African Land Tenure

Land Reform is a crucial issue across much of Africa. Although the literature is quite extensive on this for countries throughout Africa, perhaps due to the years of conflict, very little is available on the topic for Liberia. In that country, as well as others, there was a fundamental misunderstanding about owning and using land between newcomers and the indigenous peoples.

As outlined in "Land Tenure and Resource Access in West Africa: Issues and Opportunities for the Next Twenty-Five Years" [http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdf/full/7396IIED.pdf]:

Land administration in [the Atlantic forest] sub-region is characterised by the colonial establishment of dual tenure regimes, in which private rights were established by colonial and (in the case of Liberia and Sierra Leone), Creole settler elites, for purposes of cash crop production, primarily in coastal areas. Throughout the hinterlands, customary tenure was accepted.

Customary and statutory land tenure collide even today. Use by others was not ruled out by the indigenous population's concept of ownership by another. Furthermore, the "sale" of lands at gunpoint to form what is now Liberia was not an auspicious start. Finally, the appropriation of much profitable land by the government hampers the goal of wide, fair, and profitable distribution.

For more information on the problem of land reform and land tenure in Africa generally, see: