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The concept of a socio-ecological niche has been used here to break up the landscape into a set of different areas of opportunity for forestry. Different opportunities are offered because different land use and management systems are employed in the different niches. Because these niches exhibit broadly characteristic tenure patterns, they have been referred to here as types of tenure niche: the holding, the commons and the reserve.

In this section we deal with the holding as a tenure niche. The majority of farming units in most countries are household farms operating a "holding," an area in which a household and its members generally have exclusive rights--the right to exclude others from use of the land. Tree planting on the holding takes a variety of forms, e.g., commercial monocropping of trees, alley-cropping, or windbreaks. While the household management pattern implicit in the notion of a holding has fundamental tenure implications, there is also considerable diversity among the tenures which households have over land, trees and other resources in their holding.

The holding for a particular household will commonly consist of several parcels of land, and some of the parcels may have different uses; for instance, a home garden with fruit trees on one parcel and more distant maize fields under shifting cultivation on other parcels. These parcels may well be under different tenures, first, because different uses have different tenure requirements--the home garden with perennials calls for more durable tenure than the maize field under shifting cultivation. Second, society sometimes assigns to certain land support roles for various institutions in the society--the shrine, the mosque, or perhaps the chief--and these support roles are enshrined in the tenure rules for that land. Its use will be conditioned on such support roles. The rights of the institution in the land serves to produce revenue for the institution which another society might obtain through a more generalized method of taxation. For an example of a multi-tenure holding pattern from highland Tigray in Ethiopia, see the Bruce insert on the following page. Third, particular members of a household will often have specific tenure rights in particular parcels and in fields within parcels. This is often particularly pronounced in situations where the production unit includes a number of households or in the case of polygamous households where wives are assigned separate individual fields. Fourth, at any point in time certain parcels in the holding may be held under tenure acquired by contract, such as leasehold, while other parcels which belong to the household may be encumbered with such contractual obligations. Such transactions in effect pass some of the household's "bundle of rights" in land to others for a period of time.

A Multi-Tenure System in Tigray, Ethiopia

The most basic distinction in communities under chiguraf-gwoses tenure is the division of the land of the village into farmland and pastureland. The pasture of most communities is grazed as an individual commons though it may be closed to certain categories of livestock at particular times of year. But the pasture of some communities is, like the farmland, divided into plots for individual farmers. Such divided pasture was usually subject to periodic (often annual) general repartition and redistribution among the farmers by lottery, though such general redistributions were commonly long postponed. Divided pasture is viewed as fairer. When pasture is grazed as a common, the poor farmer with few or no animals is said to benefit far less from his access to it than the wealthy man with his herds, but when the pasture is divided, the poor farmer can sell the fodder which he cannot use or may even lease out his pasture share for the year.

Sometimes, however, the farmland itself is divided. Such a division is into koli and tserhi, each farmer holding in both areas. The koli, or "garden-land," consists of house sites and adjacent gardens. Within this garden-land the elders create new house sites and gardens as the need arises, by selective reallocations from existing holdings. The tserhi is the rest of the community land, the open fields beyond the garden-lands. The holdings there are supposed to be completely repartitioned and redistributed every several years by lottery and are sometimes called "lottery-land."

In most communities with churches, a third of the land, "thirdland" (meret silus), is set aside for use by the clergy. Third-land is not a supplement for the private holdings of the clergy; rather it is the only place they can hold land in the communities. Clerics are allocated land only from the third-land, and laymen are allocated land only-from the other two-thirds. Both koli and tserhi have a third set aside for the clergy. The number of clerics in these communities often approaches a third of the farmers. The relatively easy availability of third-land ensures that young men will train for the priesthood and deaconate and that the parish church will be well served.

John W. Bruce, "Land Reform Planning and Indigenous Tenures: A Case Study of the Tenure Chiguraf-Gwoses in Tigray, Ethiopia," S.J.D. Dissertation (Law), University of Wisconsin, 1976; at pp. 121-124.


So we begin with the bad news, bad from the rapid reconnaissance point of view, with its time constraints: to deal meaningfully with tenure one must deal with it at the parcel or field level, because important tenure distinctions exist even within the household's holding. While most variability in tenure can be captured at the parcel level, it is only at the field level that one can be certain of capturing variations in tenure by field managers within the household and so explore what may be important genderbased issues.

