Since Paul Collier began to work on the economic correlates of conflict a lot of attention has been focused on extractive industries.  A fair amount of attention has been focused on mining and its relationship to violent conflict.  Conflict diamonds, conflict focusing on the mining and trade in minerals such as tantalum in the DRC, and the impact of large mining projects such as the Panguna mine in Bougainville.  I think there’s a good case to be made that mining done irresponsibly or badly may end up generating some pretty negative outcomes.

What does not get as much attention, however, is the broader question of conflict and working lands.  What are working lands?  Quite simply land which is used to generate a livelihood is working land.  Farms, orchards, pasture, and yes mines, these are all working lands.  Working lands conflict includes any social or violent conflict that involves working lands.  Conflicts can focus on land tenure, land use, and environmental concerns to name the core issues.  Increasingly, working lands conflict is becoming an area of concern.

Economic growth fuels working lands conflicts.  As investors, from near and afar, seek to utilize the earth’s resources they come into conflict with the local populations.  Those who wish to change the way land is used find themselves clashing with local people.  Extensive oil palm plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Columbia displace local populations, change (often for the negative) food production, and create disputes over land title.  In fact, it’s important to keep in mind that agriculture has a more extensive impact on land that mining and manufacturing.

In my previous post I quoted Paul Gilding, “the earth is full”.  A full earth will generate conflict as people vie to use resources.   It will become increasingly clear that we need peace workers to help pave the way forward, preventing the outbreak of violent conflict, and effectively managing and transforming conflict into the future.  The focus has to be broader than extractive industries.

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Tags: conflict, lands, peace, worker, working


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Comment by Alan Tidwell on June 23, 2011 at 3:05pm

Hi Bishnu,


Thanks for your comment.  I would love to see your book!

Comment by Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti on June 23, 2011 at 12:01am

Dear Alan,

Greetings from Kathmandu,


Thank you very much for posting this important issue. We, in Nepal, are engaged in land research specifically looking to the relationship between land and conflict (peace). When we started understanding the relationship we became more worried about achieving the peace without addressing land conflict (very much skewed distribution, power attached with land, potential for politicization and vote bank). If any of the network members are interested in Nepal's land politics and conflict we are happy to send you the book "Land Politics and Conflict in Nepal" to you in PDF.


Best regards



Comment by Arthur Powers on June 22, 2011 at 7:23pm
My wife and I spent seven years in the eastern Amazon region of Brazil, working with subsistence farmers suffering under "grilagem" (force, fraud, etc.) to sell their land.  Resolution of these conflicts are vital to prevent widespread injustice, forced rural exodus, and displacement of food production.  I am interested in corresponding with others who have shared in this type of experience. 
Comment by Alan Tidwell on June 22, 2011 at 1:45pm



Check out my blog on  You'll find my entry entitled "Want to Find a Growth Industry?".  Paul Gidings book is very important, and hopeful too!  Yes, I've read Diamond's work.  


All the Best,



Comment by Yves M. Musoni on June 22, 2011 at 12:40pm

Dear Alan,

Your post, -Working Lands Conflicts, is VERY IMPORTANT, TRUE, and INSPIRING! In 2003, I conducted a research on The problems of hostile community relations between the Banyarwanda and other ethnic groups in the North Kivu province of the Congo. I TOTALLY agree with you on the relationship between full earth and conflict. Could you send me your previous post? I need to understand Paul Gilding's view of earth. Have you already read Jared Diamond who wrote, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed(2005)? I love his chapter 10: Malthus in Africa: Rwanda's Genocide. To me,-from ''a bird's eye perspective'', I see Malthus almost everywhere. Yes, ''the earth is full'', but many people do not take the issue seriously.



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