Working Paper
102

Land Deals and Social Fabrics: The Impact of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Social Trust in sub-Saharan Africa

Date Published

Aug 5, 2020

Authors

Alexander Leibik, Tim Wegenast

Publisher

Citation

Leibik, A. and Wegenast, T. (2020). Land Deals and Social Fabrics: The Impact of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Social Trust in sub-Saharan Africa. AidData Working Paper #102. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.

Announcement

The livelihoods of rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are closely tied to small-scale farming and other types of land use. In recent years, private investors as well as governments have shown a growing interest in large-scale acquisition of arable land across the continent. While authors have started to analyze the local economic impacts of such investments, their socio-political as well as psychological consequences remain poorly understood. This paper investigates how changes in land ownership patterns caused by large-scale land acquisitions affect the level of trust among rural communities. We maintain that the transition from community and individual-smallholder land ownership into large-scale investor property has a negative impact on this particular dimension of social capital. To test our hypotheses, we rely on georeferenced information on land deals, tenure systems as well as survey data from Afrobarometer at the individual level of analysis. Employing a quasi-experimental design based on different matching techniques and difference-in-means estimations, our models show that the global land rush indeed disrupts local social fabrics and social cohesion by reducing interpersonal as well as institutional trust. Moreover, our findings indicate that the negative effect of agrarian transformations on local trust levels is particularly strong among women.

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