Broken promises: a rights-based analysis of marginalised livelihoods and experiences of food insecurity in large-scale land investments in Tanzania

Atenchong Talleh Nkobou, Andrew Ainslie, Stefanie Lemke

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    1 Citation (Scopus)
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    Proponents of large-scale land investments (LSLI) still promote them as a development opportunity, which can lead, among other benefits, to job creation and enhanced food security for local communities. However, there is increasing evidence that these investments often deprive affected communities of their access to land, with multiple negative impacts on livelihoods, food security and on the environment. This paper relies on empirical data to present an analysis of LSLI and food (in)security – crucially at the level of individuals in two villages in the Ruvuma region, Tanzania, over 10 years after the acquisition of village land within the Southern African Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). We introduce an innovative framework that permits an integration of a rights-based approach with the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework to explore smallholders’ livelihoods and experiences of food insecurity. Our paper demonstrates how this integration, along with attention we have given to the FAO’s PANTHER principles, adds the missing yet crucial dimension of accountability on the part of national governments as duty bearers. Our findings show that in the case of these two villages, the human rights principles of participation, accountability, transparency and empowerment are severely undermined, with women bearing the brunt in all these domains. This overall state of affairs is, we argue, due to inadequate monitoring and evaluation of LSLI processes themselves and low levels of commitment on the part of institutions in Tanzania to monitor the promises made by investors. This in turn demonstrates an accountability deficit on the part of duty-bearers within LSLIs, and limited capacity of affected community members to claim their rights. Individual food insecurity experience in the two communities correlates, among other characteristics, with lack of land ownership, employment and income-generating activities. The rights-based livelihoods framework applied in this study points to serious deficiencies in the LSLI model as presently endorsed in SAGCOT, and emphasises the fact that access to land in Tanzania is a precondition for the realisation of the right to adequate food and thus a critical requirement for achieving and maintaining food and nutrition security. We conclude by arguing that progressive coalitions within and beyond national states must devise policies and institutions that empower individuals and civil society actors to make demands on their governments to respect, protect and fulfil their obligations regarding the legally enforceable right to food.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-205
    Number of pages21
    JournalFood Security
    Issue number1
    Early online date22 Jul 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


    Financial support from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.


    • Food insecurity access scale
    • Large-scale land investments
    • Livelihoods analysis
    • Right to food
    • SAGCOT
    • Tanzania
    • Original Paper

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Development
    • Food Science
    • Agronomy and Crop Science


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