Academic journal article Africa

Customary Transfers and Land Sales in Cote d'Ivoire: Revisiting the Embeddedness Issue

Academic journal article Africa

Customary Transfers and Land Sales in Cote d'Ivoire: Revisiting the Embeddedness Issue

Article excerpt


The article offers an empirical perspective regarding customary land sales in Cote d'Ivoire, focusing on their socio-political embeddedness as well as on the implications of such processes for the content of the rights and duties transferred. Two interlinked aspects of land transfers, which usually come together in African contexts, are to be taken into account: rights and obligations regarding land access and control ('the land resource dimension'), and rights and obligations regarding group membership, and more generally the socio-political dimensions that condition the social recognition and effectiveness of the transfer of land rights ('the socio-political dimension'). These two dimensions are empirically explored, together with the processes of their connection and possible disconnection/reconnection. We show that the diverging interpretations of land transfers, from emic as well as from etic viewpoints, do not necessarily correspond to mutually exclusive explanatory models, or to a simple transition phase from customary to 'pure' market land transfers. Access to land may become commoditized without extinguishing the socio-political dimension of land transactions. Another point is that the articulation of these two dimensions of land transfers is a specific and always contextualized issue. This has direct consequences on the legitimacy of land transfers as well as on the security of the stranger rightholder within the local community and more generally on the politicization of land issue.


L'article offre une perspective empirique des ventes de terres coutumieres en Cote d'Ivoire, en s'interessant a leur enchassement sociopolitique et aux implications de tels processus pour le contenu des droits et des obligations transferes. Il prend en compte deux aspects interconnectes des transferts de terres, generalement reunis dans des contextes africains : d'une part les droits et les obligations impliques dans l'acces a la terre et son controle (<< la dimension ressource fonciere >>), et d'autre part les droits et les obligations impliques dans l'appartenance a un groupe, et plus generalement les dimensions sociopolitiques qui conditionnent la reconnaissance sociale et le caractere effectif du transfert des droits fonciers (<>). L'article explore ces deux dimensions de maniere empirique, ainsi que les processus afferents a leur connexion et leur deconnexion/reconnexion possible. Il montre que les interpretations divergentes des transferts de terres, tant du point de yue emique que du point de vue etique, ne correspondent pas necessairement a des modeles explicatifs mutuellement exclusifs, ni a une simple phase de transition d'un transfert coutumier a un transfert de marche << pur >>. Une marchandisation de l'acces a la terre peut survenir sans effacer la dimension sociopolitique des transactions foncieres. D'autre patt, l'articulation de ces deux dimensions du transfert de terres est un sujet specifique qui s'inscrit toujours dans un contexte. Il en decoule des consequences directes sur la legitimite des transferts de terres, ainsi que sur la securite du titulaire de droit &ranger au sein de la communaute locale et, plus generalement, sur la politisation de la question fonciere.


The issues of a better definition of land rights through legal change and titling programmes, and a better transferability of these rights through the development of sale and lease markets (with the lifting of legal prohibitions regarding these transfers), have become central in development thinking and public policies in developing countries (de Janvry et al. 2001; World Bank 2003). In the African context, the question of land markets is generally addressed by an analysis of how customary systems of land tenure are moving or have moved towards private appropriation, acknowledging an endogenous trend towards land commoditization (see Introduction, this issue). …

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