7. Conclusions and Suggested Research Directions
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7 Conclusions and Suggested Research Directions The African continent faces a critical land question in terms of both contemporary equity and historical social justice issues. A large proportion of the African population will for some time depend on land and natural resources for their basic social reproduction and employment, while primitive accumulation processes increasingly revolve around land concentration. These issues remain central in the tenuous relations between the state and civil society, and to wider struggles for democratisation and national development. Yet the literature on the land issue in Africa has tended to focus narrowly on selected aspects of the land tenure and land use problems, to the neglect of issues of unequal land distribution and struggles for land rights vis-à-vis land reform policies. Our understanding of the political economy and social relations of land control and land use is thus limited. A number of theoretical and methodological problems were identified in our review of the literature on the African land question. A particular source of weakness is the tendency of much of the research to reify land property relations through an institutionalist perspective on issues of land tenure security . More critically, the empirical evidence on the precise scope and the extent of change in land distribution patterns, land tenure relations and market relations , and land use patterns in Africa has yet to be adequately collated. Much of the research tends to rely on superficial analyses of domestic agrarian class formation processes and the forces of external capital which underlie land concentration . A worrying result of this is the understatement of the contradictory ways in which the state and various class alliances have increasingly undercut the land rights of African peasant and urban societies. There is a clear need sysMoyo -sept-07.pmd 24/01/2008, 20:01 138 Conclusions and suggested research directions 139 tematically to document the processes which shape unequal control of land and the resistance to it. Research on the African land question can be fruitfully advanced by examining three dimensions of the land question, in both their rural and urban context . These dimensions are land distribution conflicts, land tenure insecurity, and the forces that limit the beneficial use of land for local markets. Land struggles around these dimensions need to be explored in terms of the gender, class and ethnic relations which shape conflict, and the role of the state in mediating social demands for land. This requires a multinational research programme on the historical and contemporary land question, including the institutions and state-civil society relations which underlie them. Because urban land questions and gender relations in land are critical but under-studied aspects of the land question, these two themes require both special focus and cross-cutting treatment . Some of the interrelated research themes and questions that could be of interest in the CODESRIA study on Africa’s land question are: - Historical trajectories of the land question and the agrarian transition; - The land distribution question and redistributive reform; - Land tenure, property rights and land markets; - Land use and extroverted accumulation processes; - Gender relations, access to land and tenure; - The urban land question; and - The politics of land, and state-civil society relations, and land movements; The specific research issues that could be addressed in these thematic areas are briefly outlined below. This broadly defined thematic scope suggests that CODESRIA could pursue an expanded medium-term research programme on the land question in Africa through both its multinational working group and by research collaboration with various African research institutions concerned with the land and agrarian question. Historical trajectories of the land question and the agrarian transition The research issues pursued in this thematic area could be treated in historical terms in the context of colonial and post-independence attempts to resolve the land question, including the way in which independence movements and other social movements have confronted the land issue. Colonial and current neoliberal and economic policies and structures, and the variety of efforts made to undertake land reforms in Africa since the 1930s could provide a backdrop to understanding contemporary land questions. Studies could document various phases of land contestations and conflicts, as well as the effects of agrarian Moyo-sept-07.pmd 24/01/2008, 20:01 139 African Land Questions, Agrarian Transitions and the State 140 change on the evolution of the land question. The land conflicts studied could include long and short-term resistance to land loss and direct actions (such as land occupations) in response to various local...