Afrika Kolloquium mit Tijo Salverda

18.06.2019 17:00

On Zambian ground: An analysis of a European agribusiness and its critics

Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 5pm

Seminar room 3, Department of African Studies

Chair: Kirsten Rüther


Since the 2007/2008 global food crisis, the world has seen an increase in the purchase and/or grabbing of (agricultural) land, with Africa as one of the main targets. In many instances, rural populations have been displaced as a result or faced other negative consequences. Accordingly, an (inter)national movement of critics, including NGOs, local communities, journalists, social movements, activist-scholars, and, in a more ambiguous way, also multilateral institutions, have raised concerns about the negative impacts of the global land rush and related large-scale agricultural investments. Yet whether or not and why investors respond to the critics remains relatively under-investigated.

In the presentation, I will analyse the interactions between a European agribusiness operating in Zambia’s Central Province and the (international) critics. Though Zambia is often presented as having an abundance of potential agricultural land and water resources, which makes the country an attractive investment destination for agriculture, in reality infrastructural issues limit where large-scale agriculture can be developed. Moreover, even though the country may have a low population density it has a substantial rural population – more than half of the Zambian population is ‘employed’ in the agricultural sector. Thus, virtually every agricultural investment comes into contact with rural populations.

I will demonstrate that the European agribusiness’ behaviour towards the rural residents has partly been shaped in response to its (international) critics (Salverda 2018). The impact of critics, though, is ambiguous, as the negative consequences of land investments and corporate practices continue around the world. Notwithstanding, the Zambian case highlights that we may have to move beyond overly simplistic interpretations of corporate actors and investors, and realise that their interactions with critics (and other political actors) are multi-layered. 

Institut für Afrikawissenschaften