science 25, 1: 118.Google Scholar
Manji, A. 2012. ‘The grabbed state: lawyers, politics and public land in Kenya’, Journal of Modern African Studies 50, 3: 467–92.Google Scholar
Manji, A. 2014. ‘The politics of land reform in Kenya 2012’, African Studies Review 57, 1: 115–30.Google Scholar
Mehler, A., Melber, H. & van Walraven, K.. 2012. Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2011: Vol. 8. Africa yearbook. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
Mujenja, F. & Wonani, C.. 2012. Long-term Outcomes of Agricultural Investments: lessons from Zambia. London: IIED.Google Scholar
Nolte, K. 2014. ‘Large-scale agricultural investments under poor land governance in Zambia’, Land Use Policy 38: 698706.Google Scholar
Ochieng, J. 2011. ‘Kenya: Dominion Farms chief fears for his life’, Nairobi Star, 30 August.Google Scholar
Quaye, B.A. 2006. ‘Towards an appropriate framework for the effective utilization/management of geoinformation: a case study of Ghana’, prepared for presentation at the XXIII international FIG congress, 8–13 October, Munich.Google Scholar
Ray, D.I. 1996. ‘Divided sovereignty: traditional authority and the state in Ghana’, Journal of Legal Pluralism 37/38: 181202.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1962a. Administration of Lands Act. No. 123. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1962b. State Lands Act. No. 125. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1976. Land Registry as No. 1258/1976. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1986. Land Title Registration Act. PNDC Law No. 152. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1992. Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Tema: Ghana Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1993. Local Government Act. No 462. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1994a. Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands Act. No. 481. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1994b. Environmental Protection Agency Act. No. 490. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1996. Water Resources Commission Act. No. 522. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 1999. Ministry of Lands and Forestry. National Land Policy. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 2008. The Lands Commission Act. No. 767. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 2010. A Bill Entitled the Lands Act 2011. 3rd Draft. Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Ghana. 2011. Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill. Revised Draft (August). Accra.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2004a. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Illegal/Irregular Allocation of Public Land. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2004b. Statistical Abstract 2004. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2009. National Land Policy. Sessional Paper No. 3. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2010. The Constitution of Kenya. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2011. Community Land Act. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2012a. The Land Registration Act. No. 3. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2012b. The National Land Commission Act. No. 5. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Republic of Kenya. 2012c. The Land Act. No. 6. Nairobi.Google Scholar
Schoneveld, G., German, L. & Nutakor, E.. 2011. ‘Land-based investments for rural development? A grounded analysis of the local impacts of biofuel feedstock plantations in Ghana’, Ecology and Society 16, 4: 10.Google Scholar
Societé d'Investissement pour l'Agriculture Tropicale (SIAT). 2013. Company profile., accessed 25.4.2013.Google Scholar
Ubink, J.M. & Quan, J.F.. 2008. ‘How to combine tradition and modernity? Regulating customary land management in Ghana’, Land Use Policy 25, 2: 198213.Google Scholar
Ubink, M. & Amanor, K. S. (Ed.). 2008. Contesting Land and Custom in Ghana. Leiden: Leiden University Press.Google Scholar
Väth, S.J. 2013. ‘Gaining neighbours or big losers – What happened when large-scale, land based investment in the Ghanaian oil palm sector met the local population?’, LDPI Working Paper No. 24.Google Scholar
Wisborg, P. 2012. ‘Justice and sustainability: resistance and innovation in a transnational land deal in Ghana’, paper prepared for presentation at the annual World Bank conference on land and poverty, 23–26 April. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Yin, R.K. 2002. Case Study Research: design and methods (3rd edn). Vol. 5. Applied social research methods series. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Zoomers, A. 2010. ‘Globalisation and the foreignisation of space: seven processes driving the current global land grab’, Journal of Peasant Studies 37, 2: 429–47.Google Scholar