Tag Archives: land grabs

Poaching of South Africa’s rhinos and the displacement of people from Limpopo National Park, Mozambique

By Joseph J. Bailey (@josephjbailey), University of Nottingham, UK.

Across the globe, nature faces an enormous array of pressures from human activities (e.g. land clearance, pollution, invasive species). These effects are often a by-product of development where societies are negatively affecting a species or ecosystem because of anthropocentric goals, within which consideration of the natural world is frequently deficient. However, some species face direct threats and are being specifically targeted for a product. Ivory is one of the prime examples of such a threat. Here, I outline the illegal ivory trade1 and go on to specifically discuss rhinos following record poaching levels in 2014 in South Africa. I then briefly consider this alongside a recent article in Area on the eviction of people from Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, which borders Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Poaching of elephants and rhinos for ivory has been described as a “loss to humanity” by Prince William (details), who has done much to raise the profile of this catastrophe. It is an issue that threatens not only the animals themselves, but also many people, with profits frequently linked to terrorism, for example. Rhino and elephant populations are at the centre of an illegal trade driven by international criminal gangs to supply willing buyers who fuel the demand for ivory (e.g. to be ‘cool’, for decorative items, medicine etc). Much ivory has been seized in recent years (e.g. China, Kenya [going to Indonesia], Togo [going to Vietnam]) and famous faces (e.g. Yao Ming, a famous retired basketball player from China) continue to campaign, but the problems persist.

Specifically, South African rhinos have been featured in the popular press recently following the worst year on record for rhino poaching, “despite what the government describes as intense efforts to stop poaching” (Voice of America). Kruger National Park’s (KNP) rhino population accounted for more than two-thirds of these deaths (BBC).


Attribution: By Wegmann (own work) [ CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) ], via Wikimedia Commons. Available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhinoceros_rsa.JPG?uselang=en-gb

A recent article in Area (Lunstrum, 2015) discusses the Mozambique government’s ongoing (since 2003) voluntary2 relocation of ~7,000 people from within the Limpopo National Park (LNP), described by Lunstrum as “one of the region’s most protracted contemporary conservation-related evictions”. As Lunstrum outlines, this process of ‘land and green grabs’ is an extraordinarily complicated issue, affected by processes within and beyond LNP’s borders, not least the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas (e.g. GLTP). Other socio-economic factors and competition for space are also discussed in detail (e.g. a ‘grab’ for an ethanol/sugarcane plantation adjacent to LNP, which was originally set aside for the displaced people).

Poaching accounts for a very small, but not insignificant, part of this article3. Along with threats to cattle and human well-being from wild animals, and disease spread (e.g. bovine tuberculosis and foot and mouth disease), a justification for displacing the residents of LNP is that many of Kruger’s rhino poachers emanate from Mozambique and, specifically, villages within LNP; removing people from LNP increases the distance required to travel to get to Kruger NP’s rhinos.

The displacement of people for conservation goals, in a move away from anthropocentric policy, is obviously a contentious issue and a delicate balancing act between culture and nature is required. However, Africa’s rhino population is suffering immensely and any steps towards preventing their demise should surely be taken.


1 The illegal wildlife trade in elephant and rhino ivory and many other wildlife products is a deep and complicated issue that I cannot possible summarise in this post; an overview can be read here.

2While the park administration and its funders have promised all relocations are voluntary, many slated for relocation feel they are being forced to move especially given threats increasingly posed by wildlife. …” In Lunstrum (2015, p. 3).

3 I have related a very specific part of this long and complex article to the recent news story regarding rhino poaching and reading it in full is recommended if one wishes to understand the displacement process, and its consequences and opportunities, in full.

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books_icon Lunstrum, E. (2015). Green grabs, land grabs and the spatiality of displacement: eviction from Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park. Area, early view, doi: 10.1111/area.12121.

Foreign land investments or ‘land grabs’?

by Magali Bonne-Moreau

Thirty million hectares of farmland are lost every year as a result of environmental degradation, urbanisation, conversion to industrial use, and speculation on farmland, also known as ‘land grabbing,’ according to a recent report by Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. Expert on the Right to Food. ‘Land grabs’ describe the acquisition of large tracts of arable land in developing countries by cash-rich countries with inadequate land and water resources, such as the Gulf States, or with large populations and food security concerns, such as India or China, or for projects that seek to mitigate climate change, like the REDD scheme, as well as for biofuel production.

In the past, foreign acquisition of land in developing countries was often associated with private enterprises involved in cash-crop schemes. Following the 2007 global food price crisis, land deals have increased as a result of food security concerns; some of these are presented in an IFPRI policy brief (2009). Saudi Arabia is used as a case study by Lippman (2010) to discuss the issues around ‘investment in food supply’ by a country that is highly dependent on imported food. In contrast, a Guardian article (2010) presents the African perspective: as a result of these land investments, many farmers in countries with weak governance and a lack of formally recognised land tenure find themselves landless, further marginalised, and in a situation of food vulnerability. This is a strong paradox. In Ethiopia, more than 13 million people need food aid, but at least 3 million hectares of its most fertile land are provided to foreign investors for agriculture. In Madagascar, although the deal fell through in 2009, the South Korean company Daewoo offered to purchase nearly half of the country’s arable land to grow corn and palm oil.

The issues are complex. If done responsibly, foreign land investments could promote local employment, build agricultural capacity and increase crop yields. However, problems of dispossession, displacements, environmental degradation and local food vulnerability are widespread in many countries involved in these deals.

Read Access to Land and the Right to Food, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food presented at the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations, 21 October 2010.

Read Lippman’s article (2010): Saudi Arabia’s Quest for “Food Security”. Middle East Policy. 17(1), pp. 90-98

Read The Guardian’s article (7 March 2010): “How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab”

Look at the IFPRI table (2009): “Land Grabbing by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries: Risks and Opportunities”

For a larger overview of the topic, read Jarosz (2009) “Energy, Climate Change, Meat, and Markets: Mapping the Coordinates of the Current World Food Crisis” in Geography Compass 3(6), pp. 2065-2083