A blue revolution for Zambia?

Large-scale irrigation projects and land and water ‘grabs’

Authored by: Jessica M. Chu

Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781857436693
eBook ISBN: 9780203110942
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter seeks to situate Zambia in the wider discussions of relationships between water and land ‘grabbing’ and impacts on local communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Zambia has been a site of a growing number of large-scale land acquisitions, particularly for agricultural ventures. Such land acquisitions have fashionably been termed ‘land grabs’; however, the term has been shown to be problematic in the way that it can obscure the various mechanisms of land acquisition (Hall 2011). The term also hides the role played by water in such agricultural development schemes. In Zambia, it becomes evident that the motivations for ‘land grabs’, or large-scale land acquisitions for agriculture in general, have equally to do with the ways in which agricultural development has been conceptualised, as with other events such as the 2008 world food price crisis, the rise in biofuel production, and oil price increases (Cotula et al. 2009; Anseeuw et al 2011). The World Bank and IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute), among many other institutions, have referred to Zambia as having great potential for yield increase through increases in irrigation-based agriculture (Liang 2008). The influence and agendas of international donors and organisations have ensured that Zambian policies to encourage investment in agriculture have focused on investment in infrastructure and irrigation. The call for sub-Saharan African countries to harness their untapped water potential was not necessarily intended to result in increasingly large-scale investment, but this has very much been the case for Zambia.

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