PhD Defence Kwabena Asiama

responsible consolidation of customary lands

Kwabena Asiama is a PhD student in the department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management. His supervisor is J.A. Zevenbergen from the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation.

Land consolidation has been used to reduce the effects of land fragmentation in many parts of the world in order to increase food productivity and food security, amongst other benefits. However, its use on customary lands has been limited. Land fragmentation on customary lands has two main causes – the nature of the customary land tenure system, and the somewhat linked agricultural system. The attempts to increase food productivity on customary lands have mostly involved fertilisation, and mechanisation. But with the small and scattered farmlands, these approaches fall short of increasing food productivity. Previous attempts at land consolidation have involved directly transferring land consolidation approaches from other regions of the world. These have failed as little consideration were given to the local conditions of customary lands. This thesis suggests the use of responsible approaches; ones that continuously consider and align technical and administrative conditions, and internal processes inherent to land consolidation, to the dynamic local societal demands, economic conditions, and cultural and legal requirements. To this end, this thesis aimed to develop a responsible land consolidation approach for customary lands. For this purpose, using Ghana as a case, four specific objectives are addressed.

First, to explore how the factors need to be addressed to develop a responsible land consolidation approach for customary lands, a comparative study was conducted between Ghana and three other countries. The factors when selecting a land consolidation strategy were identified for three countries with existing land consolidation strategies: The Netherlands, Lithuania, and Rwanda. These were set against Ghana, which has no land consolidation strategy, but has customary lands. The comparison found that certain factors in the countries with land consolidation - the government support; the prior existence of conventional land markets; an individual land tenure system; and the coverage of a functioning land information system – were all absent in Ghana. The comparison concluded that these factors that differ require ways to be addressed and adapted in order to develop a responsible land consolidation strategy for Ghana’s customary areas.

Second, in order get a land information to support responsible land consolidation on customary lands, the next chapter develops and assesses an approach for collecting land information to support responsible land consolidation on customary lands. The concept of Participatory Land Administration (PLA) is then developed in the context of crowdsourced, voluntary, and participatory approaches alongside newly related insights into neogeography and neo-cadastre, and fit-for-purpose and pro-poor land administration. The PLA concept is experimented in Northern Ghana, where the process was developed together with the local farming community. The experiment involved collecting land information relating to farms over a two-week period, using a mobile app and a satellite image, based on PLA. The results show that PLA can potentially support land consolidation as the land information collected supports land consolidation, and the local people’s involvement gave them a sense of ownership of the results.

Third, as there is no land market to provide support to land consolidation as a basis for comparison of farmland parcels, a land valuation approach to support responsible land consolidation on customary lands is developed and assessed. Using a Multiple Attribute Decision-Making (MADM) approach, the Land Value Indices is developed to assign quid pro quo land values to customary farmland parcels, based on the local people’s view of land value. In a case study of Nanton, Ghana, key land value factors were identified and weighted by the local community. The weights were integrated into the framework that produced a Land Value Index for each farmland parcel. Though the strength of the approach is found in scenario and sensitivity analyses. However, the prime weakness of this approach is that it is more expensive to use than automatic valuation models.

The presence of the customary land tenure system limits the use of conventional land reallocation techniques available. Hence the framework of a process model for a reallocation approach to support responsible land consolidation on customary lands is developed and assessed. Using the process model approach, the key characteristics of customary land tenure and the general requirements for land re-allocation of these lands were identified; from which a land re-allocation approach is developed. This is subsequently applied to a case study in Northern Ghana. The results show that even though the approach is successful to the extent that land fragmentation (physical and legal) is significantly reduced in the study area within family lands; social land mobility, land tenure and cultural practices hinder the application of the land re-allocation between families, as this would either increase legal or physical land fragmentation.

In conclusion, land consolidation can be used to reduce land fragmentation and increase food productivity on customary lands. However, this is limited by the balance between reducing physical or land tenure fragmentation, as the reduction of the former leads to an increase in the later and vice versa. Further studies have to be conducted to overcome the balance between reducing physical land fragmentation and land tenure fragmentation. The results of this thesis contribute to knowledge and literature, by broadening the knowledge on the transfer of land management activities to customary lands. To policy formulation and implementation, the results show that the need for land policies to consider the gap between land information collection or the building of a cadastre on the one hand and sustainable development on the other. In terms of food policy, the results enrich the need for a stronger link between food policy and land policy, especially in terms of food productivity. In terms of meeting societal challenges and needs, though the focus of this work is on food security, the developed land administration processes provide support for other societal needs and goals such as economic and infrastructural development, disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, and large-scale land acquisitions.