Discussion: Investigating mid-scale, national land grabs

In many of the places where Namati and partners work on community land protection, we have noticed a phenomenon that we feel has not received enough attention from researchers, organizations, and media - especially compared the amount of attention received by Large Scale Land Acquisitions and land grabbing. We refer to the phenomenon as “mid-scale land grabs”, land grabs or coercive and exploitative land deals made by national elites (politicians, powerful families, military commanders etc.) that are too small to show up as ‘large scale’ land deals (50 ha here, 100ha there etc.), but which are very significant areas for local communities and which add up to large areas of land.

We are interested in mid-scale land grabs because:

  • We think they are the greatest, most widespread, and most common threat to community and indigenous lands.
  • They are typically not captured in research projects or data collection on land grabbing, which focus on international and transnational land deals.
  • They are more difficult to prevent and remedy because they are harder to identify proactively and the elites behind them are often very powerful and ‘outside the reach of the law’ in their country.
  • We need different strategies than those used against international and transnational land grabs because things like international consumer campaigns against corporations or laws and guidelines for international corporations are less effective against domestic elites and companies.

While local and domestic land grabbing is not new - in fact, one could say it has been an issue for as long as people have been laying claim to land and resources - we fear that it is increasing in response to the rising global demand for land and increasing awareness of the economic value of land, particularly among elites.

Namati is planning a research project to investigate mid-scale land grabs/deals. We want to document and describe this activity, assess whether it appears to be increasing or not, and suggest strategies for preventing or remedying it.

We want your input into how we design this project. Some questions that would particularly help us at this stage are:

  • Have you seen evidence of mid-scale land grabs or land deals?
  • How widespread or common is it in your country?
  • Does our idea of ‘mid-scale land grabs’ make sense to you, from your experience? How would you define a ‘mid-scale land grab’?
  • How do you learn of these types of land grabs or exploitative land deals? (e.g. from communities, in the media etc.)
  • Where do you suggest we look to collect information about mid-scale land grabs in your country?
  • Have you read any reports, articles, or other research into mid-scale land grabs and/or how to prevent or remedy them?
  • Have you heard of or tried any strategies to prevent or remedy these types of land grabs in your country?

Hello all! My name is Elizabeth and I will be working on this exciting and important project with Namati over the summer.

In the coming weeks, we are hoping to connect with front-line advocates working to protect community lands and natural resources from elite/investor appropriation. Please get in touch if you are willing to speak with Namati about one or more instances of mid-scale elite land grabbing that you have been closely involved with or know about in depth.

All interviews will be entirely confidential; due to the sensitive nature of elite land grabbing, we will strip the interviews of any personal data that might indicate where our information came from.

If you do not have time or are not comfortable speaking confidentially with us, please also let me know of others we could call and speak with, or any newspaper articles that discuss mid-scale land grabs.

You can either message me through this Community Discussion site or send an email to: [email protected]

Thank you in advance for any support you might offer!


Hello, Marena Brinkhurst, I have not been on the platform for sometime because i was handling some research which upon completion will be shared to the interested members on this Platform.

“MID-SCALE LAND GRABS” are widely spread here in Uganda evidently because there are over 30% mid-income land grabbers here who can afford grabbing Low-income land owners’ Land through paying lower than the going Open Market Value. This Mid-scale type of system does not raise flags here because land advocates here are too busy focused on the ‘‘High-Scale land grabbers’’ such as investors and high income nationals not mentioning the high back log of Land cases down here and a corrupt legal system. Worth mentioning also, these Mid-scale Land grabbers are usually Land Brokers here in Uganda.

Am so overwhelmed with the way you came up with such an idea, hope am not so late for the design. I came to learn of this particular type of land grabbing through my Valuation Works where dispossessed parties could engage my services to make a private Valuation Assessment of their properties to ascertain the Open Market Value with an aim of comparing with the previous valuation assessment which is always less than half the accurate opinion of value. In a nut shell, my accurate reports never stand a chance to even see the court room or the concerned community Land protection personnel.

To get a proper design, we could look through third parties such as Land brokers. The problem with researchers is that they think Land Brokers are merely concerned with Land deals which is not always the case. Here brokers go as deep as ascertaining the financial status of all their neighbors as well as the community at large, who in this case are “Land Owners”. They bring shoddy deals which at such a moment, they seem legit to the “would be” affected person. The result is forced vacation of the premises even without full payment.

This can also be brought about by ignorance on land contracts and failure to interprets the terms and conditions in the availed contracts.

I have worked on more than 5 Resettlement Action Plans (RAPs) all over East Africa, all of which don’t reflect the actual meaning of resettlement, so trust me when I say WE STILL HAVE A WAR TO FIGHT.

I wish there is still a chance for me to be part of this design.


@Nkanfiegue answered @marenabrinkhurst’s questions from back in 2015 recently, in a new topic Togo-land grabbing. It’s quite a detailed and interesting description of land grabbing in his country Togo and how his organization proposes to confront it. It makes great reading!

