Consulting "the local community": mediation, inequalities and exclusion in the context of large-scale land deals. A case study from Madagascar
(Institute of Development Studies,University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a case-study from Madagascar, this paper explores how large-scale land deals are enforced locally. It analyses how opportunities offered by local consultation processes are unequally neutralised by misconceptions and exclusionary mechanisms as mediated by local state agents.
Paper long abstract:
Tempting simplifications of large-scale land deals as pitting powerful investors against powerless rural populations fail to withstand close examination of the local mechanisms through which these land transfers come about. The ethnographic study of Lalifuel agribusiness project as it strives to gain land access in a pastoral area of Madagascar highlights a complex process involving a variety of state and non-state actors who present different, shifting interests and heterogeneous abilities to impose their positions on populations, decision-makers and on the economic operator. This paper focuses on the role played by local state agents in mediating the project to local populations, through discourses and actions that frequently exclude land users from decision-making. While in two of the targeted municipalities, mayors have been facilitating the manufacture of consent and the corporate appropriation of land, in a third one, the mayor has been fighting those villagers struggling to be incorporated in the project by forbidding any land transfer to the investor. Yet in these two configurations, the ability of local authorities to impose their positions on villagers has proved to vary from one village to the other. Highlighting the socio-economic unequalities that characterise the "local population" and the varying power relations that exist between non-state and state authorities, this paper argues that local populations have differentiated abilities to defend their interests in view of the risks and opportunities of the land-based investment.
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