The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / Agriculture / Anthropology / Economics & Business


Land in African Agrarian Systems
Edited by Thomas J. Bassett and Donald E. Crummey

Land in African Agrarian Systems argues that proposals for sweeping changes in African agricultural land tenure are misconceived. Colonial administrators, African elites, and foreign aid donors have historically viewed the variety of indigenous landholding systems as obstacles to increased agricultural production and to economic progress in general, believing that only private land ownership will provide the investment security necessary for agricultural efficiency. This volume contends that privatization is not the panacea for Africa’s agrarian ills, and that any solutions must take into account critical social dynamics that influence how productive resources are acquired, used, contested, and underutilized.

Editors Thomas J. Bassett and Donald E. Crummey bring together experts with a variety of perspectives on land tenure issues throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Whether focusing at the level of household, community, or nation, these case studies describe how land access, control, and management are embedded in social, political, and economic structures that fluctuate and change over time. They examine these embedded systems closely to illuminate the relationship between landholding patterns and agricultural output, stressing throughout that land tenure is a political process.

The contributors, an international group of scholars in the areas of land tenure, geography, African studies, anthropology, history, and political science, call for pragmatism and respect for the flexibility of indigenous tenure systems, while also addressing the complicated issues of state intervention, socioeconomic differentiation, and the social relations of production. By looking at the social and political processes behind the struggles over productive resources, Land in African Agrarian Systems advances the debate over the land question and agricultural performance in Africa and counters the arguments of the powerful forces pushing for privatization.

Thomas J. Bassett is associate professor of geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has done extensive research in the Ivory Coast. Donald E. Crummey is professor of African history and director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He lived in Ethiopia for several years, teaching history at Haile Sellassie University.

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April 1993

LC: 92-027696 HD
430 pp.   6 x 9
10 charts, 9 maps, 19 figs.
Paper edition:

Both the cloth and the paper edition of this book are out of print.

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ISBN 978-0-299-13614-7
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