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Land investments, accountability and the law: Findings from comparative socio-legal research in West Africa

The recent wave of land deals for agribusiness investments has prompted renewed calls for accountability in the governance of land and investment. Legal frameworks influence opportunities for accountability, and recourse to law has featured prominently in grass-roots responses to land deals. Drawing on comparative socio-legal research in Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal, this article explores how the law enables, or constrains, accountability in land investments. The article develops a conceptual framework for understanding accountability; examines national law in the three countries, in both statute books and practice, and based on common concepts and methods; and articulates recommendations for policy and practice. The findings point to considerable diversity of contexts, calling for granular analyses and tailored responses. But they also point to recurring issues that can affect accountability strategies. Depending on the context, addressing these issues would require law reform and interventions to push the boundaries of existing law. Based on this study, action research teams in the three countries are now implementing legal empowerment interventions to strengthen accountability in the governance of land and investment.

Publication information

  • External: X00179
  • Published: 2017 - IFAD, Rome
  • Area: Africa
  • Themes: Land acquisitions and rights, Law
  • Source pub: Journal of Law and Rural Development
  • Journal ref: Issue 1
  • Language: English

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Cotula, L et al. (2017) “Land Investments, Accountability and the Law: Findings from Comparative Socio-legal Research in West Africa”, Journal of Law and Rural Development, 1, 35-42, IFAD, Rome.
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Investments in agriculture and extractive industries can create new opportunities for local communities. But they also come with risks – including reduced access to vital land and natural resources.

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Helping communities push back by making better use of the law