The role of land policies, land laws and agricultural development in challenges to rural livelihoods in Africa

 

Pauline E. Peters


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Considering “agrarian policies and rural transformation” in Africa requires careful attention to patterns of access to, use of, and authority over land. The legacy of colonial policies on land interacts with current processes of rising socio-economic inequality, increasing land scarcity and conflict over land. It is within these conditions that land reforms and programmes of agricultural development, usually in the name of a “green revolution”, as well as an accelerating trend towards land appropriation by both foreign and national agents must be understood. A brief consideration of colonial policies and practices on land and agriculture is followed by an assessment of current “green revolution” programmes, and of the widespread “land rush” across Africa. I conclude that these circumstances pose a growing threat to small- and medium-scale productive use of land and landed resources and facilitate displacement and dispossession of those users from land considered, whether legally or conventionally, as “customary” and “common”.