Over the past decade, there has been a concerted rush to acquire new land. Dubbed a “Global Land Grab” by the popular media and political activists, public and private investors have sought to acquire large tracts of land for the purposes of increasing food and fuel production. Despite the fairly generic label of a global land grab, the geography of land acquisitions is clear: to date, two-thirds of the land acquired since 2007 is located in sub-Saharan Africa. The new dynamics of land access have inspired a significant scholarly literature that provide considerable understanding of land deals, but the focus on traditional concerns of political economy has largely allowed the role of agricultural science and scientists to remain largely invisible. In my talk, I will suggest that scientific experts and expertise have been critical in shaping the nature of land acquisition and production; calls to rapidly increase food production turn on the ability of contemporary science to render disparate environments equivalent, providing technological fixes to address low productivity and unequal resource endowments. From this perspective, land acquisitions are not resource grabs; they represent scientific and technological transfers that will reduce poverty and increase profitability. My research (still preliminary) focuses on the role of Brazilian agricultural experts and expertise in Mozambique. I analyze one of the largest trilateral agricultural development projects, called PROSAVANA, and suggest that attempt to replicate Brazil’s successes in agro-industrial development discount nationally-specific relationships between the state, land, labor and capital.
Wendy Wolford is Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University. She is also the Associate Director for Economic Development programs in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Wendy¹s research covers a wide range of topics, with emphasis on four projects: the changing nature of the state and land reform in Brazil; the moral economies of social mobilization, particularly focused on the Landless Rural Workers¹ Movement in Brazil; political ecologies of conservation and agriculture in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador; and the politics and practices of new land deals (the so-called ³global land grab²). Wendy has published widely, and is a founding member of the Land Deals Politics Initiative (LDPI).