Customary Tenure Adaptation and the International Economy: Engagement with Global Markets through the Transformation of Surface and Sub-Surface Customary Tenure Regimes in Diamond Mining Areas of northern Côte d’Ivoire

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

Peripheral regions of the international economy have long been integrated into the global economy, like the West African Sahel and Sudano-Guinean zones. Both statutory and customary tenure systems have evolved and adapted to meet new international market opportunities. This paper describes how two diamond mining areas of northern Côte d’Ivoire (Séguéla and Tortiya), long integrated into the international export of diamonds, are evolving in an astonishingly rapid fashion to meet new regional and international market opportunities, and as a result, how customary tenure systems over surface and sub-surface natural resources are adjusting to these new markets. Guided by a conceptual premise that rising values of natural resources often leads to contestation and sometimes overt conflict, this paper argues that resource conflict leads to readjustments in customary and statutory tenurial institutions and local level rule-making. Indeed, traditional rural institutions in northern Côte d’Ivoire actively plan for the future use of their territorial spaces by redefining traditional land use norms and resource tenure arrangements. Informal community land use planning is often more efficient, effective, and adaptable than those more formalized practices conceived by government land use planning policies and land use development plans. Weak states, confronted with severe staffing constraints and budgets, should encourage these endogenous planning processes rather than imposing cumbersome land use planning.

Key Words: cash crops, customary tenure, land-use planning, land law, surface rights.