Working Papers – Land Governance and Property Rights

Chipenda, C. (2021). Experiences, Opportunities and Challenges of the ‘New Generation’ in Post-Land Reform Zimbabwe

What have been the experiences, opportunities and challenges of social reproduction and accumulation by the second generation (or children) of resettled farmers in Zimbabwe’s ‘new’ farming areas? This is the central research interest of the paper which explores the current situation of the ‘new’ generation in the farming areas created under the fast-track land reform programme (FTLRP). Based on a critical, nuanced and empirically grounded analysis of the life histories of young smallholder farmers, the paper interrogates their experiences, challenges and future prospects as principal landowners in the country’s reconfigured agrarian structure. The paper is informed by field-based evidence gathered in Goromonzi District (Zimbabwe) and it employs an interpretive research paradigm and a qualitative research approach which it uses to interrogate the situation of young farmers. It shows that to some extent, redistributive land reform has had discernible production, redistribution and social reproduction outcomes which are positively impacting on the lives of the new generation. The central evidence supported position of the paper is that there is the generational transfer of land which has allowed for the continued opening up of the previously enclosed means of production. Young people with access to land are now able to engage in diverse land-based livelihood activities which are slowly transforming their lives, allowing them to accumulate productive and non-productive assets while ensuring food security. In a context where the FTLRP has for years been subjected to much polemical and antagonistic debate, the paper shows that from a youth and land nexus, there are important lessons that can be learnt from it especially for countries in the global south confronted by the ‘youth question.’


Phiri, D. (2021). A Legal Analysis of Disjunctions Between Statutory and Customary Land Tenure Regimes in Zambia

In the recent past, Zambia has experienced land governance-related issues such as voluntary and involuntary displacements, insecurity of tenure, food insecurity and land disputes. While laudable efforts have been made to uphold and realise land and resource rights of poor rural populations in Zambia, there are numerous longstanding challenges that remain unresolved. The majority of the rural population still do not enjoy sufficient legal protection of their land rights. This article shows the inadequate legal recognition of the strength of rights to land and natural resources derived from custom and how to recognise and secure land rights of holders in law and in practice. It also examines the degree to which vested property rights are protected from infringements, and analyses land rights in the context of ownership, possession and holder-ship. Furthermore, the relations between statutory and customary land tenure systems are assessed from the perspective of legal pluralism. Therefore, this article increases understanding on the diversity of land tenure regimes that exist, as well as what constitutes the legal status of land and ways in which they provide for vestment of property rights.

Zambia officially recognises both customary and statutory systems of law. A large proportion of legislation in Zambia is derived from the British legal system, which comprises of common law and doctrines of equity which were in force in Britain on 17th August 1911. The Zambian Constitution is the supreme law of the land and all pieces of legislation, common law and doctrines of equity must be consistent with the provisions embedded in it. While statutory law is codified in acts of parliament, customary law is not defined or codified. Key elements of ‘customary’ law demonstrate both a strong colonial influence and continuity in this respect since independence in 1964. However, just like statutory law, it is also expected to be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution in its application. The Zambian legal framework thus consists of an array of customary and statutory laws administered through the legislative, judicial and executive spheres of government. The statutes are derived from the British legal system introduced during colonisation and are still in full force and effective within Zambia.


Massay, G.E. (2021). Redistribution of State Farmlands in Tanzania: Why and in Whose Interests?

Large farmland repossession by the state takes place in leaps and bounds in Tanzania. These are mostly those farmlands that have remained undeveloped for many years. The state has identified purposes for which the farmland redistribution will be used, namely, for community use; investment and industrialisation; and for land banks. Using a case study of Mvumi Village in Kilosa District in Morogoro Region where five farmlands were repossessed and redistributed, this paper seeks to investigate the extent to which the narratives for redistribution promoted by the state, manifest on the ground. The findings are mixed and contribute to the understanding of land reform in Tanzania.

There have been longstanding state interventions in land reform in Tanzania. In the 1960s and 1970s, the state drove land-concentration programmes through villagisation and exclusions by opening up wildlife conservation areas for tourism (Maghimbi et al., 2010; Rosset et al., 2006). During the same period, there was massive nationalisation of private companies, farms and projects of national economic value through the implementation of the 1967 Arusha Declaration, a socialist and self-reliance policy. Nationalised farms were placed under the administration of the National Agriculture and Food Corporation (NAFCO) and the National Ranching Company Ltd (NARCO). With the introduction of neo-liberal policies, the state reformed its policies to embrace a market economy and privatised most of the farms in the 1990s (Manji, 2006; Shivji, 1998; Tsikata, 2003).


Tchatchoua-Djomo, R. (2021). Shifting Land Tenure, Dispute Resolution, Rural Migration and Legal Pluralism in Cameroon

Rural-to-rural migration remains a phenomenon of great importance in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Africans have historically migrated in their quest for improved livelihoods and income-generating opportunities. Rural-to-rural migration is transformative and likely to result in ethnic heterogeneity and land competition among smallholder farmers, which in turn can trigger ethnic conflict over land. In Cameroon, migrant smallholder farmers seeking available fertile land, sustainable livelihoods and a way out of chiefly controlled land tenure have embraced commercial crops – cocoa, coffee, tomatoes, maize, cocoyam – for the domestic and regional markets. This study presents field research data on the impacts of rural-to-rural migration in a smallholder commercial farming locality, and the extent to which they influence ethnic relations and local land tenure. This paper outlines evidence which suggests that in situations of in-migration, institutional pluralism plays an important role in shifting ethnic and property relations and in competition on land. This paper argues that it is important to acknowledge the intricacies of institutional, demographic, social and economic factors in determining agrarian change. As migrants and people with competing land claims turn to state and non-state actors, community representatives, and relatives to access land and to mediate disputes or support their claims, struggles over land mingle with relations of authority, ethnic identity and debates over belonging. This paper draws attention to the dynamic character of in-migration, social differentiation and the contests that result over property and authority, as well as the salience of analysing them as ongoing and contingent historical processes.


Uwayezu, E., and Bayisenge, F. (2021). Trends of Land Tenure Security from Rules and Processes of Urban Development: A Probe in the Fringes of Kigali City, Rwanda

This study explores the tenure security metric in the current zoning regulations that involve the conversion of the large tracts of agricultural land into residential use in Kigali city outskirts. These changes follow the passage of Kigali city master plans which extend the urbanised area towards the urban outskirts which are characterised by subsistence agriculture. The study assesses the impacts of these changes on landowners’ property rights. The emphasis was put on tenure security, a question that is not fully documented in the current literature on land management in Rwanda after 15 years of land reform. Data collection methods included household surveys, interviews with stakeholders, field observations in urban fringes under spatial transformations and the review of legal documents and master plans regulating Kigali city development. The findings unfold limited trends of land tenure security connected with prohibitive housing development standards which are proposed in the local development plans. Generally, these standards trigger the displacement of an overwhelming number of existing landowners from their properties. These people enjoy neither the de jure (legal) tenure security granted by the recent formal registration of land rights nor the de facto (actual), or the perceived tenure security that should emerge from their integration in the urban development processes. Only a small number of landowners whose livelihoods do not depend on agricultural activities and whose incomes are relatively high can comply with those standards and enjoy security of tenure. Their tenure security is also connected with the variation in housing development standards. This study suggests some strategies which are grounded on pragmatic and collaborative tenure responsive land use planning and potential for enhancing the inclusion of poor and low-income landowners in the current Kigali city development processes. Those strategies would consist mainly of participatory design and implementation of mixed-use local development plans and incremental development of low-cost houses.