On the brighter side, the particular context within which one operates will often be simpler than the potential for diversity indicated here. Only some of these distinctions will exist on holdings in any given tenure system. Moreover, because differences in tenure are often based on differences in land and tree use, these distinctions can be approached initially through the same progression from observed use to tenure that this paper has urged throughout.

This paper has already indicated the need for detailed interviews with at least a half dozen or perhaps a dozen households. Because we wish to deal with tenure and tenure can vary down to the field level, this interviewing must deal with use at a field level. There is no way to design a form or question schedule which will accommodate all situations. A sample question schedule is given on the next two pages, but it has its limitations. It is designed to bring out distinctions in use between owner and manager of the land and between husband and wife or wives within the household. It would work fairly well in a mixed farming system, and gives considerable attention to trees if these constitute a part of the system. It would capture less adequately, however, the different uses of family members in a biologically diverse and highly integrated tropical garden, or where one parcel was cultivated communally for general homestead or compound needs. The usefulness of the question schedule given here is as a starting point in drafting a more locally relevant instrument.

From completed tables on a number of fields, some consistent relationships will begin to stand out, for example, clusters of specific uses vested in particular classes of users, including men and women, and relationships between land tenure and tree tenure. For each class of, users (men or women, owners or tenants, whatever may be relevant in the locale) of a species, the interviewer should ask:

Sample Field Question Schedule

Interview no.________________________ Date:_________________________


Field identification:_________________________________________________

HH tenure in field:__________________________________________________

Manager tenure field:_______________________________________________

Approximate size field:____________ Distance from residence:______________

Positions in Relation to Household Holding Field



Other HH


Interviewee is:


HH head is:


Field owner is:


Field manager is:


Go to table on next page and complete. Then continue:

Explanations and comments, including "other" responses, by column in Table:




[In practice, more space would be needed.]

Sample Field Question Schedule - cont.






Economic Value HH


Economic Value Mgr.


Labor Requirements


Land Prep.


Provide Seeds/ Seedlings






Lops Leaves/ Branches


Sells Fodder


Spends Fodder Income


Hervests Fruit


Sells Fruit


Spends Fruit Income


Cuts Down Tree


Sells Wood


Spends Wood Revenue


Who Owns Tree?


Other Users


Other Uses



D- Q











Browsing by animals




Manager's spouse


Other local


Gather fallen wood




Owner If not manager or manager's spouse


Itinerant users


Lop leaves/branches




Shared by (combined numbers: 2/3)




Pich fruit






Not applicable





Not applicable



Not applicable


Why do we care what rights people have in trees, so long as we know that they in fact do plant them, use them, etc.? The question of rights. concerns security of tenure. Granted that a user is practicing a certain use, is the user secure in it? Does the user have a right to it, or can someone turn him or her out and deprive them of the use, or interfere with it to an extent that it loses much of its value? If there is no security of tenure there will be little incentive to invest cash in seedlings or fencing, to invest labor in tree planting, to forego income from other uses of land which would offer a return in the shorter term, or even to keep the seedlings from becoming "goat salad."

How important is this security? In certain circumstances it may determine the success or failure of a community forestry initiative focused on the holding. But security of tenure comes into play in a number of different ways, some of which we are just beginning to understand.

The literature on land tenure in developing countries is replete with references to the relationship between land tenure and investment in the land. The simplest relationship, most often noted, is that insecure tenure discourages investment because the farmer cannot be confident of the opportunity to reap the returns from investment. While the planting of a new annual crop is an investment in the land, it is usually excluded from such analysis. Most crops take only a few months to mature, and after all, a farmer must plant crops even in the face of some insecurity if the household is to survive. From where the right to the land is lost, the loser may still have the right to reap crops already in the ground so that there is no risk in planting them (Bruce and Noronha 1985).

The investments which concern us, however, are the planting and conservation of trees. Trees are so slow-maturing that they must be treated differently from annual crops. Seedling costs may represent a substantial investment, especially for fruit or other income-generating trees. When trees take up land that would have been used for other crops, there are opportunity costs involved, costs which will perhaps only be recouped in the long run. At least in terms of the relationship of land tenure to investment in the holding, most tree planting resembles more closely a permanent improvement in the holding such as the digging of a well or the construction of a fence more closely than the planting of annual crops (Bruce 1986: 28, 87; Brokensha and Castro 1984).

