Drivers and impacts of farmland investment in Sudan
: Water and the range of choice in Jordan and Qatar

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The spiking food prices in! 2007/08 and 2010/11 and the absence of local food
water prompted Jordanian and Qatari decision-makers to look for ways to achieve food security. They needed alternatives to domestic food production and food commodity imports via the global trading systems. A new policy-choice was to invest in water and!land in Sudan. These so-called “land!grabs” have been widely criticised because of their potential impacts on livelihoods and on ecosystem services in the target countries. By deploying an analytical framework from a pragmatic philosophical perspective, referred to here as -a range of policy-choices to achieve food and water security-this study makes an original contribution by analyzing how the goal of “importing” virtual water is a distinct choice for both Jordan and Qatar.
The study is also original in examining the politics of policy-making in Jordan and Qatar. The respective politics are shown to determine whether or not a policy-choice is adopted -in this case foreign direct investment in water and land overseas. In addition, questions on the influence of the corporate global “food regime” and global food supply value chains will be answered. These answers will further illustrate how politicised the range of choice is in Jordan and Qatar.
The thesis is the outcome of extensive qualitative research in East Africa and the
Middle East between August 2010 to November 2012. In total 40 key-informants
were interviewed to provide an understanding of water resources and policy-
choice in Jordan and Qatar. The principal findings are that the range of choice of
decision-makers in Jordan and Qatar is determined first, by strategic international food geopolitics, and second, domestic neo-patrimonial power games over water and rents and anticipated rents. Severe environmental and social constraints in Sudan are shown to make farmland investment a costly strategy to achieve food and water security. The study contributes new knowledge on the international food politics that affect the Middle East as a region as well as on the role of food in domestic political decision-making in Qatar and Jordan. It shows that even if the potential investors can develop effective policies to “grab” or “responsibly invest in land and water” in East Africa the approach is not a feasible option. Alleviating water insecurity in Jordan and Qatar through virtual water imports from Sudan is a costly and risky option because of the environmental, political and social constraints in Sudan.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDaanish Mustafa (Supervisor) & John Allan (Supervisor)

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