Large Scale Land Acquisitions in Southeast Asia: Rural Transformations between Global Agendas and Peoples’ Right to Food
How can potentially negative effects on local populations of large-scale land acquisitions be mitigated and what could institutions do to protect human rights of the affected population ?


The project deals with the issue of the socio-political, economic and environmental potentials and problems characterizing transnational, large-scale land acquisitions (LSLA). Over the last years, forceful eruption of cross-border land acquisitions took place. There is, however, only limited academic knowledge of the circumstances in which these land deals take place – in terms of processes and contexts – as well as in respect to their impacts on local populations. LSLA may have significant and uneven impacts on the livelihood systems of local populations. Yet, it is acknowledged that the promises are not fulfilled and that land acquisitions are in some cases detrimental to large number of populations.

The project’s preliminary findings from field research indicate that the on-going agrarian transformation associated with rubber-tree plantation in Cambodia and Laos increases the vulnerability of the less well-off segments of the population. Based on comprehensive case studies in both countries, the project aims at producing generalised insights for evidence based decision and policy making. The research will be structured around three core questions : What are the processes among various actors and institutions across different administrative scales determining the negotiation and implementation of land acquisition ? What are the impacts of land deals on local populations in terms of livelihood system and vulnerability ? What role do existing policies, institutions and mechanisms play (and what role could they play) in mitigating the tensions related to LSLA and protecting the human rights of local popula-tions ?

Beyond its contribution to the academic debates related to “land grabbing”, the project will provide material for policy dialogue with authorities, UN agencies, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations in their effort to accompany the implementation of large-scale land deals and to mitigate their possible negative impacts.


  • Agrarian change
  • Transnational land acquisitions
  • Land tenure
  • Land governance
  • Livelihoods
  • Vulnerability
  • Resilience
  • Food security
  • Human rights
  • Right to food


  • Agriculture
  • Anthropology
  • Development
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Geography
  • Human rights
  • Law


International Organisations:

  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
  • International Land Coalition

NGOs, States or other Institutions:

  • Rubber Research Institute of Cambodia, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Water Resource and Environment Administration (WREA), Prime Minister’s Office, Government of Laos
  • National Land Management Authority, Prime Ministers Office, Government of Laos

Relevant Countries

  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Vietnam


This project, started in 2011, has been completed.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Christophe Gironde
Graduate Institute Geneva

Christophe Golay
Graduate Institute Geneva

Ioana Cismas
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Olivier De Schutter
Associated Member
UN United Nations

Cecilie Friis
Associated Member
Københavns Universitet

Andreas Heinimann
Associated Member
Universität Bern

Vong Nanhthavong
Associated Member
Universität Bern

Peter Messerli
Universität Bern

Irene Biglino
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Amaury Peeters
Principal Member

Oliver Schoenweger
Principal Member

Patricia Paramita
Associated Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Suon Seng
Associated Member
Center for Development Oriented Research in Agriculture and Livelihood Systems

Gilda Senties Portilla
Associated Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Michael Taylor
Associated Member