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Library Land rights under pressure: access to resources in southern Benin

Land rights under pressure: access to resources in southern Benin

Land rights under pressure: access to resources in southern Benin

Resource information

Date of publication
December 2000
Resource Language
ISBN / Resource ID

Analyses the range of institutional arrangements being used for gaining access to land and natural resources in two regions of southern Benin. The land tenure systems examined are grouped into two types:Those dependant upon classic "communal" regimes where land tenure is determined primarily by lineage and disputes are settled by village and family elders or chiefsThose which depend on a system of landlords and tenants with its roots in the decline of the slave trade.Having outlined these systems and highlighted the various processes which influence land tenure - such as pressure on land, diverse use, public policy and the growing importance of oil palm - the report gives a detailed account of differing types of land rights. These fall into 4 categories:The right to cultivate food cropsThe right to harvest woodThe right to extract palm wineThe right to harvest palm nutsDifferent institutional arrangements can be seen as combining these rights to differing degrees and these are in turn examined to determine how and where they are applied, the extent of tenants rights and the length and cost of contracts. Types of arrangement were listed as:Zunda - fixed period tenant farming contract. Originally on fallow land but know extended to all land due to scarcityLema - principle form of sharecropping contract with several variantsAwoba - uses land as guarantee as part of a loan agreementPalm grove contracts - contract whereby a purchaser buys rights to manage a plantation whilst sharing access with a food producer growing crops on the same land.Guardian contracts - relationship linking former slaves to their former masters based strongly on family lineage.Lending land - loans within close or extended family or outside of the family groupAmong the author's findings were:The systems and contracts used were found to "broaden the range of beneficiaries with access to land and other resources" and to play an important role in resolving issues relating to markets for labour and farm produce.Limited soil fertility tended to favour arrangements where tenants received a higher proportion of the crop yield hence productivity was greater under zunda rather than lema systems.Customary regimes, as a result of dependence on lineage, often forced women and younger men into the land rental market as a result of there not being enough land to divide amongst families.Documentation of land agreements in order to secure rights has increased as a result of the many problems however existing types of documentation were often unclear and had did not resemble any formal legal document.

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