Authors directly concerned with encouraging agroforestry on farmers' holdings in developing countries such as Nigeria, Haiti and Jamaica have stressed the importance of clear tenure rules, assuring the farmer that the trees planted on the holding will belong to the farmer (Adeyoju 1976; Murray 1982; Blaut et al. 1973: 63). The potential sources of insecurity of tenure are varied. A traditional tenure system which involved annual redistribution of parcels, such as that reported by Uzozie (1979: 344) of the Igbo of Nigeria, clearly poses problems for on-farm forestry. Where the state has legislated state ownership of trees growing on the holding and requires cutting permits to protect such trees, as under forestry codes in the Sahel, the principal consequence may be a loss of landholder incentives to plant trees on the part of the landholder (Thompson 1982; Lai and Khan 1986; Elbow 1988).

Perhaps the most straightforward evidence of the impact of tenure on tree-planting is provided by studies of farmers who have access to a number of parcels of land under different tenures. The cash crops of farmers in Tucurrique, Costa Rica, include coffee and peach palm and their tenure arrangements include ownership, relatively secure use rights, tenancy, land-borrowing and. squatting. Survey research by Sellers found that farmers were growing trees on land held in more secure tenure and annual food crops on less secure landholdings. An excerpt is provided. In St. Lucia tenure considerations explain why trees are planted on soils andd in ecological niches for which they are not best suited, with farmers utilizing individually titled valley bottom land for trees and hillside land under the somewhat ambiguous "family land tenure" regime for food crops (White 1986: 83). In Haiti, recent research by the Land Tenure Center (excerpted below) found parcel tenure was an important consideration in determining where trees were planted.

There are cautions to be observed in reference to security of tenure as a determinant of tree planting. First, it is essential to remember that even if tenure in the land in which the trees are planted is weak, tenure rights in the trees may be clear and strong. There has already been a discussion of tree tenure, in Chapter 1.

Second, tenure systems and a perceived lack of security are sometimes blamed for a lack of receptivity to tree planting opportunities which have been poorly framed in other ways; where, for example, a locally unattractive species has been promoted. Murray (1987) cautions against this approach, which at its worst becomes the blaming of local "culture" for farmers' failure to adopt what are in fact inappropriate species and technologies. The incentive effect of tenure is not of course unrelated to other economic incentives. No tenure arrangement can make attractive the growing of trees for which there is no demand, and a very high level of profitability may lead a farmer to take the risks implicit in insecure tenure.


The normally presumed relationship between security of tenure in land and the planting of trees can be stood on its head in certain circumstances. There is clear evidence that tree-planting can sometimes increase security of tenure in land.

In certain cases this is simply a consequence of tree tenure and the fact that control of trees often confers (for most practical purposes) control of land on which they stand, at least if they are thickly planted. A farmer may thus obtain, de facto if not de jure, longer-term control over land by planting trees. In other cases tree-planting may actually give rise to land rights under customary tenure systems, because the planting of trees is seen as amounting to ownership, proof of an intention to assert a right which, if unchallenged, ripens into conclusive proof of right. For example, palm planting is proof of ownership of land under several customary laws in Tanzania (James and Fimbo 1973: 301, 353). It is in these circumstances that land-owning groups, to avoid creation of permanent rights to land, may resist attempts by members to plant, trees. Colonial extension workers found this to be the case in Tanzania (Brain 1980). In Lesotho permission from a chief was traditionally required (Duncan 1960: 95). The problem of community opposition was more recently encountered by alley-cropping trials in south-eastern Nigeria, where tree planting would have disrupted a community-managed system of rotation (Francis 1987).

Relationship Between Land Tenure and Type of Agricultural
Produce: An Empirical Study

For a random stratified sample of 40 farm households in Tucurrique in which I carried out intensive interviews and observations, the relationship between land tenure and agricultural produce is evident. (The N in this analysis is based on the farm plot. Some farm households have more than one plot under different tenure and crop conditions) . . .

