Local authorities and local territories in rural West Africa

December 2010
Eric Idelman (Land Tenure and Development Technical Committee)

Why does the delimitation of local authorities’ area of influence cause so many problems in most West African countries? Does decentralization not usually result in the artificial and top-down creation of local administrative units whose entire legitimacy in the area of land management is yet to establish, while village or inter-village authorities have strong anchorage? Does one of the major rural land management challenges not consist in striking balance between the capacities devolved to the newly established municipal authorities and the historical roles of already established village institutions?