Document Type



East African Institute


Based on a case study in each country, this study documents the views of Mozambican and Tanzanian smallholders regarding Chinese agricultural investments and the extent to which investors abide by their legitimate land tenure rights as defined by the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries in the Context of National Food Security (VGGTs). The VGGTs offer guidelines to government on how to protect the land tenure of rural communities when land is being acquired for large-scale land investments. The study also assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on smallholders. Due to COVID-19, instead of fieldwork, we conducted telephone interviews with 20 smallholders in Mozambique and 35 in Tanzania. The Mozambican case showed that even when land set aside for investors was not in dispute, smallholders still had unmet expectations, especially regarding investors’ corporate social responsibility activities. In the Tanzanian case, even though the land leased by the Chinese investor had been designated as general land, it had laid fallow for a long period, and smallholders had moved back onto the land, only to be displaced in 2017. Although smallholders’ views on the investment were mixed, the case underscored the need for government to assess current land use before allocating it to investors—regardless of how the land is classified and especially in areas where land shortages are creating conflict. The cases show that even if communities are consulted about proposed land investments, guidelines need to include clauses that allow for ongoing communications between investors, communities and government officials such that if communities are unsatisfied with the results of the investment, renegotiation is possible. Further, in the event of crises, such as COVID-19, investors should partner with communities and government to limit the extent of harm in communities as a result of the crisis.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Agriculture Commons