Land Acquisitions in Tana Delta, Kenya (Bio-)fueling Local Conflicts? A Youth Perspective

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The number of large scale land acquisitions in developing countries around the globe is on the rise in recent years and so are the discussions about the social and environmental impacts of land related large scale investment projects in the rural areas of the developing part of the world. Some see possibilities of employment generation for the world’s rural poor and of overcoming technological underdevelopment and infrastructure shortcomings in the agricultural sectors of the global south. Others regard these hopes as unprecedented optimism. They point out that investors aim to make profits or to secure food supplies abroad but not to bring social development or to contribute to poverty alleviation. In the light of inappropriate legislations and policy frameworks, they only see the threads of widespread displacements and of the destruction of rural livelihoods. The potential for causing or contributing to local conflicts in areas targeted by land investors is often mentioned as kind of a byproduct in the impact analyses of those scholars taking a critical stance to the topic. However, a systematic analysis of the potential link between large scale land acquisitions and the occurrence of conflicts seems missing so far. Therefore this thesis aims to provide insights in the relation between local conflict potentials and recently occurring land investments in the countries of the global south. To do so, a case study approach has been employed, as the thesis is partly based on data collected during a field research phase from June to August 2011 in Tana Delta, Kenya. Of course, a single case study can not serve as a basis for general conclusions of supra regional relevance, but it can provide indications for other affected local areas and could constitute a valuable starting point for future research attempts with a similar focus. Despite a long history of land reallocations for private and economic interests, Kenya has not been a focal point of land acquisitions in recent years. However, Tana Delta seems to become an exception in this regard, since several investors have proposed serious interests in acquiring large scale land tracts in the area, mainly for establishing bio fuel related production schemes. Tana Delta is traditionally inhabited by communities engaging in small scale sedentary farming as well as by (semi-) nomadic pastoralists. A long history of conflicts and irregular violent outbreaks between these communities is characterizing the area. The reasons for these conflicts are seen in the specific and competing needs of the two livelihoods, but there is also an ethnic dimension inherent to these tensions.
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