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Land (Grab) Issues in Romania

To what extent do Romanian small-scale farmers face the chellenge of land grabbing and how can they be protected against it?

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Land (Grab) Issues in Romania

To what extent do Romanian small-scale farmers face the chellenge of land grabbing and how can they be protected against it?

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Samenvatting

Europe in general and Romania specifically has been increasingly a target of foreign and
domestic investors. Due to its cheap land prices and agricultural policies supporting largescale
agricultural investments Romania has become a country with high risks concerning
land grabbing. However, the academic debate on land grabbing is still focusing on non-
European countries and misses out to include the issues European farmers are facing.
Therefore, this research explores to what extent Romanian small-scale farmers face the
challenge of land grabbing and to promote suitable methods to protect smallholders
against it.
In order to assess the presence of land grabbing in Romania statistics on the agricultural
sector in general and reports on large-scale land acquisitions particularly have been
researched and evaluated in the context of quantitative as well as qualitative
understandings of land grabbing. Besides, desk research with regards to academic
literature on land grab issues and its consequences has been employed and additionally
interviews with scholars and activists have been conducted. The views and thoughts
obtained through the interviews complement the shortage of academic sources on land
grabbing in the Romanian context.
Romania has a unique agricultural structure, polarised by the two extremes of
smallholdings, building up three-quarter of all farms, and industrial agriculture,
accumulating half of the arable land. The latter is heavily supported by the Romanian as
well as European policies on agriculture and is continuously expanding. However, the
transformation of a small-scale farming system into an industrial agriculture is problematic
and often involves a shift of control, away from the rural communities to large-scale
investors. The capturing of control over land, the associated resources and the respective
decision-making processes by investors is the qualitative understanding of land grabbing.
With regards to the quantity, large-scale land deals by foreign investors of about 50.000
ha have been reported in databases by non-governmental organisations like GRAIN and
Land Matrix. The government declared in 2011 that transnational investors had obtained
700.000 ha and three years later newspaper announced that the share of land owned by
foreigners has risen to 3 million ha. The quantitative approach characterises land
grabbing as land deals exceeding 100 ha land, as it is disproportionate to the average
farm size in Romania. If this measurement is employed, even 49% of the agricultural land
could be involved in land grabbing. These figures are a clear indicator for the presence of
land grabbing in Romania and give an idea of the significant extent of grabbed land.
The obstacles land grabbing imposes on small-scale farmers reach from economic and
social insecurity and destabilisation due to less employment opportunities to
environmental degradation as a result of fertilizers and polluting technologies. The
negative impacts are covered by the short-term economic benefits that investors offer to
small-scale farmers. Thus, a variety of reactions can be observed, reaching from rejection
to enthusiasm. Consequently, demands for policies cannot be formulated based on
generalised assumptions on smallholders opposing large-scale land transactions. Their
role as stakeholders should be taken seriously and instead of deciding for them it should
be the goal to (re-)empower small-scale farmers in the decision-making process of land
use planning. As a method participatory land use planning (PLUP) is highly suitable since
its purpose is to (re-)establish land sovereignty at the local level and to institutionalise
participation of all stakeholders in the decision-making process. Suitable techniques
within PLUP are zoning and landscape simulations as they introduce decision-making
power and are appropriate for the democratic and legal frame in Romania. Other reactive
methods like regulatory frameworks and alternative investment opportunities are valuable
tools and enrich the discussion on counteracting land grabbing; however, they should not
be leading the Romanian debate since the government does not held businesses
accountable concerning good governance nor does it open-up for alternative investment
structures.
Hence, participatory land use planning should be promoted in the academic debate on
reactions to land grabbing in the Romanian context. It is therefore useful to develop PLUP
tools for the specific situation of Romanian rural communities and to promote its
facilitation in the Romanian civil society. In order to evolve a sound basis on which tools
can be evolved the empirical research on Romanian land issues needs to be further
advanced and the issue of land grabbing acknowledged.
To conclude, increasing large-scale land acquistions involving the power loss of smallscale
farmers in the decision-making processes of land use are a serious issue in
Romania. It demands for a reboot of the academic debate on land grabbing including a
European perspective and a focus on how to re-assure the sovereign decision-making
power of small-scale farmers over their land.

Toon meer
OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
AfdelingESC Europese Studies / European Studies
Jaar2014
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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