Dates: 2020 – 2021
Intralaboratory Program Leader: Éric Denis
Laboratory members involved in the program: Claire Simonneau, Myriam Ababsa
Team involved: PARIS
Extralaboratory Program leaders: Bérénice Bon (IRD, CESSMA) ; Armelle Choplin (Université de Genève) ; Philippe Lavigne Delville (IRD)
Funding: Comité technique foncier et développement (AFD & MEAE)
Transversal subjects concerned: Urban fabrics: processes, actors, practices
Description: This collective research focuses on the modalities of land use conversion in the Global South in relation to urbanization. The aim is, on the one hand, to identify and classify the conversion processes, the exits from agricultural use or the entry into the urban market on a macro scale and, on the other hand, to document the modalities of action and their effects on the basis of specific case studies.
The Future of Lands – Land Use Conversion Patterns in the South
This collective research focuses on the modalities of land use conversion in the Global South in relation to urbanization.
When, where and how are land use conversions taking place in the Global South? Who are the actors involved in these processes and what are the tentative strategies to deal with these conversions?
The aim is, on the one hand, to identify and classify the conversion processes, the exits from agricultural use or the entry into the urban market on a macro scale and, on the other hand, to document the modalities of action and their effects on the basis of specific case studies.
Overcoming the urban-rural divide
We focus on territorial dynamics, overcoming an urban-rural divide, and even freeing ourselves from the notion of a « peri-urban territory » that is difficult to identify precisely. If these conversions often show a friction between a rural and an urbanized environment with the uses associated with them respectively (agricultural activities, extractive activities, protected environments, forests, deserts versus habitat and production and service activities, land capitalization, wastelands, even nature reserves and parks…), it has become obsolete to conceive of « urbanization » only in the continuity of existing urban areas. There is no longer any question of systematic peri-urbanization, or even of converting agricultural land into built-up areas or parcels of land to be subdivided. In this sense, the challenge is no longer to contain urban pressure with limits and barriers.
Examining spatiality, temporality and actors of conversions
The dynamics observed are complex and multifaceted, and the actors involved have different legitimacies. They include customary chiefs, stakeholders of the industrial sector negotiating with local governments for land pooling in favor of special economic zones, real estate developers who obtain subdivision rights over agricultural land, and the multitude of inhabitants and migrants who occupy and subdivide land whose ownership is easily questionable. Sometimes land changes hands without real estate investment or agricultural use. The land remains fallow, while being the support for savings, with longer-term strategies of reselling the plots for commercial investments, even in agriculture. As far as agricultural practices are concerned, we can observe logics of economic diversification at fine scales. Owners and operators of agricultural land can combine different techniques and cropping calendars to adapt to resource variability, particularly strong competition over water, and to agricultural price variability, while selling certain plots and sometimes launching themselves into real estate development. Tensions, appropriations, evictions and the precariousness of the installations thus characterize these spaces in conversion where uses are hotly disputed: living, working, cultivating, exporting, producing, extracting, speculating, conserving, protecting, polluting, circulating….
Understanding the strategies for thinking about their regulation
While a great deal of research has been conducted on large-scale land grabs, the aim here is to shift the focus and change scale, highlighting friction at a finer scale between the different uses in order to identify the complexity of practices and the multiple affiliations of actors, their coalitions and their lines of disagreement. It is also a question of shifting the perspective in relation to the extensive legal research. The focus here is on practices, negotiations and power relations rather than on the rights provided by land « papers », even if the latter are involved in land conversions.
Such work finally lays the foundations for a reflection on the regulation of conversions: thinking about the increasing interweaving of agricultural and urban uses such as resource conservation, while integrating an ambition for social and spatial justice.