Property rights and their implications on agricultural productivity in Ethiopia: a history

  • Temesgen Gebeyehu Baye an Associate Professor of History at Bahir Dar University,Ethiopia. He is the author of “The Genesis and Evolution of the Ethiopian Revolution:A Note by the Participants of the Event”; History in Africa: A Journal of Method. Vol.37(2010); “Land Tenure, Land Reform and Qelad System in Ethiopia, 1941-74”,Journal of Asian and African Studies 4 (46); and “The Evolution and Development of Kingship and Traditional Governance in Ethiopia: A Case of the Kefa Kingdom”, Journal of Asian and African Studies. Vol. 47, April 2012; “Ethnic Conflict, Interaction and Cohabitation in Africa: The Case of Nuer and Anuak”, Eastern Africa Social Science Review, Vol. 29 (2), 2013; “Women and Access to Resources in Ethiopia,” JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Vol. 27 (2015); “Gojjam (Ethiopia): Peopling, Christianization, and Identity”, African Identities, Vol.14 (1), 2016; “Hierarchy, Power and Rivalry in Traditional Polity of Ethiopia”, AFRICA INSIGHT. Vol. 45(1), 2015; Power, Church and the Gult System in Gojjam, Ethiopia”, Asian and African Studies, Volume 25, Number 1, 2016; Muslims in Ethiopia: History and Identity, Journal of African Studies, 77(3): 2018; “Center–periphery relations, local governance and conflicts in Ethiopia: The experience of Metekel province”, Social Identities Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 2018.


Property rights and relationships in Ethiopia, though complex and difficult to define, had been associated with and expressed in terms of land, which had shaped and dictated socio-politico-economic relations and processes. During pre-revolutionary imperial Ethiopia, most debates and discussions on property rights and obligations, including agricultural productivity and efficiency, were expressed in relation to the main existing tenure regime of the country: the rist tenure. This tenure, like most other indigenous tenure regimes and property arrangements in Africa, was flexible and accommodating. This historical study, based on archives, interviews and secondary sources, examines the structure and nature of property rights and relationships. The data collected through different methods was carefully examined in order to reconstruct and document property rights and their implications for agricultural productivity and efficiency in the country based on the objectives of the study.

Key Words: land, tributary rights, reversionary rights, property rights, productivity, agriculture, Ethiopia

JEL Code: Q15; P14; P17


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1993-3681