3. African Land Questions: Trends and Tendencies
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African Land Questions, Agrarian Transitions and the State 28 3 African Land Questions: Trends and Tendencies The land distribution question: Trends and sources Access to and control and ownership of land in Africa is differentiated. It tends towards unequal patterns of land concentration, exclusion from land for basic livelihood requirements or for primary accumulation, and marginalisation in terms of territorial space and local autonomy. This inequality is also found with regard to national and local citizenship rights embedded in access to land, especially for women labour migrants, new settlers and ethnic minorities. The basic structures of landholding inequalities are found along race, class ethnic, regional, national origin and gender-based cleavages of discrimination in the allocation of land rights. These gender inequalities cut across the class, ethnic and regional dimensions of exclusion, and include repressive practices which are generic to the wider social and power structures of patriarchy, as discussed further. Patterns of inequality in access to and control of land vary across countries, and within sub-regions of countries in Africa. These range from absolute or widespread national inequality and dualistic spatial land tenure and land access regimes, to regionally concentrated patterns of land inequalities; to microlevel class and power-based differentiations in access to and control of land. These landholding differentiation tendencies of concentration and marginalisation vary according to specific historical and political circumstances, economic development patterns and the emerging social and class structures, including the associated marginalisation and accumulation trajectories which vary along race, class, gender, ethnic and geographic lines. Current political Moyo-sept-07.pmd 24/01/2008, 20:01 28 African Land Questions 29 and economic power relations in Africa tend to be heavily structured by the nature of land distribution, and by struggles over land and natural resources. Increasingly the conflicts which arise from these differential land rights have contributed to the resurgence of land movements, which struggle to regain access to land and support new land reform policy initiatives, as we discuss in chapters five and six respectively. Unequal land distribution takes the extreme form of full-scale bi-modal land ownership regimes where minorities control between 30 and 80 percent of national lands, as found in Southern Africa. A lower degree of inequity in land holdings occurs based on socially differentiated rural societies in which the indigenous elite owns relatively large pieces of land alongside a land-scarce peasantry. In between are those countries with a few scattered agrarian enclaves based upon plantation sub-sectors of the European merchant capitalists , which co-exist with peasantries in a bi-modal agrarian context skewed in favour of the latter. In addition to this gradient of unequal land ownership based upon private control of freehold and leasehold lands are the large tracts of land held and used by the state for concessioning to private and state institutions to exploit native forests and wildlife in particular. These state-held lands range between 5 and 40 percent of the total national land area of the various countries. The common feature of this distributional inequity is the exploitative relation between labour and the large landowners, whereby the peasantry and migrants provide labour to landowners, who exclude them from access to natural resources for their own livelihood. Furthermore the salient feature of this land distributional problem, expressed in different degrees and forms across the continent, is the active class and social struggles over control of land and natural resources between both elites and associated international capital and various land-hungry peasants and poor workers. The legacy of the colonial land policies in Africa is a major framework through which unequal land holdings undermine sustainable livelihoods at the individual country level. The land distribution problem is diverse based upon varied historical experiences and different resource endowments. The West African region for instance is ecologically and economically diverse with a series of climatic and vegetation belts running from north to south, from moist forests in the south to arid lands in the north, and thus offers varied contexts for the land distribution problem. The coastal belts, rich in natural resources and integrated into the world economy as producers of primary export staples and timber have for long been the focus of land struggles. The forest area is also rich in mineral wealth, and has experienced labour migraMoyo -sept-07.pmd 24/01/2008, 20:01 29 African Land Questions, Agrarian Transitions and the State 30 tion from the Sahelian areas since colonial and pre-colonial times, (Manchuelle 1997), leading the Sahelian...


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