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Formal and informal land tenure systems in Afar region, Ethiopia: Perceptions, attitudes and implications for land use disputes

KT Reda


Land is a contentious resource in the pastoral areas of Ethiopia. Traditional pastoralism, which is both a mode of production and a cultural way of life, dictates communal ownership of grazing land on which individually owned livestock graze. Pastoral land in Afar has traditionally been administered by the local communities themselves. However, with a gradual incorporation of the pastoralists into the Ethiopian modern polity, there have been competitive interests over issues of land administration between local communities and the state which often led to conflict and instability. Government land administration policies often contravene the age-old pastoral customary institutions; and stakeholder relations have taken a bitter course following the expansion of commercial agriculture, land investments and development projects. Using data obtained through Qualitative Interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) this paper analyses land administration trajectories and dynamics in Afar region. It assesses how contradictions between statutory and customary tenure systems shape relations between multiple resource users including the state, investors, local communities, and neighbouring cultural groups. It also examines the impact of multi-stakeholder land disputes on land resource management, thereby identifying appropriate policy options for effective land administration practices in the pastoral areas.

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eISSN: 2309-737X
print ISSN: 1562-6997