Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 31–46 | Cite as

Customary rights and societal stakes of large-scale tobacco cultivation in Malawi

  • Alois Mandondo
  • Laura GermanEmail author


The recent surge in land-based investments in the global South has been seen as both an opportunity for rural economic development and as a trend that poses significant social and environmental risks. This study sheds light on this debate through a look at the tobacco industry in Malawi. We employ a case study approach to investigate how rights, property, and authority associated with land and forest resources have shifted in the context of expanded investments in tobacco, and the stakes for both local land users and citizens. Findings point to the need to broaden the metric of risks and trade-offs associated with large-scale land acquisitions, and to engage in a deeper reading of how these are borne out throughout history.


Tobacco Investment Customary rights Miombo woodlands Malawi 



Agricultural development and marketing cooperative


Farmers Marketing Board


Gross domestic product


Non-timber forest product


Sub-traditional authority


Traditional authority



This study was conducted through the financial support of the European Commission. The views expressed in this article can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union. The Forest Department, through the Forest Research Institute of Malawi, provided invaluable support by seconding Henry Utila and Martin Nthenda to participate in the study. We also thank district forestry officials and the communities in respective areas of Kasungu and Mchinji for their cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Geographic Information ScienceUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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