1st Edition

Land Grabbing and Migration in a Changing Climate Comparative Perspectives from Senegal and Cambodia

By Sara Vigil Copyright 2022
    222 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    222 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the links between environmental change, land grabbing, and migration, drawing on research conducted in Senegal and Cambodia.

    While the impacts of environmental change on migration and of environmental discourses on land grabs have received increased attention, the role of both environmental and migration narratives in shaping migration by modifying access to natural resources has remained under-explored. Using a variegated geopolitical ecology framework and a comparative global ethnographic approach, this book analyses the power of mainstream adaptation and security frameworks and how they impact the lives of marginalised and vulnerable communities in Senegal and Cambodia. Findings across the cases show how environmental and migration narratives, linked to adaptation and security discourses, have been deployed advertently or inadvertently to justify land capture, leading to interventions that often increase, rather than alleviate, the very pressures that they intend to address. The interrelations between these issues are inherent to the tensions that exist, in different contexts and at different times, between capital accumulation and political legitimation. The findings of the book point to the urgency for researchers and policymakers to address the structural causes, and not the symptoms, of both environmental destruction and forced migration. It shows how acting upon environmental change, land grabs, and migration in isolated or binary manners can increase, rather than alleviate, pressures on those most socio-environmentally vulnerable.

    This book will be of interest to students, scholars, and practitioners working on the topics of land and resource grabbing and environmental change and migration. The book will also be of interest to those analysing political ecology transitions in Africa and Asia, as well as to those interested in novel theoretical and methodological frameworks.


    1. Exploring variegated geopolitical ecologies

    2. From colonialism to neoliberalism

    3. Green and migration grabs

    4. Expulsions and destruction

    5. Self- fulfilling risks



    Sara Vigil is a Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Asia Centre in Bangkok. Her research explores the interconnections between climate politics, migration, land grabs, and social inequality. She has consulted on climate change and migration for several international organisations including the International Organization for Migration, the World Bank, the Nansen Initiative, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. She holds a joint PhD degree in Social and Political Sciences and Development Studies from the University of Liege, Belgium, and from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

    "Land Grabbing and Migration in a Changing Climate is an original and brilliant book that helps us understand the logic and dynamics of the global land rush, politics of climate change, and processes and implications of global migration – separately and together. It will change the way we study each of these three themes, and will pave the way for a new genre of research in social sciences that takes the three themes as inseparable in contemporary global conjuncture."
    Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Professor, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Netherlands.

    "The issue of land grabbing does not get the attention it deserves. With this book, Sara Vigil redresses this wrong and shows how land grabs can happen in the name of adaptation to climate change. The book is truly an eye-opener on the plight of those dispossessed of their land."
    François Gemenne, FNRS. Director of The Hugo Observatory. University of Liège, Belgium.

    "Vigil reveals how environmental and migration discourses shape land investments that, in turn, shape policy, practice and outcomes. Her multi-scale recursive methods – tracing effects of discourse on practice and back – uncover relations that are hidden when analyzed in isolation – as is usual. Implications for methods, policy and practice go well beyond her brilliant cases. Vigil pushes the frontiers of political ecology, sociology and anthropology. A stunningly insightful book."
    Jesse Ribot, Professor, American University School of International Service, United States.

    "Sara Vigil’s work is a fresh and much-needed take on the reality-producing effects of contemporary narratives on climate change, land grabs and migration. It does not hesitate to embrace their multi-scalar and complex connections, thus dismantling their thematic and methodological siloes. Political ecology benefits compellingly from audacious studies like Vigil’s that contribute to politicized and relational ontologies of people, resources, and environment."
    Bernadette P. Resurrección, Associate Professor and Queen’s National Scholar, Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada.

    "With a spotlight on how the climate crisis will change our right and connection to place and the momentum for climate adaptation growing globally, this book is essential reading for understanding how poorly conceived adaptation and security measures can actually justify land grabbing and create ‘self-fulfilling risks’ such as forced migration. Sara Vigil compellingly shows the fine line between adaptation and maladaptation."
    Åsa Persson, Research Director and Deputy Director, SEI & Adjunct Lecturer, Linköping University, Sweden.

    "Protecting natural resources and securing access and control over land for those most vulnerable are key to surviving the climate crisis. Lacking this, Sara Vigil’s book explores cases from two continents, highlighting the reality that migration can be seen either as positive - adaptation, or negative - as a security threat. These narratives, how we understand or accept them, defines future land use, land grabbing and migrant’s acceptance. Compelling, disturbing and informative."
    Niall O’Connor, SEI Asia Director, Thailand.

    "Land grabs amplify the vulnerability of the rural poor in low-income countries, and are a growing source of involuntary migration and displacement. In this highly readable book, Vigil provides a richly detailed account of how, and why all of us should care."
    Robert McLeman, Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

    "Sara Vigil is undoubtedly the authority on this subject. In this book, she shows the complexity of migration as it relates to land grabbing, surplus labour and debt as disciplining regimes in the context of climate change. These can all lead to social tipping points which propel the exodus of those most vulnerable. It is a good read which I highly recommend."
    Hon. President Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of the Republic of the Maldives, MP Speaker of the People’s Majlis. Ambassador of Ambition for the Climate Vulnerable Forum.