The Political Economy of Land and Water Grabs

19 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2012 Last revised: 30 Jan 2013

See all articles by David Zetland

David Zetland

Leiden University - Leiden University College

Jennifer Möller-Gulland

Ecologic Institute

Date Written: April 12, 2012


We discuss the impact of corruption as a contributing factor to "land grabs" in SSA and examine land grab deals by country pairs to identify which deals may be grabs and which may be normal FDI. Most deals are made by corrupt selling countries but buying countries vary in their corruption, indicating that some of these deals may be misclassified FDI. We also examine the potential for over-exploitation of water resources in these countries. Sudan, with high corruption and strained water resources, is likely to suffer the most from land grabs. A comparison between 17 SSA countries with heavy "grab" activity and 27 others with lower levels of activity reveals that "grab targets" have the same or better governance and water resources, a finding that contradicts a hypothesis that these deals are harmful grabs but supports one that they are beneficial FDI. Deals called "grabs" may not be.

[This is the WORKING paper version of the chapter that was eventually published by Taylor and Routledge. Email David if you have any questions about corrections to this text or page numbers for citation.]

Note: The PDF for this working paper has been removed at the request of Routledge (Taylor & Francis) as the paper later appeared as a chapter in their book on Land Grabs in Africa.

Keywords: land grab, corruption, sustainability, food security, biofuels, FDI

JEL Classification: O13, Q15, Q17

Suggested Citation

Zetland, David and Möller-Gulland, Jennifer, The Political Economy of Land and Water Grabs (April 12, 2012). PERC Research Paper No. 12-21, Available at SSRN: or

David Zetland (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden University College ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501EE

Jennifer Möller-Gulland

Ecologic Institute ( email )

Pfalzburger Strasse 43/44
Berlin, DE 10717

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