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Negotiating Access to Land in West Africa: A synthesis of findings from research on derived rights to land

This paper provides valuable new insights into how people negotiate access to land and other resources in this large and diverse region. Current debates focus mainly on land ownership and titling, but farmers often hold access rights through a series of arrangements involving cash, labour, or credit. In some areas such delegated rights cover more than half of the area under cultivation. These flexible and dynamic arrangements allow the farming system to adapt to new opportunities and changing circumstances, whether economic, social, political, or environmental. This comparative research was carried out by West African researchers who analysed the diverse mechanisms by which people gain access to land, and their relative importance in different settings. The research underlines the need for the state to recognise such procedures, in order to make stakeholders more secure by granting legal status to institutional arrangements which are considered by local people to be socially legitimate.

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