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Impact of Land Tenure Changes on Resource Use and Ecomic Behavior of Smallholders in Niger and Benin, Andreas Neef, Hohenheim University, Stuttgart. Dir. Prof. Franz Heidhnes

The question of land tenure and land reform has recently emerged as a major policy issue for several countries in Sub‑Saharan Africa. The conventional view regarding indigenous African land tenure systems is that they lead to environmental degradation and impede agricultural development because of the absence of clearly defined, secure property rights. The implication is that the state should play a more active role in registering and legalising land rights, to enforce these rights, and to provide a legal framework to facilitate the exchange of property rights and the settlement of disputes. The basic objectives of land titling and registration are (1) to increase tenure security and create incentives for long‑term investment in land improvement and technological innovations, (2) to improve fanners' access to credit through the creation of tangible collateral and (3) to create land markets and encourage land transfers to the most efficient fanners.

Drawing on two case studies in Niger and Benin the main objective of this study is to analyse how current land tenure systems have evolved under different historical, agro‑ecological, demographic and socio‑economic conditions, and to ascertain whether these tenure systems impede investments in soil fertility, access to formal credit, and the development of viable land markets. The principal hypothesis of the study is that local land tenure systems in these regions can not be generally classified as insecure and inefficient. Within the tenure systems, however, there are significant disparities between various social groups with regard to tenure security.

In both countries the study region was divided into three zones differing with regard to population density and urban influence. The average farm size was taken as an indicator for population density. In each zone two to three villages were chosen and 15 farms / households were randomly selected from each village. The empirical field research comprised alternative qualitative methods used to identify the primary factors responsible for the evolution of current land rights systems in the study regions and the norms, practices and conflicts within the tenure systems. The quantitative data was obtained by interviewing heads of households, their wife/wives and all dependent household members cultivating individual plots using standardised questionnaires. In the qualitative part of the study (chapters 4‑7) the land tenure system and the different land rights are regarded as the dependent variable, whereas in the quantitative part, land rights are seen as the independent variable influencing different parameters of the agricultural development. The quantitative data was analysed by using varied statistical procedures such as one‑way ANOVA and non‑parametric methods like the Kruskal‑Wallis ANOVA and the Mann‑ Whitney‑U‑Test.

The results of the empirical field research in the study regions of both countries imply that local land tenure systems are highly complex and characterised by a wide spectrum of property and use rights which significantly differ with regard to tenure security. The inescapable conclusion is that any intervention depends on the given circumstances. A single land policy to encompass grazing areas of transhumant pastoralists, long‑term fallow lands of shifting cultivators and irrigated rice schemes of riverside farmers will surely fail. In any land policy, varying population density, different farming systems and varying needs for mobility and flexibility should be taken into account. Until now, the claims for land reform in West Africa have focused only on securing ownership rights to land. However, results of this study show that rights of land owners can be classified as relatively secure, even in the absence of land tides. In general, they seem to be no constraint for long‑term investments in the maintenance and amelioration of soil fertility. One exception are peri‑urban areas where unregulated land markets are increasingly dominated by city dwellers who cause efficiency losses and increase the potential for conflicts. The most marginalised groups by recent developments in the land tenure systems of Niger and Benin are non‑owners, particularly tenants, pastoralists and the majority of the women whose use rights are increasingly limited and insecure. Due to increasing population pressure and urban influence, the share of land cultivated by non‑owners is rising. Thus, decision‑makers in both countries should concentrate more on improving and securing land use rights of non‑owners. The enforcement of ownership rights can be limited to those regions where conflicts of land property are becoming more frequent and where local institutions are no longer capable or lack the legitimacy to mediate these conflicts. Finally, any land policy has to build on local tenure practices and involve active participation of ail rural dwellers.

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