Sustainable livelihoods in the global land rush? Archetypes of livelihood vulnerability and sustainability potentials

Research paper by Christoph Oberlack, Laura Tejada; Peter Messerli; Stephan Rist; Markus Giger

Indexed on: 09 Nov '16Published on: 25 Oct '16Published in: Global Environmental Change


Publication date: November 2016 Source:Global Environmental Change, Volume 41 Author(s): Christoph Oberlack, Laura Tejada, Peter Messerli, Stephan Rist, Markus Giger Large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) have become a major concern for land use sustainability at a global scale. A considerable body of case studies has shown that the livelihood outcomes of LSLAs vary, but the understanding of factors and processes that generate these livelihood outcomes remains controversial and fragmented in terms of cases, contexts, and normative orientations. Therefore, this study presents a meta-analysis of case studies and applies the archetypes approach developed in global change research to analyse the configurations of factors and processes that generate different livelihood outcomes in LSLA situations. The analysis is based on 44 systematically selected studies covering 66 cases in 21 countries in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. The results show that LSLAs affect rural livelihoods through a small set of archetypical configurations. Adverse livelihood outcomes arise most frequently from processes of (1) enclosure of livelihood assets, (2) elite capture, (3) selective marginalisation of people already living in difficult conditions, and (4) polarisation of development discourses, and less frequently from (5) competitive exclusion, (6) agribusiness failure, and (7) transient jobs. The processes are activated in specific configurations of social-ecological factors. Moving beyond diagnosis, the paper identifies archetypical potentials for safeguarding or enhancing sustainable livelihoods in LSLA target regions at multiple levels of decision-making. Finally, we analyse how contextual factors modify these general insights. This paper helps to advance the archetypes methodology for use in global change research that aims at integral analysis of recurrent patterns expressed in local manifestations. The results can be used to better link local case studies with regional and global inventories of the global land rush.