Consensus, Confusion, and Controversy: Selected Land Reform Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa

January 2006
Rogier van den Brink, Glen Thomas, Hans Binswanger, John Bruce and Frank Byamugisha (World Bank Working Paper 71)

Paper targeted at land reform practitioners and stakeholders in government and civil society. Argues that land reform can broadly be divided into land tenure reform and land redistribution. First chapter gives short narrative of key land tenure and land policy issues. These remain politically sensitive, but consensus is emerging on how to deal with them once confusion surrounding private /common property and formal / informal rights is cleared up. Secure property rights should not be confused with full private ’ownership’. The introduction of private title in situations where favourable economic conditions do not exist can be a waste of effort. Second chapter addresses redistribution of property rights from large to small farmers. There is heightened urgency on the need to address this, especially in Southern Africa, but controversy exists on appropriate implementation mechanisms which, combined with the sensitive political nature of land reform, often results in costly inaction. Highlights case of South Africa, because success there would have tremendous regional and international implications for land redistribution. A policy framework for redistributive land reform is outlined within which competing paradigms compete on the ground. Believes major land redistribution can be implemented peacefully, that history need not repeat itself.