The new Tragedy of the Commons

March 2005
Camilla Toulmin (IIED) for New Statesman Special Issue on Africa

Asks how can poor people protect their land rights? Stresses importance of land in the social, economic and political life of Africa and fact that land is contested all over Africa, with women’s rights particularly at risk. Land registration is inaccessible to most. African governments have often muddied the water, with land frequently used to reward political loyalty. The commons are especially important for poorer people, but everywhere are under growing pressure as privatisation and enclosure continue. The Commission for Africa has skirted around such issues, but there is much that aid donors could usefully do, including supporting civil society groups and media that can monitor land grabbing.