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How to combine tradition and modernity? Regulating customary land management in Ghana

How to combine tradition and modernity? Regulating customary land management in Ghana

Ubink, Janine M. and Quan, Julian F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2388-5684 (2008) How to combine tradition and modernity? Regulating customary land management in Ghana. Land Use Policy, 25 (2). pp. 198-213. ISSN 0264-8377 (doi:

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While international land policy trends emphasise the importance of recognising and building on customary tenure systems in order to achieve equitable land management in developing countries, in Ghana, where customary transactions have become increasingly monetised, the equity of customary systems under the control of traditional chiefs is being questioned. At the heart of the problem are issues of authority to allocate land rights and the entitlements to the proceeds from such allocations. This paper focuses on peri-urban Ghana and examines how government has sought to regulate customary land management by chiefs over time, most recently through the piloting of Customary Land Secretariats (CLSs) through the Ghana Land Administration Project (LAP). It draws on evidence gathered from field research in peri-urban Kumasi between 2002 and 2005 and during the preparation and first stage implementation of LAP from 2004 to 2006 to discuss in turn: the land struggles in peri-urban communities in Ghana; the history, legal mandates and operations of government land agencies in relation to customary land; governmental discourse on customary land management and chieftaincy; and the piloting of CLSs under the aegis of traditional authorities, comparing the aims and conceptions of CLSs to actual processes and outcomes so far. Despite a modernising discourse in relation to land administration as a whole, implicit policy commitments to a historically constructed framework of traditional chiefly authority over land and to non-interference by government in chiefly affairs are not questioned in practice. The paper shows that the Ghana government has not introduced effective checks and balances on the authority of the chiefs over customary land, allowing them to transact in land in their own interests. As a result the establishment of CLSs risks entrenching unaccountable land management and it is questionable that Ghanas present approach through LAP will be able to combine tradition and modernity in an equitable way.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: land administration, land rights, land reform, customary law, state regulation, Ghana
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Livelihoods & Institutions Department
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Last Modified: 21 Oct 2020 10:13

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