Under the CSO World Bank grant 2009 LandNet conducted an advocacy based research from 2009 to 2010 in the eight districts of Nsanje, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Salima, Dowa, Mzimba, Rumphi and Chitipa and documented at least 100 case studies of women and men being dispossessed of land due to oppressive cultural practices.

Another research was on the impact of large-scale commercial land investments on the food security of the smallholder farmer. The extent to which local communities have a voice over the manner in which community land is alienated including for various investments has been a concern over centuries. Land alienation has included ‘land purchases’ from chiefs for establishment of large-scale tea and coffee plantations in southern Malawi; to post colonial local elite commercial agriculture expansion and recent foreign large scale land investments. There has been stealth but systematic alienation of community land which has reduced smallholder agriculture amidst a burgeoning population. This has been described in different ways by various institutions depending on their perception. Others have termed it “commercial pressures on land”, ‘large-scale land acquisitions’ or ‘investment deals’. The result however is the same- loss of smallholder land to commercial agriculture. The ‘land transfer’ negotiation processes with the local community have often been viewed as unethical and unbalanced hence calling it “land grabing”. Therefore, with funding from Oxfam, a research was conducted into perceived “Landgrabs” resulting from large scale commercial land investments culminating into a Policy Brief on “Large Scale Land Acquisitions and Food Security in Malawi – Towards a Responsive Policy Frame-work”.

The University of Western Cape, with funding from the Australian Development Corporation, sub-contracted LandNet in January 2013 to contribute towards a SADC region action research under the title – Commercialisation of Land and ‘Land Grabbing‘: Implications for Land Rights and Livelihoods in Southern Africa. The research which started in September 2013 and is still continuing involves:

Conducting an “Action Research” on two research sites in Malawi (Chikhwawa and Nkhotakota) to critically assess the impacts and outcomes of land deals on land rights and livelihoods, the responses of land-rights holders, implications on social differentiation and gender equity.

Analyzing the interests that shape the governance dimensions from local to international to generate policy recommendations and engage with civil society and policy makers in Malawi to promote good land governance in relation to large-scale land acquisitions. This includes but not limited to the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Governance of Land and Natural Resources and the AU Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa.

Compiling a factsheet on land commercialization in Malawi.

The three research activities have, inevitably, caused LandNet to operate as “watch-dog” on perceived landgrabs on the poor rural smallholder farmers in Malawi. A video documentary is under production featuring perceived land-grabs.