The paper analyses the socio-economic implications of land grabbing among the Nuer people in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. To achieve its goals, the study is underpinned by two interrelated questions. The first question is: what are the socio-economic implications of land grabs in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia? The second question reads: what are the contestations and perceptions of the Nuer peoples in terms of gains and losses from the land grabs? The study was carried out among a Nilo-Saharan group known as the Nuer which traces its roots from Sudan within the qualitative research methodology. Findings from the study shows that land grabbing, which comes through large scale land takeovers in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, contradicts a state-remaking project under a dispossessive political economy. It was noted that the land grabs destruct the Nuer people’s identity, strip them of their dignity, disturb their ancestral philosophies, and negatively affect their livelihoods.


Nuer, Gambella, sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia, land grabbing, livelihoods, identity, dignity, ethnography, qualitative

Author Bio(s)

Mehari Fisseha is a PhD candidate in development studies at the University of Pretoria. Prior to this, he has a law degree, an MA in governance and political transformation, an MA in peacebuilding and an MComm in Government and Public Policy. He researches are development, peace, diplomacy, conflict, migration, and governance. Please direct correspondence to mehari.fisseha@outlook.com.

Godswill Makombe has more than 20 years of research on development issues in Africa, mainly from the Sub-Saharan African countries. He has worked with academics, international and national institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. He has field experience in design, implementation, and analysis of large data sets. He has quantitative analysis skills and both the training and experience of working in multidisciplinary teams. Although having a quantitative background, over time Makombe has developed an appreciation of the strength of the complementarity between quantitative and qualitative research. His research interests are in economic development in general but specifically food security, irrigation development, rice development (in Africa) in so far as these have impact rural development in Africa.

Vusilizwe Thebe is a Professor of Development Studies and Head of Department for Anthropology, Archaeology and Development Studies at the University of Pretoria. His main programme of research is focused on former migrant labour societies, with a particular focus on southern Africa's former labour reserves. He has undertaken research into the complexity of the worker-peasantry, land and agrarian question, gender dynamics and livelihoods and dynamics of change, food security, climate change, and adaptation responses and policy responses, in the southern African region.

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