Asser Institute




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Using technology to disrupt land-grabbing

Problem: land-grabbing is the acquisition of land by corporations or governments under conditions of uneven bargaining power, often without prior or informed consent of residents. It can leave affected communities hungry, homeless and with very little recourse. It can further lead to issues such as migration, conflict and environmental damage.

Communities are often taken by surprise when land-grabbing occurs as there is little notice that it will happen. Yet there are indicators and warning signs that it is a possibility or risk.  The indicators and warning signs are the same data points that corporations and governments use to target land for acquisition. They may include:

  • An area with questionable history of land registration (incomplete records, non-transparent records, corruption, fraud)

  • An area with an anticipated commercial or industrial centre such as a major new port being built nearby

  • A tract of land capable of raising biofuel stocks

  • Reliable sources of uncontaminated water or other natural resources under increasing pressure

While there are resources and data sets compiled to track land grabs once they have happened, there is no tool that identifies the risk/vulnerability of land being grabbed in the future.

Outcome: To build a tool which identifies common patterns and features of past land grabs, in order to identify areas which are vulnerable to future land grabs and provide them with a risk rating. This would allow communities to be aware that their land is vulnerable and allow them to prepare resistance.

Datas sets will include:

  • Past land deals and acquisitions

  • Investment contracts for land

  • Media notifications of land aquisitions

  • Land registries around the world

  • Government corruption perceptions

  • Land cover classifications

  • Elevation and population data sets

Further background reading


Other relevant links: 


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