Nyéléni Newsletter: Land grabs and land justice

Land is the basis for social life. It is a foundation not only for agricultural production, but also shapes and is shaped by societies’ political, economic, and cultural dynamics: power affects land access, and land access grants power.

Given land’s central role to human society, it is unsurprising that it has also been central to profit accumulation in the expansion of global capitalism. Long distance land grabs – the expropriation, commodification, and privatisation of distant lands – have been a central feature of world history for 500 years.

Governments have always sought to control land, but since the enclosures of peasants’ land in England and European conquests of indigenous lands starting in 1492, land grabbing has been entwined in the colonial and imperial interests of private capital alongside states. The result: continuing waves of dispossession, genocide, and enslavement of Indigenous, Black, and Brown peoples. So while recent land grabs reflect continuity, contemporary drivers and impacts must also be understood in their current context.

This issue of Nyéléni is the first part of two editions (June and September) dedicated to the theme of land. This issue examines the challenges of the current rush for land by financial and corporate actors, from the local to the global. It assesses current opportunities and maps out strategies and solutions to promote change. Land is a site of contention and injustice; it is also an area of struggle, and advancement, for food sovereignty and justice.


Illustration by Boy Dominguez, Journal of Peasant Studies issue on Green Grabbing (2012)