    Tenure Status [Subsistence] . . . Crops Mixed Cash Crops

    No formal land rights 10 3 6

    Legal rights to crops 3 11 8

    Legal rights to land 1 3 11

The major factor which determines this relationship is the fact that the important cash crops are perennials while [subsistence] crops are annual or seasonal. Thus coffee, sugar cane, and peach palm are valuable crops because, while they require relatively large investments of time, capital, and labor to reach maturity, they yield a high return. This means that a farmer who holds title to land and the required time and capital can be reasonably assured of a secure income by planting cash crops. At the same time, reversing the causal relationship, a farmer who wants to assure himself of a solid income with cash crops will do well to acquire titled land and not risk losing his investment.

At the other extreme, the farmer who has borrowed land or is a squatter will probably not plant perennial crops and risk offending the titleholder and losing most of his investment. Of course, as noted above, there are some farmers who deliberately take the opposite strategy, and as precaristas [squatters] or borrowers try to improve their situation at the expense of the titleholder by gambling with perennial crops.

S. Sellers, "The Relationship Between Land Tenure and Agricultural Production in Tucurrique, Costa Rica," in Whose Trees?: Proprietary Dimensions of Forestry, eds. L. Fortmann and J.W. Bruce (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988), at p. 77.

Land Access and Land Use Case Study of the Les Anglais Watershed Area: Individual Land Portfolios

The case-study data indicate that farmers in the Les Anglais area tend to have access to several small, noncontiguous parcels encompassing a wide range of eco-types and soil conditions. In addition, the farmer is likely to own some parcels while simultaneously farming others under tenant arrangements. Individual farmers use the different parcels in different ways. The farmer will decide to farm some parcels himself while giving out others. On one parcel he may cultivate coffee and a variety of fruit trees; on another he may grow black beans, corn, and congo peas; a third may be used primarily for pasturage. He may plant trees on some parcels and remove trees and bushes on another. A soil-conservation project that seeks to change the way that farmers use the land must include a means for understanding why different types of land are used in different ways. Clearly, ecological factors affect the use to which farmers put land. However, the landholder case studies suggest that the type of access a person has to land also enters into his land-use decisions. Thus, Karonel, who has access to several parcels capable of supporting fruit and timber trees, plants trees only on those lands to which he feels he has a secure claim. Mme. Elie sharecrops and rents out parcels that are too far away and rents in another, closer parcel. Yvalon uses his rented land for pasture rather than his purchased land. By looking at a farmer's entire land "portfolio" and comparing the different uses to which each parcel is put, one is in a position to understand better why a farmer may be willing to make certain investments on one of his parcels and not on another.

Rebecca J. McLain and Douglas M. Stienbarger with Michèle Oriol Sprumont, Land Tenure and Land Use in Southern Haiti: Case Studies of the Les Anglais and Grande Ravine du Sud Watersheds, Land Tenure Center Research Paper, no. 95 (Madison: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, April 1988), at p. 64.

There is a similarly complex relationship between trees and tenure where the farmer enjoys only derivative, temporary rights in land, such as leasehold. Sellers (1977), writing of Costa Rica, notes that where tenure rights are ambiguous, trees can provide a means of prolonging the tenant's possession of a parcel. Landowners often seek to protect themselves from this possibility by refusing to allow tenants to plant trees, regarding this as an attempt on the part of the tenant to tie down the land indefinitely. In the developing world tenancy arrangements are often not arm's-length bargains freely negotiated by the parties involved but instead institutionalized conquest, with those whose ancestors owned the land now working it as tenants for members of the victorious group. Tree-planting may be a way for a subject group to reassert claims to land. Arabs established extensive estates on the Malindi Coast of Kenya in the eighteenth century, during slave-raiding times. Giriama cultivators were reduced to tenants. But as early as 1937 they began to plant cashewnut trees on the Arab-owned land, thereby claiming long-term rights to land use and generating disputes that troubled both the colonial administration and later the government of independent Kenya (Shambi 1955).

