Agroforestry is widely perceived as a long-term sustainable land use practice that can help meet a range of rural development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa. Expected benefits include increased crop yields and more effective adaptation and mitigation responses to climate-change impacts (Mbow et al., 2014). Favorable Zambian agricultural policy has encouraged Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), and a number of organizations have actively promoted conservation agriculture and agroforestry to encourage food security, especially in Eastern Province. However, uptake of CSA practices, in particular agroforestry, remains limited and dis-adoption is high, despite the expected benefits to Zambia’s small holder farmers who struggle with low yields, unreliable access to fertilizer and limited resilience.
Insecure resource tenure is hypothesized to constrain smallholder investment in the long-term productivity of their fields. Many studies provide empirical evidence of the benefits of tenure security for promoting greater field investment outcomes (Deininger et al., 2011; Deininger and Chamorro, 2004; Feder et al., 1988; Holden et al., 2009; Jacoby et al., 2002; Rozelle and Swinnen, 2004). A basic premise of stronger and more secure land tenure is that the enforcement of these rights lessens the risk of forcible displacement and allows for a level of long-term security and a sense of permanence that encourages land-related investment (Besley, 1995).
Consequently, land tenure security and property rights governance issues represent a central focus in Zambia for a range of rural development initiatives to address agricultural livelihoods and poverty reduction. In Zambia, where the majority of the land is under customary management by traditional chiefs, smallholders commonly have no documentation of their land rights, which can result in complex land disputes over boundaries or defense of rights in the event of divorce, death of a family member or arbitrary reallocation of land by chiefs or headmen. Uncertainties over land allocation processes within villages also contribute to ongoing land conflicts. This is an especially pressing issue in the rural areas of Zambia, where insufficient access to arable land is a recognized driver of continued impoverishment. Prior research indicates large variation in the size of farmer landholdings among village households, significant numbers of land constrained households even in villages where unallocated land is present and widely varying perceptions about land availability and ease of acquisition for farmland expansion (Jayne et al., 2009). Nevertheless, many questions remain around the efficacy of activities that are hypothesized to strengthen farmer perceptions of the tenure security of their farm holdings, as well as the extent to which strengthened land tenure security incentivizes farmers to undertake longer-term sustainable land investments such as agroforestry. Although some studies have found strong evidence of positive impacts for land formalization (Deininger et al., 2011; Goldstein et al., 2018), no clear consensus has emerged from empirical studies across varying sub-Saharan Africa contexts on whether and how stronger tenure security may, as a whole, incentivize farmer decision-making and pursuit of different land investment strategies on their farms (Place, 2009).