Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Dynamics of Resource Tenure in West Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Dynamics of Resource Tenure in West Africa

Article excerpt

Amila Toulmin, Philippe Delville, and Samba Traore, eds. The Dynamics of Resource Tenure in West Africa. London: International Institute for Environment and Development, 2002. Distributed in the U.S. by Heinemann, xii + 242 pp. Maps. Bibliography. Index. No price reported. Cloth.

The quality of a volume written by nineteen authors and comprising some eighteen individual essays can vary considerably. I am happy to report that, for the most part, each essay in The Dynamics of Resource Tenure in West Africa is well researched, well written, and relevant to the general theme. The book is the outcome of a 1996 conference dedicated to the topic, with contributions from African experts from a range of disciplines and covering Anglophone as well as Francophone countries.

The work is divided into three major parts. The first looks at the dynamics of land tenure and includes forest issues, peri-urban areas, women's access, and pastoral resources in Ghana, Cameroon, Benin, and Nigeria. The second discusses new approaches to local rights, illustrated by case studies from Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, and Niger. The third section links local and national legal systems and deals with topics such as resolving land tenure conflict, decentralized management of renewable resources, land taxes, and compulsory land acquisition. Here the countries included are Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.

The issue of land tenure rights in West Africa is a complicated one indeed. Some of the countries retain more of their colonial laws than others. For example, in Francophone Africa, the French Civil Code has set the legislative pattern, while English Common Law is prevalent in Anglophone states. Some countries in the region are blessed with more natural resources than others, and climates, population densities, and urbanization rates vary. Since the end of colonialism, a variety of legal systems have developed. For the past two decades the role of the state has been hotly contested, but as the authors note, "The premise that state intervention would help re-allocate land to more productive users has . …

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