Blog post by Holly Jean Buck, Doctoral researcher, Cornell UniversityThe first day of the 2nd International Conference on Global Land Grabbing got off to a dynamic start with a plenary panel on big-picture questions, featuring Melissa Leach STEPS Centre, Lorenzo Cotula IIED, Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies, Eric Holt-Gimenez FoodFirst!, and Tania Li University of Toronto.The discussion was very wide-ranging, but here are 10 of the “big questions” raised by the panel – questions which pose a challenge to this conference and beyond.

1. How are deals initiated upstream? Melissa LeachAre deals dreamed up in boardrooms, investment fora, or other closed-door arenas? How can this process be opened up, for example by investigative journalism or insider observation? We need to take a hard look at both the politics of speculation in land, and the different ways in which it’s thought about ‘imagined’ – and the ways these different ‘imaginaries’ conflict with each other.

2. Who are the brokers in these deals? Melissa LeachMany land deals are brokered by knowledgable local actors and new intermediary firms. The category of “knowledgeable local actor” is on the rise in West Africa, for example.

3. When is a grab not a grab? Melissa LeachThe land grab debate has matured quickly, so it’s time for us to assess whether the term “land grabbing” is a useful analytical category.

4. Is justice compatible with land and resource deals? Melissa LeachAre there certain circumstances where land deals can work for justice?

5. What kind of reform is adequate? What is good reform? Sam MoyoThere is no socialist revolution in the resistances we’ve been seeing. The alternatives today are different than the alternatives posited a generation ago — the range is wide.

6. Are we looking at a single phenomenon or multiple processes? Lorenzo CotulaPerhaps both of these views are appropriate at different times – it can be helpful to think of “global land grabbing”, but this big picture can obscure diverse processes happening on a smaller scale.

7. Is the fault line in this debate mainly about scale, or control? Lorenzo CotulaThe scramble for land is also about a scramble for control – often, political control.

8. What is the role of research? Lorenzo CotulaHow do researchers make a difference and engage? The link between evidence and action could, in some cases, be made stronger.

9. As a result of big land grabs, is there a major reconfiguration of the markets? Sam MoyoAre we seeing a new definition of state-market relations?

10. What is behind the unprecedented “rush” for land? Tania LiThe land grab phenomenon could be spoken of as a “rush” for land, which would put it in line with other “rushes” in history: sudden, visible, over-hyped. In many cases, this is a conjuring trick, using promises, statistics and dramatic graphs to create the illusion of spectacular profits.

Related Talks : http://sydney.edu.au/podcasts/2014/professor_tania_li_what_is_land.mp3

via 10 big questions on land grabs – Future Agricultures blog.

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