A somewhat different dynamic operates in cases where the modern state is the owner of the land in which tenure is to be secured by planting trees. Here one is commonly dealing with tenure systems in which land is subject to allocation by the state to others if "unused," in which case tree-planting can be motivated by a desire to incontestably establish use, as a defense. Cocoa and coffee planting in a development project in Liberia in the early 1980s was apparently driven by such a dynamic, as reported by Harbeson in the excerpt which follows. Equally, tenure systems which authorize grants of more secure rights based on demonstrated use can encourage tree-planting as an unambiguous demonstration of use. This dynamic has been cited as central to the Ivory Coast's impressive record in expansion of smallholder cocoa, having led both to the clearing of virgin forest and the planting of tree crops (Hecht 1983: 33). On the other hand, it has been suggested that natural forest has been destroyed on a more extensive scale than would otherwise have been economical, because more extensive land rights could thereby be established (Tiffen forthcoming). Serious tensions exist between forest conservation and tree commercialization objectives under such systems.

Insecurity-Encouraged Tree Planting in Bong County, Liberia

More generally, an apparent deep and far-reaching reservoir of intergroup distrust impedes the task of promoting cooperation in the interests of rural development, distrust reflected in part in land tenure relationships. This is particularly the case in Lofa where five distinct ethnic communities retain a strong sense of their respective cultural identities. For example, the team learned indirectly after its farm-level interviews in Lofa that even though our respondents fully understood what we said were the reasons for our visit, they nevertheless wondered if we had really come to assert a claim to their lands. One village group we spoke with, apparently expecting that we would offer some token of appreciation for their granting us an interview, resolved among themselves during the interview that they would accept no such gratuities. They apparently feared that to do so would be taken by us as compensation for access to their lands. How much greater must be the distrust in Bong where the loss of land to "big men" from Monrovia has been so much more extensive than in Lofa!

The increasing land scarcity resulting from steady population growth can only intensify distrust stimulated by land tenure insecurity. In the absence of effective policies to reform and regularize land tenure practices, villagers may be taking matters into their own hands while undertaking project-supported agricultural development. One reason that villagers have chosen to plant new coffee and cocoa trees is that such "permanent" tree crops represent a more secure claim to land than does shifting rice cultivation. A certain level of insecurity and distrust may induce entrepreneurial initiative, but beyond a certain point it can also lead to profound and destructive social disintegration. The objectives of rural development in areas such as Bong and Lofa must be to recognize villagers' motivations for what they are and, through such measures as land reform, channel them toward developmental objectives rather than allow the chaos that might otherwise occur.

John W. Harbeson et al., Area Development in Liberia: Toward Integration and Participation, AID Project Impact Evaluation, No. 53 (Washington, June 1984), at p. 6.


Finally, we must always ask: "Whose tenure, exactly?" At certain levels, most assessors do in fact ask this question. Where a tenant is to plant trees, assessors will ask what tenure the tenant has; and if the owner is to plant trees, about the tenure of the owner. But at another level, within the household, analysts tend to ignore important gender-based tenure differences.

Women's labor is important to trees on the holding. First, women are major users and managers of trees. The division of labor in many societies places on women the responsibility for obtaining food, fuelwood, and fodder, products that are obtained, at least in part, from trees (Hoskins 1979; Hoskins 1980; Hoskins 1983; Williams 1984; Cecelski 1985; Molnar 1985a; Chen 1986; Fortmann 1986). Second, no matter who plants trees, women's cooperation and labor are crucial for keeping them alive. It is often women in their role as livestock managers who teach their children to keep small stock from eating the young saplings (Molnar 1985a).

What are women's use rights in trees? Can women use the full range of tree species that grow locally or are they prohibited from using certain kinds of trees that might otherwise be useful in fulfilling their responsibilities? Do women have access to all trees planted on the holding or are they restricted to certain niches, such as the garden-plot near the house?

Women may want to increase their security or convenience of access to trees by planting their own trees. This raises additional practical questions. Will they be allowed to plant trees at all? Will women be allowed to plant the species they want? Will they control the trees they plant? Does this depend on where they plant them? Rocheleau points out in the excerpt which follows that land used by women includes several niches, in some of which (such as the garden plot near the household) women are better positioned tenurially than in others.

The security of tenure model developed thus far assumes a landholder who is also the farm manager. Some policy-makers, if not the model itself, tend to assume that this holder/manager is also male. While this is often true in farm households, it cannot be assumed to be the case, especially in many developing country situations. The household's landholding, even if "owned" by a male, may consist of several plots, each managed fairly independently by a wife. Insofar as the wife makes the management decisions, whose security of tenure matters, hers or her husband's? If she is the one who must make the decisions concerning trees and bear the cost of planting trees, certainly her own security of tenure is critical.

