Measuring Community Perceptions of Tenure Security: Evidence from Four African Countries

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

Despite decades of investment in rural land registration in sub-Saharan Africa, the empirical results of such programs, for example on agricultural productivity, remain startlingly mixed outside a few noteworthy exceptions. We hypothesize this may be at least partly due to limited analysis of the impact of land registration on tenure security, which we define here as the assurance that existing rights-holders will continue to possess their land. This paper therefore aims to provide pre-registration evidence on (i) rural landholders’ perceived tenure security and (ii) potential drivers of tenure security in four African countries with extant customary tenure systems to understand whether there is room to further strengthen tenure in such settings. The findings indicate that existing tenure is perceived to be quite secure by the vast majority of respondents, suggesting that, to be successful, land registration efforts will need to be carefully tailored to address local threats to tenure security.

Key Words: tenure security; land governance; Africa; land policy; customary tenure