Trinity Africa Day Event discusses ‘G8 Land Agenda’, Food Insecurity and ‘land grabbing’ in Africa

Posted on: 26 May 2014

To mark the sixth annual Africa Day celebration, the Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI) held an event on Friday May 23rd, in Trinity College Dublin, on the sensitive issue of land ownership and use, and dispossession and the changing nature of land use on the African Continent.

With a focus in the African Union in 2014 on Agriculture, Food & Security, TIDI brought together a host of speakers who looked at crucial current issues which are affecting those living on the African Continent today.

The event, ‘Imagining Land: Significance of Land in African Economics, Politics and Culture’, was opened by President Michael D. Higgins.  

Speaking about the theme chosen by the African Union for 2014, President Higgins said: “As one explores the relations between agriculture, food and security… the question of access to land emerges as a pivotal issue, not least because of its essential relevance to the welfare, indeed often the survival, of the poorest in Africa’s rural areas.”

President Higgins continued: “The need to relocate family farming to the centre of African national agendas, including trade policies, is all the more pressing in light of what the organisers of today’s conference rightly singled out as a major source of concern – namely the phenomenon of ‘land grabbing,’ whereby large swathes of the countryside that are considered 'idle', are being sold or transferred through long-term leases to (usually foreign) investors.”

The event also featured the eminent development economist Professor Howard Stein from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan. Professor Stein discussed the complex relationship of the G8 with farmers in the African Union and with agro-industrial multinationals engaging in large scale foreign investment in agriculture in Africa.

He posed a question to the gathered audience: “Are we witnessing an effort by the wealthiest states to expand new avenues of accumulation for large-scale private agro-industrial and other businesses through what could be one of the largest dispossession of land in recent history?"

The President, Provost, Africa Ambassadors to Ireland, members of the TIDI Steering Committee and  conference speakers. Bottom Row: L to R: Professor Martina Hennessy (TIDI Chair); HE Ambassador Anas Khales (Morocco); President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins; Professor Howard Stein; Provost; Second Row: Thomas Sommerhalter; Professor Helen Sheridan; HE Ambassador Felix Yusufu Pwol (Nigeria); H.E.

‘Imagining Land: Significance of Land in African Economics, Politics and Culture’ also looked at: ‘land grabbing’ policies and conflict around land ownership/dispossession; the convergence between land development and property rights; displacement of local populations; risks to traditional lifestyles and practices of indigenous local populations; the threats of food insecurity and how some solutions such as ‘climate smart agriculture’ can offer real practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of food security. 

The speakers also examined the cultural significance of land in the African imagination and how the inheritance of historical land policies affect the identities of indigenous populations whose connection to land goes beyond the economic and political.

The programme was chaired by Professor Martina Hennessy, Chair of TIDI, Consultant Physician, School of Medicine, Trinity and also featured Gregory L. Akall, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge who presented his research on the experiences of the Turkana people in North West Kenya in relation to the changing landscapes and livelihoods in their region; Thomas Sommerhalter, Concern Worldwide, who presented on climate smart agriculture; Dr. Michelle D’Arcy, Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity; and a closing address by H.E. Anas Khales, Ambassador of Morocco to Ireland.

For further information on TIDI please visit:

About The Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI)
There is growing interest at Trinity College Dublin in research and teaching on issues related to international development. TIDI is a college-wide initiative to coordinate and promote TCD's expanded engagement with research and teaching on subjects related to international development. By helping to forge links between different teaching and research activities, it aims to ensure that the College’s overall approach to international development is distinctive, coherent and integrated.

About Professor Howard Stein
Howard Stein is a Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan and also teaches in the Department of Epidemiology.  He is a development economist educated in Canada, the US and the UK.  His most recent books are Beyond the World Bank Agenda: An Institutional Approach to Development (University of Chicago Press, 2008), Good Growth and Governance in Africa: Rethinking Development Strategies (Oxford University Press, January,2012) co-edited with Joseph Stiglitz, Akbar Noman, and Kwesi Botchway and Gendered Insecurities, Health, and Development in Africa (Routledge, 2012) co-edited with Amal Fadlalla.  He was also the principal coauthor of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Economic Report for Africa 2014, Dynamic Industrialization in Africa: Innovative Institutions, Effective Processes and Flexible Mechanism.  Since, 2008, Professor Stein has been actively engaged in a research project on property right formalisation, institutional transformation and poverty alleviation in rural Tanzania.

About Africa Day
Africa Day, which falls on May 25th annually, is the official day of the African Union and marks African unity.  In Ireland, events to mark Africa Day, celebrate African diversity and the cultural and economic potential of the continent are held around the country.  In addition, it is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the progress which is being achieved, with a lens still very much on the development challenges which remain.  For further information on Africa Day, visit:


Media Contact:

Yolanda Kennedy, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences | | +353 1 896 4168