This is cause for concern because in most African societies, whether inheritance is patrilineal or matrilineal, most women do not inherit land. If they do inherit land, they tend to inherit it in lesser amounts. While on a few cases women acquire land through transactions, most have access to land only by virtue of their rights to use part of their husband's land (Fortmann 1986; Cloud and Knowles 1988; Davison 1988). A wife's security of tenure may depend in part upon her husband's security of tenure, but it will be subject to additional limitations; for instance, a husband may be entitled to shift plots among wives as he chooses. Recent land tenure research in Senegal has sought to analyze the security of tenure of field managers rather than only parcel "owners" (Golan 1988). The tenure situation is of course by no means static. A tree planting project can alter women's rights, sometimes for the better, as in the Liberian case reported by Holsoe in the excerpt which follows.

Women and Tenure Niches in Agroforestry Projects

While there are no niches universally used and managed by women, there are some spaces which are more often their domain. Strangely enough the two niches of greatest importance to women are often the closest to home and the farthest away, respectively. Home gardens are located near the center of household activity and common gathering areas (forests, bushland and grassland) are usually peripheral to the home and croplands or to an entire settlement, depending on population density and land use intensity. While the first (intensive land use) is located so as to minimize the opportunity cost of time away from the home, the location of the second (extensive use) minimizes opportunity cost of land and actual labor and management inputs on-site. A closer look at both of these land use types, their relative position in the landscape, and their importance for women, provides insights into general considerations re: spatial and functional niches for women's AF technologies and related needs for tenure and technology innovations . . .

The home garden is uniquely suited for agroforestry projects with women. The limited plot size encourages multistoried systems, while the woman's de facto control and the permanence (or relative permanence) of the site encourage investment in tree crops and site improvement (terraces, manuring, fencing). The small plot size also implies a high ratio of peripheral to enclosed area, and hence a relatively high proportion of the site production potential could be relegated to multipurpose living fence. The site can also be an ideal place for small livestock such as chickens, or caged rabbits, and may provide residues as feed for hogs or goats confined nearby, or supplementary fodder for a larger milk animal . . .

The communal grazing and gathering areas may be differentiated from the household lands by use alone, if at all. However, this domain deserves special attention re: establishment of tree ownership and land use rights early in the process of land use change. While men may replace their foraging activities with wage labor or intensified agricultural and livestock production, the group may continue to rely heavily on forest and range products gathered by women. Safeguarding or expanding women's tree ownership and rights of usufruct in surrounding forests and rangeland may help to prevent environmental degradation, as well as maintaining women's status and tribal rights to use and protect forest-and range lands of adequate extent and quality.

Dianne E. Rocheleau, "Women, Trees and Tenure: Implications for Agroforestry Research and Development," Background Paper, International Workshop on Tenure Issues in Agroforestry, Nairobi, May 26-30, 1985, at pp. 9-12.

Insecurity of access for women can also result from lifecycle changes (marriage, childbirth, divorce, widowhood) and changes in national policies such as land registration (Rocheleau 1988), as well as from changes in technology and the value of tree products. Widowhood is probably the most significant life cycle event in terms of security of property rights. A widow may retain a portion of her husband's land and tree rights (Chubb 1961; Hoben 1973: 146-148; Obi 1963: 89-94) or she may lose them altogether as occurred in the case of a Peruvian cooperative (Skar et al. 1982).

Many social forestry projects address women's problems--e.g., the scarcity of fuelwood and fodder--but they do not necessarily benefit women. Women's tenure may seriously affect the level of response to a community forestry initiative, as shown in the excerpt by Francis which follows. A first step is to begin to adjust our tenure analysis to treat discretely the rights of women managers and users of land and trees. While the degree of independence of field management by women farmers will differ substantially from case to case, it is no longer tenable simply to assume that security of tenure for a male head of household translates into incentives for his wife or wives to plant trees.

To summarize, the issue of tenure on the holding and its impact on tree planting must be approached during-household interviewing at both the field level and by species. Use patterns must first be discovered, then the relationships between uses and classes of users. It must then be established whether land use is founded on rights of use, and how secure these rights are. Security must be examined in relation to the farmer who is asked to invest in trees. It must be remembered that where tenure is based on use, tree planting can actually be used to secure tenure.

