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New Concepts of Landgrabbing in the Developed World

Cases from East Germany and Poland

Researcher: Ramona Bunkus

Keywords: Landgrabbing, East Germany, Poland

Since the natural resource land became a promising investment opportunity, cases of large-scale land acquisitions increased. Especially in Asia and Africa so-called “underused” land was sold or long-term leased by the state to foreign or non-agricultural investors. This could imply disadvantages for previous users or owners, if their land rights were not formalised and they were not sufficiently compensated by the state. If large-scale land deals are to the detriment of society and environment, they are called landgrabbing.

Large-scale land acquisitions take place in Europe as well. But due to different institutional settings, like formalised land rights, they cannot be directly compared to the situation in the Global South. Large-scale land acquisitions take place especially in the former transition countries of the east. To find out if these are cases of “landgrabbing”, negative side-effects, particularly for the rural society have to be researched and defined.

Aim of this project is to define new criteria for landgrabbing which fits into rural agricultural reality in Europe. There is already a trend of land concentration, and rapidly rising land prices. To afford buying land becomes more difficult, especially for young farmers and those, who want to increase their production.

The landowner often cultivates not his or her own land, as it might be leased to a tenant who might , in turn, interchange it with another farmer. Thus, there is a threefold structure of owner, tenant and the current land manager. Against this background, how do new ownership relations, induced by large-scale land acquisitions, alter agriculture and which effect does this have on the life in rural areas?

This research project includes case studies in Eastern Germany and Poland. The comparative approach wants to highlight the difference of the role of land in creating and maintaining identity.