Building on “traditional” land dispute resolution mechanisms in rural Ghana: adaptive or anachronistic?

Asaaga, Festus A. ORCID: 2021 Building on “traditional” land dispute resolution mechanisms in rural Ghana: adaptive or anachronistic? [in special issue: Land perspectives: people, tenure, planning, tools, space, and health] Land, 10 (2). 17, pp.

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Despite the ongoing land administration reforms being implemented across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), including Ghana, as a viable pathway to achieve tenure security and greater efficiency in land administration, the subject of land dispute resolution has received relatively less attention. Whereas customary tenure institutions play a central role in land administration (controlling ~80% of all land in Ghana), they remain at the fringes of the formal land dispute adjudicatory process. Recognising the pivotal role of traditional institutions as development agents and potential vehicles for promoting good land governance, recent discourses on land tenure have geared toward mainstreaming traditional land dispute institutions into the architecture of the formal judicial process via alternative dispute resolution pathways. Yet, little is known, at least empirically, as to the operations of traditional dispute resolution institutions in the contemporary context. This study therefore explores the importance of traditional dispute resolution institutions in the management of land-related disputes in southcentral and western Ghana, drawing on data collated from 380 farming households operating 746 plots. The results show that contrary to the conventional thinking that traditional institutions are anachronistic and not fit for purpose, they remain strong and a preferred forum for land dispute resolution (proving resilient and adaptable), given the changing socio-economic and tenurial conditions. Yet, these forums have differing implications for different actors within the customary spheres accessing them. The results highlight practical ways for incorporating traditional dispute resolution in the overall land governance setup in Ghana and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. This has implications for redesigning context-specific and appropriate land-use policy interventions that address local land dispute resolution.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2073-445X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: land dispute, customary land tenure, statutory land tenure, tenure security, Ghana, sub-Saharan Africa
NORA Subject Terms: General
Date made live: 04 Feb 2021 11:28 +0 (UTC)

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