Project-Created Tenure Change in Lofa County, Liberia

For some, such as women, the project has offered a new means of gaining access to cash, particularly through tree crops. Since the project has limited the amount of area which an individual farmer may develop with project assistance, many men have chosen to increase their household-registered land by placing additional plots in the names of their children and wives. These plots, especially those held by women (and this is an important change for some groups), will allow the women to obtain cash from the sale of their crops which they then can use as they wish, usually without having to consult their husbands. For some women, particularly those whose husbands have too many other family members to worry about, this may provide either the necessary means of supporting themselves and their children, or it may serve as a means toward financial independence.

There is, however, a legal problem. Under traditional law, a wife married by dowry has limited rights to property in her own name. She herself is in essence the property of her husband's patrilineage, and only upon the return of her dowry and an additional "damage" fee is she released from this obligation. However, so long as a woman remains married to a member of her husband's patrilineage, she will maintain her right to the use of any farms which she has either developed herself or that are in her name. The latter is, of course, the case with plots developed with project assistance. In this sense, women gain some additional financial independence and can shape to a greater extent their personal destinies and those of their children.

Whether this new form of landholding registered in the names of women will have any impact upon future land tenure patterns, and more particularly on inheritance patterns, remains to be seen. But it is probable that since the process has now begun, women will begin to argue in time for their private ownership of the land, free from that of their husbands and their husbands' patrilineages. The pattern is already recognized for women within the statute law system of Liberia. Clearly the question raised is fundamental to the social fabric of the customary society, and it is an area that has to be reconciled.

Svend E. Holsoe, "The Upper Lofa County Agricultural Development Project: Its Impact as an Agent of Social Change," in Appendix F to John W. Harbeson et al., Area Development in Liberia: Toward Integration and Participation, AID Project Impact Evaluation No. 53 (Washington, June 1984), at pp. 4-5.

The Low Level of Women's Participation in Browse Tree Adoption Projects in Southwest and Southeast Nigeria

The southwestern pilot project is situated some 18 km northwest of Oyo in Oyo State in the neighboring villages of Owu Ile and Iwo Ate. Women account for 60 percent of the adult population of these two villages (which totals something over 500), but only 18 percent of the browse-planting participants. There are a number of reasons for the seemingly low level of interest on the part of women. In the first place, many women do not have farming as their primary occupation. Their main activities, in addition to their domestic work, are the processing and marketing of palm oil and cassava products and petty trading. Many of those who are directly involved in agricultural production work on their husbands' farms rather than on their own. According to a survey of the entire population of the two villages, only 29 percent of adult women farm and only 7 percent, over half of whom are widows, do so independently of their husbands (figures derived from Okali and Cassaday 1984). . . .

The two project areas in the southeast of Nigeria are situated at Mgbakwu near Awka in Anambra State and Okwe near Umuahia in Imo State. Women in the southeast of the country have traditionally been much more involved in agriculture than those in the southwest and therefore a higher level of participation might have been expected at these sites. Nevertheless, of the 17 farmers who planted browse trees at the two sites in 1984 only two were women. While almost all women farm, few farm independently. According to the demographic surveys of Mgbakwu and Okwe, none of those women who head production units in the two villages have husbands who are engaged in agriculture. A woman can only be said to hold and manage land on behalf of her husband or, in the case of widows, his relatives or children. A woman must therefore seek permission to plant browse trees from her husband or his kin and this, it seems, is not readily granted.

. . . It is clear that the question of "land tenure" cannot be separated from, on the one hand, the structure of authority within the household and, on the other hand, established patterns of cropping and rotation. At the southwestern site, it would seem that customary occupational roles and the prevailing structure of economic opportunity rather than land tenure rules as such explain the low participation of women. In the southeast, the apparently low involvement of women is an aspect of the structure of decision making within the household production unit.

Paul Francis, "Land Tenure Systems and the Adoption of Alley Farming in Southern Nigeria," in Land, Trees and Tenure, ed. J.B. Raintree (Madison and Nairobi: Land Tenure Center and International Council for Research in Agroforestry, 1987), at pp. 176-179.


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