Indigenous Land Tenure Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa Countries: a survey and implications for Ethiopia

Course ID
Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA)
Dejene A.


It is not paying to disregard the role that indigenous land tenure system plays in land use or farming system when land related policy is formulated. The institutional arrangement under which a person gains access to land largely determines, among other things, what crops can be grown, how long a farmer can Till a particular piece of land, who benefits from fruits of lab our, et. Officially it is well known that land is public property in Ethiopia. However, unofficial land market exists and operates among a considerable proportion of the population in the form of share tenancy, sharecropping, land mortgage, rental, etc. moreover, indigenous land tenure systems exist in pastoral and nomadic areas which cover more than 50 per cent of the counter’s land area. The major objective of this article is to address the following questions: (1) is customary land tenure system inherently insecure? (2) Are customary tenure arrangements compatible with economy growth? (3) Does the notion of tragedy of the commons gold in the African case? (4) Do customary tenure systems in Africa provide flexibility under changing circumstances? (5) Do customary tenure systems exist in post- 1975 Ethiopia? To be able to achieve the objective: the issues and practice of land tenure system of developing countries (n the main from Africa) were reviewed to draw appropriate lessons for Ethiopia. The survey indicates that: customary land tenure system is inherently secured: customary tenure arrangements are compatible with economic growth: the notion of tragedy of the commons does not hold in the African case, customary tenure systems in Africa provide flexibility under changing circumstances, and various forms of customary land system do exists in Ethiopia. Thus, this study has two important implications. (i) Policy relevance: practically, now indigenous tenure exists in different parts of Ethiopia such as pastoral areas (marginalized communal properties) densely populated areas (in Benishagul Gumuz areas) which the present land policy of Ethiopia has largely neglected. (ii) Theoretical relevance: to enrich the debate on the conventional theory on land issues and management (which recognises in the main private and public ownership of land neglecting the case of indigenous land rights).

Corporate Author:Gebrehiwot Ageba, Jemal Mohammed and Solomon Tesfay (Editors) , Ethiopian Economic Association(EEA) , Department of Economics of AAU & Fredrich Ebert Stifung
Publisher:Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA)
Primary Descriptors:Land use; Property right

Secondary Descriptor:Customer land system – pre & post 1975

Geographic Descriptors:Sub-Saharan Africa; Developing countries
Cataloge Date:02/27/2013
Broad Subject heading:Land tenure system
Call Number:338.963 PRO 2002
Serial Key Title:Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual conference on the Ethiopian economy
Publication catagory:Annual conference
Content type:EEA Publication
Publication date:2013-12-27 00:00:00
Forum or Discussion date:2013-02-27 00:00:00
Conference Place:Nov. 2-4, 2001, Nazareth, Ethiopia
PDF file: Dejene and Teferi_Indigenous land tenure systems in subSaharan African countries.pdf
Place of publication:Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Type of material:Book
Current frequency:Annualy
Thematic area:Policy Reform, Implementation and outcome in Ethiopia
Author: Dejene A.& Teferi R

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