Governance of Tenure
Chinese investments in agricultural land in Africa

Phase II of the project “Supporting the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests”

A study by the FAO, with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), found that Chinese enterprises working in Africa are making concerted efforts to engage in responsible agriculture.  These follow official guidelines issued by the Chinese Central and Provincial Governments, many of which contain provisions that are aligned with international voluntary standards, including the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). Tenure is, incidentally, a major concern. This research also found that a roadblock for responsible investment is, on the one hand, how legitimate tenure rights are being understood by investors, and on the other hand a lack of data on legitimate tenure rights in host countries. This deficiency compromises the possibility of sustainable economic growth in host countries, for it affects the amount, manner and quality of foreign direct investment flowing into African agriculture.

This project is a second phase of this research, and concentrates on Chinese enterprises investing in Tanzania and Mozambique. Its key objectives are first, to deepen our understanding of the manner in which land tenure rights are legitimized by the various stakeholders and, second, to provide guidance for the Chinese government and investors on how to strengthen their work on land tenure. The conceptual framework that guides this work is defined by provisions of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT).

The project is coordinated by FAO’s Land Tenure Unit, with support from the Trade and Markets Division, and works in close collaboration with African governments and local communities, as well as Chinese authorities, commercial enterprise and research institutions (e.g., the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the University of International Business and Economics). The project is fully aligned with the spirit and objectives of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, which formulates strategic guidelines, plans and policies for foreign aid, coordinates and offers advice on major foreign aid issues. It is also aligned with the objectives of South-South Cooperation, with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. The project will contribute to China’s collaborative efforts to improve its agricultural foreign cooperation policies and regulations, including the provision of a package of services for Chinese agricultural enterprises to go global, the provision of overseas information services, and development-related capacity development work.[1]

Conceptually, this project generates inputs for examining roles and responsibilities related to land tenure, both of which are essential for conducting due diligence and risk assessment processes of extraterritorial agricultural investments. The project is thus implemented through a twin-track approach. A first track consists of research that identifies and explores conceptual, institutional and legal aspects and instruments that define legitimate tenure rights, both by Chinese enterprises and by stakeholders in Tanzania and Mozambique. A second track explores and assesses the problems that stem from a lack of clarity on land tenure, and the manner in which these are being addressed and, eventually, resolved. This second track is also expected to generate real-life examples, which could be used as a reference by FAO in capacity development exercises on land tenure for, though not restricted to, Chinese enterprises.

For more information contact:

[email protected]

FAO - Land Tenure Unit