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A Farmer In Africa: Balancing Property Rights With National Needs

Community land and natural resources lie at the heart of social, political, and economic life in much of rural Africa. Most community land is held by communities under customary tenure arrangements. While governments recognize community land and acknowledge customary tenure, few have established the strong legislation needed to secure tenure and few have effectively supported communities in their efforts to protect their lands. As a consequence, many communities have lost their land or lost access to critical natural resources, undermining local livelihoods and triggering conflicts.

All governments can acquire privately-held land, including community land, in most cases only when the land is needed to serve the public interest and when the affected communities are compensated for their losses. What constitutes a genuine public interest, however, varies across Africa, as do standards for compensation, valuation of losses and when compensation must be paid.

The issue is complex. A new video by WRI’s Land and Resource Rights project tells the story of Samuel, the chief of a small village in rural Africa threatened when the government allocates village land to a foreign company to grow crops for export. Although the intention behind the land expropriation is to promote economic development that would benefit the country as a whole, Samuel’s story illustrates the hardships that many rural communities face due to displacement caused by insecure property rights.


To learn more about WRI’s Land and Resource Rights project, click here. To see the first two videos in this series see here and here.

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