Land Rights Under Pressure: Access to Resources in Southern Benin
This report examines the diverse arrangements by which people gain access to land and trees, through a system of rental, loans, sharecropping, mortgage and guardianship contracts. The terms and conditions are subject to negotiation according to people and place. Shortage of credit, the withdrawal of government support to agriculture, and absence of legal framework are important factors in generating such institutional innovation. High levels of population pressure, peri-urban growth and shortage of productive soils have generated demand for land and palm tree stands have also become subject to market transactions. People combine several contracts to assure their subsistence needs, and diversification of incomes. Such arrangements are linked to the broader web of relations of kinship and patronage. There is, nevertheless, a move towards greater individualisation of land relations, with increasing tensions between those who control land, and those seeking land. Written ‘contracts’ between parties to such arrangements are becoming common as a means of increasing security, despite such informal local practices having no legal recognition. This paper forms part of a broader programme of research work undertaken jointly by the UK and French governments on Land Tenure and Resource Access in West Africa.
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