Dated: October 2016
Land acquisitions, either driven by foreign investments or domestic investment needs have continued to polarize opinions. When this research was proposed, it was premised on arguments by scholars Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Helen Markelova, who had analysed agricultural land deals, and argued that there were potentially two schools of thought about foreign acquisitions over agricultural land. Their school of thought regards them as "beneficial investments" whereby investors are viewed as bringing needed investment, possibly improved technology or farming knowledge, thereby generating employment and increasing food production. Meinzen-Dick and Markelova further argued that because these land acquisitions, foreign and domestic, are ongoing at a very fast rate, it is necessary for host countries to focus on what they can do to seize the opportunities and mitigate the risks associated with the deals.
During implementation of the research project in Kenya, it became clear that although prior illustrations of land deals included foreign acquisitions (e.g. Dominion farms), a government economic policy focusing on mega infrastructure projects was driving (or expected to drive) a much higher pace of land acquisitions either for primary infrastructure, or for the economic activities that flowed from the primary infrastructure. This is in the context of the Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transportation Corridor (LAPSSET) project, which is a flagship means for realization of Vision 2030; Kenya's current national development plan. Thus, a national conversation is necessary to debate the crucial question of how to provide safeguards to protect the interests of local communities directly affected by these investments, including compensation of land that is taken, and their place in the socio-economic and environmental continuum of investment projects from design to implementation.