The convergence of diverse global factors – food price volatility, the increased demand for biofuels and feeds, climate change and the financialisation of commodity markets – has resulted in renewed interest in land resources, leading to a rapid expansion in the scope and scale of (trans)national acquisition of arable land across many developing countries. Much of this land is on peripheral indigenous peoples’ territories and considered a common property resource. Those most threatened are poor rural people with customary tenure systems – including indigenous ethnic minority groups, pastoralists and peasants – who need land most. In Ethiopia large areas have been leased to foreign and domestic capital for large-scale production of food and agrofuels, mainly in lowland regions where the state has historically had limited control. Much of the land offered is classified by the state and other elites as ‘unused’ or ‘underutilised’, overlooking the spatially extensive use of land in shifting cultivation and pastoralism. This threatens the land rights and livelihoods of ethnic minority indigenous communities in these lowlands. This article argues that recent large-scale land acquisitions are part of state strategy for enforcing political authority over territory and people. It examines the implications of such strategy for indigenous ethnic minority groups, focusing particularly on the Benishangul-Gumuz region.

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Keywords displacement, Ethiopia, indigenous ethnic minority groups, land-based social relations, Large-scale land acquisition, livelihoods, state authority
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Journal Third World Quarterly: journal of emerging areas
Moreda, T. (2017). Large-scale land acquisitions, state authority and indigenous local communities: insights from Ethiopia. Third World Quarterly: journal of emerging areas, 38(3), 698–716. doi:10.1080/01436597.2016.1191941