In West Africa, domestic investors acquire plots of farm land using their connections, powers and resources. Some policy makers view these investments as a shift towards agribusiness and state that these “new actors” will modernize and professionalize farming and smallholders are asked to make space. Who are those new actors, how did they obtain the land, under what conditions, and how are they investing? Why are customary authorities engaging in these land transactions and what are the consequences for local farming, rural livelihoods and the environment? This paper presents results of a 2010 survey on the acquisition of rural land by agro-investors in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In this paper, the authors explore implications for agricultural “modernization” and discuss local responses to regulate this phenomenon.