Marena and Elizabeth are no longer working for Namati, but perhaps the @namati_clp could give Kanfigue and the rest of us an update on the research project they were planning back then, and we can wrap up this topic about it? Or @marenabrinkhurst and @ElizabethDonger would be willing to make a guest appearance to let us know? :sunny:

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hello my colleague the issue investigating mid- scale national land grabs is common problem and most cases filed in court. since somalia central governments collapse land become most disputed re-sourse some time my result death-

in Somalia their types of land grabs

  1. put in your bag means persom come plot of land that not exist any build and he build it so later claim this is my property
  2. making illegal documents for local authority paying some money in Somalia land owned by Governments and they give person with contion to build within 6 monthts

so i suggest to Namati add that investigation


Abdijalil said

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Hi All,

This is a very interesting discussion. At Namati we support communities to proactively deal with threats over their lands, including those such as land grabs which are very rampant.

We have categorized land loss under three categories; land loss to 1) multinationals through large-scale land concessions for investment; 2) government or national elites appropriating land and 3) “Stronger” community or family members disenfranchising “weaker” ones.

For communities to proactively deal with threats from land grabbing, we work with communities to use national land laws to protect their customary and indigenous lands. Our integrated approach combines the legal and technical work of mapping and documentation with the local governance work of resolving land conflicts, ensuring intra-community equity, and strengthening mechanisms for accountable and participatory management of land and natural resources.

You can check out our global community land protection guide. There are two sections that are relevant to land grabs. Page 93: Strengthening community governance of land and natural resources; this section guides communities to draft bylaws that will prepare them to relate with outsiders. The other relevant section is on page 141: Harmonizing boundaries and documenting community lands. This section supports communities to agree on and document their land claim. Communities that haven’t agreed and harmonized their land claim are susceptible to land grabs.

I’m also excited to share that just this month, Namati and CCSI have published two practical, easy-to-read guides written to support communities to prepare for and then negotiate with potential investors seeking community lands and natural resources. Click here to download Guide 1 , and here to download Guide 2 . These are very useful tools for practitioners who work with communities.


David Arach


i have evidence of land grabs in muranga kigumo sub-county kenya this time i want evidence of daudi karanja indigenous land restoration

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Dear all The mid scale naional land grab in Uganda is sometimes aided by the government offices or officials. Currently in Uganda in the district of Kikube, Kyangwali sub-county, 28 villages is under threat of eviction by the government so as to settle refugees on the land and about 11,000 people will be affected. The evictions are being done without any compensation as the government alleges ownership of the land that community have settled on since 1960s.

Last week while in the community paying solidarity visit and sensitizing the community, i received massive police deployment as the police where alleging that my intention is to incite the community to burn down UNHCR office at the camps, which is a falls allegation. The community are leaving in fear and need more support to build a strong movement to over come their struggle. Any adviced on how to handle this battle is appreciated. Thanks

Hi,marena. I read your article above.I feel this is world wide phenomena .the reason particularly its hard in Kenya to wip away this kind of practise is because the elites are the ones included in the centre of powers while largest populations in our communities remain in darkness. I hope I will be able to learn much more Lokai Charles Turkana,kenya

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hanks for your response toward justice delivery regarding Daudi Karanja land in Mairi village which helped to protect and recover the land from grabbers. Murang’a County Commissioner visited Daudi Karanja land on 16th January 2019 accompanied by Murang’a land registrar and his officials whereby all the churches which had constructed church halls and other people who had built shops and residential houses and those who had planted tea on that land were warned all the stakeholders and ordered them to vacate the land and abolish their buildings and remove their properties from the land immediately. Despite the warning by the county Commissioner of Murang’a, Kenya Power and Lightening is still going on to install electricity to those people already given notice to vacate. My question is, is Kenya Power and Lightening allowed by the law to continue installing electricity in Daudi Karanja land? Will it be possible to order KPLC ([email protected], hot line number 95551 or 0703070707or 0732170170) to stop installing power on Daudi Karanja land and remove all the installation on that land immediately because I will never require hydro power on that land including all the water piping and meters must be removed from that land. Ministry of environment, water and natural resources; email: [email protected], tel 020-2716103, fax (020)2727622.

Dear @mikanga,

There is this very passionate Lawyer called Mr. Otieno Aluoka. He has worked with several communities in Kenya. He is an activist and works to support vulnerable communities. I urge you to contact him, explain the case about Daudi Karanja land in Mairi village, and ask him for advice. I will send you his contact.



South Africa is presenting us a challenging scenario and we need to lend a helping hand. I have started with an article but I guess we can advance this conversation and even think of broaden it beyond an article. Actions are needed. What can we do?


Thanks for sharing. Such an interesting article.


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Dear All,

We are happy to report that the Community-Investor Negotiation Guide 1: Preparing in Advance for Potential Investors is now available in Swahili. Information on both guides can be accessed on our website page and the Swahili version can directly be downloaded here..

In solidarity, Solina and the CCSI team

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I have been a victim of such midscale land grabs. A whole village where I had bought a plot of land was ceased by a soldier by forgery and High Court. His evictions have since been stopped by the Resident District Commissioner (Presidential representative in the District). I have sued and I am in court with 3 parties… Long story