Access to Resources: Land Tenure and Governance in Africa

March 2001
Simon Batterbury (LSE)

Report of a Conference at the University of Manchester. Summarises papers by Phil Woodhouse on ‘African Enclosures – the Default Mode of Development’ and Camilla Toulmin on ‘Identifying a Research Agenda for the Reform of Land Tenure’ and the discussions on them. Argued that we cannot assume that poverty reduction or equity will emerge from vesting power over land with local communities and their leaders. Conflicts over resources will be exacerbated by decentralisation. Conflicts between indigenous and outsider communities are now widespread. Land access conditions have tightened for people in West Africa. Individualisation and commercialisation are increasing, posing problems for social differentiation and policies based on equity. These are downplayed in populist writing on African land tenure systems and in sustainable livelihoods thinking.