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Changes in "Customary" Land Tenure Systems in Africa

Report/paper, 136 pages
PDF  12537IIED.pdf (980.61 KB)

Across rural Africa, land legislation struggles to be properly implemented, and most resource users gain access to land on the basis of local land tenure systems. There is growing recognition that land laws must build on local practice. In recent years, several African countries have adopted legislation that strengthens protection for local land rights. This raises the need to understand what is happening to land tenure systems on the ground. Although they claim to draw their legitimacy from “tradition” and are commonly referred to as “customary”, local tenure systems have been profoundly changed by decades of colonial and post-independence government interference, and are continually adapted as a result of social, economic, political and cultural change. As land constitutes the main livelihood basis for a large portion of the rural population in Africa, changes in tenure systems have important implications for the livelihoods of resource users. This study explores changes in customary land tenure systems in Africa, identifies the factors driving such changes, analyses their livelihood implications and draws lessons for development policies and programmes.

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