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School of Geography

Samadhi Lipari Samadhi Lipari

Contact details

Room Manton 10.17
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Project title

From land grabbing to green grabbing: land green artificialisation and new accumulation cycles in Europe

Research rational and background

The research will contribute to the debate on land grabbing and green capitalism. It aims to widen the knowledge on the geographical, economic and social contexts wherein land grabbing unfolds and explain how land commodification reconfigures power relations and triggers new cycles of capital accumulation, by seizing control over land, whether through dispossession or different forms of incorporation into accumulation dynamics. More specifically, the research addresses the lack of understanding around green grabbing and the inherent process of land artificialisation. The term green grabbing points to strategies that justify land control seizing through environmental conservation and climate change mitigation purposes –defined in literature as green credentials, and rest on a combination of sovereign policies, business models and sociocultural hegemonies to legitimise capitalist colonisation of the lifeword. When land is grabbed for renewable energy production, a process of green artificialisation is triggered. This concept is here newly introduced and identifies a socio-economic process entailing the use of technology to transform land cover in a renewable energy fund. It presupposes a shift of previous agricultural or forest land functions towards energy production; it enables profit making schemes building either on energy selling, financialisation or speculation on public incentives.

Green grabbing is a phenomenon subsequent to the reorganisation of capitalism conventionally known as green economy or green capitalism. This results from a major reorganisation of capitalism around the profit opportunity opened by framing of ecosystem functions -and relevant multi scale policies aiming at mitigating their degradation- within cost functions and business models. In this context, the production of energy from sources that “after exploitation, can return to their previous stock levels by natural processes of growth or replenishment”, has become a vital and thriving industry. Green energy projects that entail the acquisition of use rights over land through overt or subtle violence fall under the category of green grabbing. Land is it is quantified and translated into neoclassical cost functions as formalised –among other- by the ecosystem services theory. Such a commodification process turns land into an equivalent good or service that -like any other- can be traded basing on its exchange value. Since land is rarely conceptualised per se and mainly studied as a product of the power relations converging on it particularly important is observing the land use, which defines the modalities and purposes of land employment. Green grabs for energy production often imply a profound land use change through the application of productive techniques and technologies that may alter biological cycles or diminish biodiversity. For instance, the plantation of extensive biofuel monocultures or the development of wind power infrastructure may permanently transform agricultural or forestall land through a process of artificialisation. This concept, first used in Ecology, points to the alteration of natural cycles provoked by human activities. A specific form of artificialisation is green artificialisation.

Goal and aims of the research

The overarching goal of this project is to further our understanding of green grabbing  for renewable energy production by investigating its underlying power relations, the interest conflicts it triggers and the associated narratives, as it unfolds in the context of the European capitalism. As a major outcome, it will advance the debate on the viability of green capitalism as a stable accumulation regime, clarifying how it opens new accumulation cycles while meeting the overarching and long-term goal of protecting the system from social turbulences caused by environmental degradation. As secondary outcome, it will make intelligible the underway transformation process –including peoples’ reactions to it- of rural socio-economic organisation and cultures that is attached to land re-signification as an energy fund to monetize and epitomized by the term land green artificialisation.

The research’s heuristic process will develop through a mixed methodology based on a general context analysis and case studies of renewable energy projects in order to accomplish the following aims:

  • To explore policy drivers of green grabbing in the European context. The focus will be on the shift towards renewable energy sources will be –as enforced by EU neoliberal governance through national institutions in the form of regulatory frameworks and incentive schemes, in order to clarify how it has enabled accumulation through either land commodification and accumulation and population incorporation and/or expulsion. Specific attention will be paid to the multiscalarity of regulation processes, in order to describe how goals set by EU directives –and underpinned by market environmentalism narratives- translate into national and sub-national policies setting market mechanisms and public spending programs for renewable energy promotion.
  • To investigate economic drivers, business models and their spatial dynamics underpinning green grabbing in the European context. This exercise will address investment geo-economical organisation and the scale of supply chains wherein investments are framed, in order to understand how economic actors’ strategies affect green grabbing mode of regulation.
  • To explain through which mechanisms land, local populations and previous users are enlisted in green grabbing accumulation dynamics. Land and green grabbing imply a forceful imposition of new economic and social relations boosting investors’ profit making on previous land users and owners. Through the analysis of the general EU context and the study of specific cases, this research will seek to identify the dynamics whereby the act of grabbing is accomplished. It will build on the categories that mostly recur in the existing literature (see Transfer Report §3): (i) legally organised force, (ii) adverse market relations boosted by regulatory frameworks and resulting either in incorporation or expulsion, (iii) physical violence or threatening, (iv) a combination of those.
  • To interpret how transformative processes associated with land green artificialisation impacting on rural socio-economic organisation intertwine with green capitalism in action. The signification of land within society is determined by the role it plays in material and therefore in social relation structuring. Whereas green grabbing affects deeply land functions and perceptions insofar as it subdues them to capitalist organisation, understanding how it reshapes rural socio-economic fabrics and interplays with people’s reactions contributes to understand the long term viability of new accumulation cycles triggered by the shift towards green energy. Reactions from local populations will also be considered as an effect of the transformative processes prompted by green grabbing


Research Affiliations


University Research Scholarship

Conferences/training courses attended

  • Quantitative and special methods
  • Qualitative and special methods
  • Action research in Urban context

Short Curriculum Vitae

Link to CV (PDF)


Research publications

  1. Performances IPAF small projects; February 2015 – IFAD
  2. IPAF small projects Desk review; November 2011 – IFAD
  3. Partnership in progress: 2010-2011. Report to the global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum in conjunction with the Governing Council of IFAD 15-16, February 2010 - IFAD.
  4. Partnership in progress: 2008-2009. Report to the global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum in conjunction with the Thirty-third Session of the Governing Council of IFAD 15-16, February 2010 - IFAD